The overriding reason for coming up with and then completing my GetOutside Activity Challenge was to demonstrate, to actually show you in deeds rather than words, how many different things there are to do outdoors. All too often we assume outdoors adventure to be something difficult, time consuming, tiring and expensive, and that can very quickly lead to “it’s not for me, I’ll just stay in”. I wanted to use National GetOutside Day to let you to know that the outdoors is for all, that there is something for everyone, and that just an hour outside each day will make a massive difference to your enjoyment of everyday life.
My silly challenge was to spend 48 hours taking part in as many different outdoors activities as I could manage. In all I managed 55, and in this promised blog post I’m going to take you through every one of those. There are also some notes on things I didn’t get chance to do but you might like to. Are you ready? It’s long…
All My GetOutside Activity Challenge Activities
01. Meet a friend for a catch-up
I met up with Sarah – The Urban Wanderer – in Pittville Park after work. She’d travelled down from Manchester on the train to join me for the weekend, which definitely helped make the challenge easier. The outdoors is superb on your own, but it is almost certainly better with friends.
02. Forage for berries
We wondered if we might be a couple of weeks late, but we did find a handful of blackberries that weren’t dried out already. There are other plants you can forage at different times of the year, and you can always grow your own edibles in your garden, too.
03. Do a litter pick
We easily filled a bag with rubbish found along the footpath, and not just the usual coke bottles and McDonalds wrappers, either. There were instructions from tools, bits from cars, and some rather random bits and bobs. Honestly, people, take your litter home.
04. Commute on foot
I tend to use my car to get to and from work these days, but commuting is a great way to get some outside time. It took us about an hour to do the 3.5 miles. You could equally commute by bicycle, or if you’ve not got all the time or live just too far away to do the whole distance, park a bit further away than normal and walk the rest. Give yourself some much needed fresh air at the beginning and end of the day.
05. Outdoor gym
You know the things I mean. I bet you have one near you? They seem to be everywhere now and I hardly see anyone use them. It was a lot of fun trying out all the different bits of equipment.
06. Pet animals
The thing with going anywhere with Sarah is there will almost certainly be cats involved… we petted cats, visited the rabbits and chipmunks in the park, and spoke to every dog that was being walked close by (and there was some kind of terrier meetup involving many many excited dogs!). How about visiting a farm park, a zoo, or just playing in the garden with your own pets?
07. Plant identification
Do you know what every plant is that you walk by? We found a beautiful pink berry on our walk home from work and used reverse image search to find out what it was. If you have kids, a tree trail is a great way to get them interested in the natural world – see how many different tree species you can spot in your local park.
08. Do some gardening
We planted daffodil bulbs in my front garden (roll on spring!), deadheaded the dahlias and roses, and watered everything thoroughly. I’m not particularly green fingered, but I do love having a nice garden. I’ve promised myself than next summer I will keep one of the large planters full of herbs for cooking with, we’ll see how that goes.
09. Have a barbecue
A barbecue in your own back garden is such a great way to spend time outdoors – cooking on fire is the best! We had our barbecue in the dark, gotta love the early sunsets of autumn.
10. Make bug hotel
There are loads of crafts you can do outdoors and then enjoy outdoors, and a bug hotel is a pretty simple one that uses things you probably already have in your shed, garden or random craft box. We cut up some old bamboo cane and tied it together with string before hanging it in one of the larger shrubs in the back garden, to provide whatever local bugs happen to find it with a place to stay. Other potential garden crafts include lavendar wands, leaf roses and teasel ladies.
11. Feed the birds
We set up my bird feeder with seed and peanuts, cleaned and filled the bird bath, and immediately had happy birds visiting. I can see the feeder from my lounge, and love watching the birds come and go.
We were fortunate that the weekend of my GetOutside Activity Challenge provided us with two beautifully clear nights, and so we were able to get out and do some stargazing. We made use of the free Night Sky app which was brilliant at showing us the constellations we were looking at. I was surprised at how good the view was from home, I’m fortunate that my village isn’t too light polluted, but if you live in a city just take a drive or ride out to a local hill and you’ll get a good view from there.
