Meet Our In-Store Experts

Cheryl Stewart

Describing herself as being happier in a bothy than in a hotel, Cheryl from our Aberdeen store lives and breathes the outdoors. When she’s not at work, she can be found outdoors walking, running, paddleboarding or planning her next adventure. Here, we catch up with her to find out more about how she came to work for us, what the outdoors means to her, how her adventures change through the season and how she thinks we can all play a part in protecting the outdoors for future generations.

What brought you to work for Cotswold Outdoor, and what do you love the most about it?

I’d always worked in an outdoor environment, and after having children, I wanted to go back to something fun that I enjoyed doing. I’ve been working here coming up six years now. 


I think it’s great that what I love doing in my free time is now my job. I get to talk about the outdoors and see all the new pieces of kit that come into the store. But my favourite part of my job is the customers, I love speaking to them and hearing stories of their trips and adventures.

How would you describe your relationship with the outdoors?

The outdoors is my happy place. I am truly myself when I’m outdoors, it’s like therapy for me, but it’s not always been like that - my passion has grown over the years.


I was introduced to it as a child by my parents when I was forced to go along. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties, when I did my first Munro, Lochnagar, that things changed. It’s a pretty big mountain, and I wasn’t prepared; I didn’t have the right kit and I wasn’t the fittest at the time, so it was hard work. But when I reached the summit, it was amazing, and I decided I wanted to invest in getting some new gear and get fitter to see where the outdoors could take me.


Since then, I’ve realised that I love being outdoors. The people you meet and the friends you make introduce you to new activities and places. You start to travel more, and the love for everything outdoors grows from there.

Would you say the outdoors is beneficial, and if so why?

In the past couple of years, I’ve had a lot of things going on in my personal life and the outdoors has saved me. It’s my escape and my therapy. When everything got a bit too much, I would jump in the car with my tent and outdoor stuff and head to the mountains. I’d come back a day or two days later with my head clear and be a better person.


So, yeah it benefits my mental health. I feel that it’s just my place to go and re-evaluate everything in life. I just love everything about the outdoors - there’s actually no better place I’d rather be.

Do you have a favourite place to explore outdoors?

As much as I like being anywhere in the outdoors, my favourite place to be is high in the mountains. The further away you get from a road, the further away you get from a town or a city, and the higher you get, the more remote you feel. The views are amazing, and you know that if you meet anybody there, they’ve had to have that same two, three, four, five-hour walk in that you’ve had, and it’s just magical.


I recently went to the Alps and climbed Mont Blanc for my 40th birthday. It had been a dream of mine since being a little girl and visiting it with my dad. It took a lot of training and hard work, but reaching the summit on my birthday was just the most magical experience ever, and it will live long in my memories for years and years to come. 

How do you make time to get outdoors?

So my life basically revolves around the outdoors. I have two young children, so I try to get them to appreciate being outdoors, from the little things like walking and cycling to school. I also fit in running clubs early in the morning or late at night and factor in trips away. 


I’m always planning trips. Whether I’m planning to go on my own, with family and friends, or with groups of friends that I meet up for weekends away or weeks away, everything I do revolves around the next big trip.     

What do you enjoy about exploring in autumn and winter and do you have any top tips for getting out in all seasons?

I like being outdoors in all weathers and seasons, but there’s something about getting up nice and early in the winter and starting a walk in the dark. Those early hours in the peace just before the sun rises, with the whole day ahead of me - that’s my favourite. 


In autumn and winter, the weather can change dramatically, so it’s important you have the right kit. The other thing to consider is that the mountains are very different in winter conditions. That's why I'd recommend going out with experienced friends or doing a winter skills course first to make sure you’ve got the skills and the equipment you need to be out there.  

How do you balance having adventures with exploring sustainably?

I think we can all explore the great outdoors more sustainably. The recent lockdown has taught us more about keeping it local and exploring all the amazing places we have right on our doorsteps.


But, we can all make a difference in our everyday lives too. In our household, we’re big recyclers. We recycle everything, we always try to buy secondhand if we can, we pass on things that we no longer require, and we don’t throw away any food waste. We try to reduce our impact on the environment as much we can.


I also think it’s important that we educate the next generations about the impact that we’re having on the environment. Having two small kids myself, I want them to understand that the things they do and the things that they throw away affect the world around them.


To me, it’s important to act now and do what we can to save the environment. We’ve only got one planet, and we need to start looking after it.

Are there any ways customers can make more sustainable choices with their kit?

Our in-store experts can help customers make the right choice the first time, which is more sustainable for the environment because getting the right product that will stand the test of time for many years and many adventures to come saves you buying more.


But we can also offer advice on looking after kit, which is hugely important because if you do it well, it can last you years. When I get back from a trip, I always make sure my kit is in good condition by cleaning and reproofing it before it gets put away before the next adventure.

Are you hopeful for the future of the outdoors?

I’m hugely hopeful for the future of the outdoors. There are so many people doing outdoor activities. Everybody you speak to has taken up new hobbies or is getting out with friends and family, and I think it’s far more accessible now to everybody than it ever has been.

Do you have any final words for anyone considering an adventure?

I think customers shouldn’t be scared of the outdoors, because there's so much help and advice, especially if they just come in-store and see us.


My advice would be to go outside and do the activity you want to do, you won't regret it. There’s never a time when I go out outdoors and wish I hadn’t; whether the weather is bad or good, I always have an amazing time.

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