13. Go to the beach
I could argue that spending time at the beach is one of the best ways to spend time outdoors. It’s certainly one of my favourites; I love walking along by the sea as the waves break. This particular beach was not actually by the sea, but rather is manmade at a series of disused quarries. Despite not being naturally occurring, Cotswold Country Park and Beach was a great place to spend some time outdoors for sure.
14. Go paddling
I can’t resist. I took my shoes and socks off and dipped my toes in the water. This takes any trip to the coast to the next level for me, I highly recommend paddling. I was too chicken to swim as the water was SO cold.
15. Play in a park
Swings, slides, climbing frames – the stuff happiness is made of. And as for adults playing in parks? Why not? As long as you’re not chucking kids out of the way – the one we played in was empty (and a bit damp… but who doesn’t mind a wet bum in the name of fun?!).
I just love to be on the water, and I definitely wanted to spend some time getting wet during my challenge. We hired a couple of single kayaks for half an hour and had just the best time paddling on the watersports lake. We had the whole thing to ourselves, it was as flat as it could have been, and it was a blissful few minutes of peace out there.
17. Paddle boarding
We swapped our kayaks for paddle boards and did some stand up paddle boarding for half an hour. With the water being so flat and the sun bring bright, it was a very mindful paddle, and Sarah did super well on her first go at this sport.
Have you been on a pedalo? It’s the perfect water craft to get the whole family involved – ours was in the shape of a swan. I think this was the activity during which we giggled the most… and not just because of the reverse steering. You’ll have to watch the video for more on that! While we’re talking watersports, there are simply loads that you could try. Rowing, surfing, body boarding, sailing – head to the beach or your local water sports centre.
19. Walk around a lake
Even if you don’t want to get in or on the water for risk of getting wet, you can do so many activities alongside it. We walked around the lake that been paddling on, which included views of others enjoying the water, some quiet meadows, and a very swamp like area we couldn’t see from our crafts.
20. Go on a nature walk
Nature walks are just like regular walks but where you consciously look for and engage with the nature that you find. This one was mainly about the birds – there were coots, moorhens, Canada and Graylag geese and even a black heron. If there had been a bird hide we’d have spent a bit of time in there, too.
21. “Be” outside
We sat, watched, listened, smelled and enjoyed the outdoors without actually doing anything for nearly an hour. Mindfulness outdoors is a great way to recharge. It was bliss and very much needed at what was about half way through my GetOutside Activity Challenge. This one should be high up on your list.
22. Mini / crazy golf
Fun for all the family… or competitiveness between friends. Mini golf is one of those love it or hate it activities. We “bet” the next activity on our game – I lost.
23. Eat an ice cream
I don’t see anything wrong with heading outdoors just to eat an ice cream… and anyway, I owed Sarah after she beat me at mini golf. Taking photos like the instagrammers do is optional!
24. Use a map to find something interesting
When checking out my OS map of the area (OL45 if you’re visiting) I spotted monument marked just a few miles from our campsite, so we found a suitable parking spot and went to find out what it was. Scouring a map like this is a great way to discover new places and find hidden gems. It turned out this monument was to William Tyndale, who was born close by – you can walk up the tower but we didn’t have enough time for that on this occasion. The views from ground level were pretty awesome, though.
25. Learn some history
Did you know that William Tyndale was famous for translating the New Testament? The outdoors has a habit of teaching me things about the world, people and life in general – I’m thankful to those who make the effort to put out information boards in suitable places, and to those who create websites that I can check on the go to find out more about what I’m looking at. Next time you get outdoors, even if it’s somewhere you’ve been loads of times before, make an effort to learn about the history of the area.
26. Walk up a hill
Ah hills – good for the legs, good for the lungs, good for the soul. Is there any better way to spend an hour? If you’re lucky (and keep your fingers’ crossed) there will be a bench with a great view at the top.
27. Walk on a National Trail
We (currently have 16 national trails in England and Wales, providing 2,500 miles of waymarked and well-cared for footpaths (with more to come). There are some in Scotland, too, called the great trails. The combined network is brilliant for expedition style adventures (have you read about my West Highland Way hike?), or you can pick and choose the best bits. We walked a few miles along the Cotswold Way, which has made me want to hike the whole thing even more than I did already.
28. Visit a National Park or AONB
Again, as with the National Trails, we are blessed in Great Britain as even though we are a small island, we have some beautiful areas designated as a National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A visit to any one of them is an excellent way to get outside.
29. Walk through the woods
We actually did three or four different woodland walks alongside some of the other activities over the weekend, but the one I’m counting was at Westridge Wood close to North Nibley (not far from that monument mentioned above). Autumn is an excellent time to head into the woods, especially in the afternoon when the light is low and golden.
30. Bag a trig
There are trig pillars (and other trig beacons) all over the country, which are fixed surveying stations used in geodetic surveying and other surveying projects by Ordnance Survey. Generally speaking, the pillars appear at the highest points in the area, and are an excellent place to get a good view – especially if you stand on them. We bagged three during the 48 hours, the intentional one was at Stinchcombe Hill. Find out more about trig pillars here.
31. Take some scenic photographs
Photo walks are a great way to experience the outdoors in a slightly different way, because you are looking for great scenes and hidden details that make your photos more interesting than the next person’s. I took nearly 500 photos during the course of the weekend. Oops.
32. Go jogging
I have video evidence (watch it here) so it must have happened… jogging, running, shuffling – it all counts. One thing I didn’t do that I could (and should) have done was ride my bike, another quick, easy and fun way to get outside.
33. Follow a sign to see what’s there
Those brown road signs you see all over the place often lead to the nicest places to explore – why not follow one just to see what is there? Some of the best views I’ve seen have been as a result of making time to see what’s three miles down a side street. It wasn’t a brown sign that caught our attention this time, though, it was an information board that said “Breakheart Community Project”. We found that a group are re purposing an old quarry into a garden and park – brilliant stuff!
34. Go camping
One of my favourite ways to get my outside fix is to go camping. Small tent, big tent, caravan, camper, bivvy bag, it all counts. We pitched up at Thistledown Camping which was a great find, a really beautiful site set on a hill overlooking Woodchester Park near Nympsfield.
35. Build a campfire
Building a bonfire or campfire is such a nice way to spend time outdoors. I was very pleased with my one-match fire – good for warmth, light and cooking on. Please, though, make sure you are playing with fire safely; look after yourself and the environment.
36. Watch sunset
We were blessed with the most amazing sunset over our campsite – pink and orange and golden. And being autumn, the sunsets are much earlier, meaning it’s easier to catch a good one.
37. Read a book
It doesn’t have to be strenuous. Sitting outside with a good book or magazine is a great way to spend an hour outdoors. I read an article in Countryfile that included a mention of Budleigh Salterton, which made me smile (read my A to Z of Me post to find out why).
38. Backwoods cooking
The art of cooking food on a fire with no utensils, backwoods cooking was always one of my favourite activities at Guides and then Scouts. I just love cooking on fire, it’s so satisfying and easy! I did use tin foil so you might tell me it wasn’t true backwoods cooking, but hey, that was my attempt. We had chickpea and vegetable parcels – the simple meals are often the tastiest.
39. Whittle a spoon
I used to love whittling as a kid – and not just because it meant I was allowed to play with a knife! There is something so satisfying about peeling away the bark from a twig or branch to create something. To make a spoon would take hours (and hours), so for this taster we made a start by finding a suitable piece of wood each and starting to clean it up. We’ve promised each other we will finish our home made spoon over the winter, and use it when we go camping next year. We’ll see how we get on with that!
40. Go on a night hike
Everything looks different in the dark. Put on your head torch and head out to explore by the moon. We did our hike close to the campsite, which included checking out some standing stones not far from where we pitched up. Eerie! More than ever, make sure you know where you are going and how to keep yourself safe if you are hiking in the dark – navigation is a little more difficult when there is no sun.
41. Meditate and stretch
The outdoors is an excellent place to meditate, however you choose to do that. Sarah guided me in some body balance, which is a bit of a Yoga/Tai Chi cross, but you could equally do some stretching, deep breathing, pray, or just sit in silence. An excellent way to end the day.
42. Get up and out for sunrise
We went on a pre-breakfast walk in the woods around the campsite. I’m told that exercise before your first meal of the day is good for the metabolism as well as the soul. Although I agree, I rarely manage it. Our sunrise wasn’t that impressive to be honest, but never mind!
43. Visit a National Trust property
We were fortunate to have access to Woodchester Park directly from our campsite, which meant we could have an early morning explore of this extensive National Trust property. There are hundreds of such places all over the UK, and if you add in all the places owned and run by the Wildlife Trust, RSPB, English Heritage and other organisations you’re set for a lifetime of outdoors adventures!
44. Make bread
I think I only ever make bread when I’m outside. (I’d have got on okay in the BakeOff final!) This is a great recipe from The Craft Invaders, which, rather than cooking on sticks over the fire, we made into rounds to cook on my old gas camp stove. We made one herb bread and one cinnamon fruit bread – such a great breakfast.
45. Go geocaching
There are millions of geocaches hidden around the world – there are probably some near you right now – and it is an excellent way to go for a walk with a purpose. We could have logged loads over the 48 hours, but time meant we just looked for and found the one on the Sunday morning – and it was a good one! I wrote a post about my first time if you want to learn more. Download the geocaching app (I use the free version) to get you started.
46. Visit a country park
We headed to Robinswood Hill Country Park for an explore, somewhere recommended to me by family and friends. We headed up to the top of the hill where there is one of the Jubilee Beacons (and another trig pillar) for some amazing views across Gloucester and even back to Stinchcombe Hill and the Tyndale Monument from the previous day.
47. Walk the dog
The easiest way to make sure you get One Hour Outside every day is to own a dog… I met up with Kate and Tilly for a walk. Don’t have a dog or a friend with one? You can Borrow a Doggy or volunteer at a local rescue centre.
48. Play frisbee
We were planning on playing frisbee with Tilly, but she wasn’t interested on this occasion, so we just played ourselves. It’s a great game, I’m just not that good at it!
49. Climb a tree
When did you last climb a tree? I love it! While you’re there, don’t forget to give it a hug to thank it for all that lovely oxygen it helps provide us with.
50. Go urban wandering
I couldn’t spend a weekend with Sarah and not go urban wandering, could I?! Urban wandering is a great way to spend time outdoors, especially at lunch time. Go and explore all the streets, alleyways, find the cute doors and get to know the town you’re in a little better. Check out Sarah’s reverse commute idea for more.
51. Swim in a lido
I love swimming outdoors. Whether you choose to swim in the sea, a lake, a river, or your local Lido, there is something wonderful about being in the water not inside a leisure centre building. The Sandford Parks Lido is said to be heated… we weren’t convinced, but we did very much enjoy the sauna after our refreshing dip!
52. Walk to the shop
Did you know that a quarter of people in the UK will not walk more than 15 minutes to the shop because they think it’s too far? If you’re just after a few bits, there’s no need to jump in the car, grab a bag and walk. We headed to the Co-op for picnic supplies for later in the challenge.
53. Garden and park games
We really only dabbled in these games so I didn’t count each one as a separate activity, but you could easily spend an hour on each one if you had the time/energy. We flew a (very small) kite, did some skipping, and played “butt heads” in the park. How about a game of rounders, some cricket, or a kick about? There are so many games you can play outdoors with family and friends.
54. Picnic in the park
The great thing about picnics is they combine food, sitting down, and fresh air! It was a bit chilly in Pitville Park so I grabbed the Jetboil and made us some tea to go with our sandwiches and snacks. Thank you to my family and friends for joining me in Boston, Croydon, Worcester and other places across the UK by having a picnic in their garden or local park at the same time – a lovely way to share the end of my challenge with other people.
55. Have a nap…
Being outdoors can be tiring, especially when you’ve taken part in 54 other activities in 48 hours… there is nothing wrong with having a nap on your picnic blanket in the middle of the local park – or on the beach, or anywhere else for that matter. And relax.
As you will notice, if you’ve watched my video, my list has increased by three… turns out in my tiredness after 48 hour of activities I lost the ability to count. But there we are, a bit of a rushed but hopefully interesting and useful list of all the activities I took part in for my GetOutside Activity Challenge. If you’d like to know more about any of them, please just give me a shout – I always love to chat about the outdoors.
And if you haven’t already taken the bait, I really do hope you’ll see this whole thing as a bit of a nudge to get yourself outdoors a little more often. If you need some more encouragement, why not take part in the One Hour Outside Challenge this November? One hour outside every single day this month. Easy!