The overriding reason for my GetOutside Activity Challenge back in September 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 prove that the outdoors is for all, that there is something for everyone, that you don’t need to have all the kills and all the equipment, 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. I based myself in just four separate locations – home, Cotswold Country Park and Beach, Cotswold Farm Park, and Cheltenham town. I wasn’t alone; good friends Sarah and Katy came along for the ride, acting as my judges and taking part in many of the activities just for fun. The vast majority of the activities I did were free, and most things required only myself and my own motivation to complete (I’ve marked where I spent money below so you can see what I spent).
After doing 55 outdoor activities in 2018, my main personal aim this time around was to beat it – I’m a sucker for a bit of personal competition. As you will know, I managed 71 in 2019 – some things the same as last year, and some different ones. In this post you will find a list of every activity we included in that 71, along with a few notes, in the order in which I did them. It’s a very long post (you can read the recap here if you’d prefer something shorter) but I’m really hoping that it will inspire you to try something new this coming weekend or maybe even every weekend for the next 71 weeks…
GetOutside Activity Challenge 2019 Long List
Friday Evening – From Work to Home
01 Meet a friend for a catch-up
I try and tell people as often as possible that you don’t have to go far to spend time outside. I met Sarah in the park in town and we had a catch up before the chaos of the weekend really got started. If you get no further in this list, spending time outside close to work or home is enough.
02 Commute on foot
I’m told the easiest way to squeeze outdoors time into the everyday is to make it part of your commute. It took us an hour to walk the 3.5 miles home along the route I’d normally drive.
03 Forage for berries
The hedgerows in my village were full to bursting with berries this year (unlike last year when I think we found around five individual shrivelled berries…), we could have easily filled my little SIGG tin twice more and then some. There are other things to forage for throughout the year – elderflower, mushrooms, sloes – just make sure you know for certain you what are picking before you eat them!
04 Do a litter pick
We shouldn’t have to do this, but as with every other road and path in the UK, people seem to prefer chucking their litter on the floor or out of the car window than taking it home. I think the locals in my area are rather partial to crisps and Lucozade.
05 Get some exercise at an outdoor gym
There is no need to pay for an expensive gym membership to get access to gym equipment these days, there are outdoor gyms all over the place. At the one near me there are ten or so bits of kit including bikes and bars, and although I occasionally see someone doing chin ups, it’s hardly used.
06 Ride a bike
I went for a ride on my mountain bike around the village. If I had more time I’d have found some cool trails, because I much prefer the mud to the tarmac, but as a demonstration this was enough!
07 Ride a motorbike
Whereas driving a car is most definitely indoors, riding a motorcycle is everything that getting outside should be – wind in your hair, the sun on your face, no roof above your head, and all the views you could wish for. Motorcycling is a great way to see the world, too.
08 Feed the birds
Every garden should have a bird feeding station – there is something very special about watching the birds come and go. The birds don’t even wait for me to finish putting the feeders back up to start lining up – I wonder if I might get dive bombed one of these days!
09 Plant some spring flowering bulbs
Last year I used this opportunity to plant some daffodil bulbs, which looked fantastic this Spring – and so this year I added a load of tulip bulbs into the mix. Planting bulbs in the autumn is a very easy way to make sure you’ll have colour to enjoy later. Not got flower beds? They work equally as well in planters and pots in the smallest of outdoor spaces.
10 Do some gardening
I split this out from the bulbs as it involved a lot more effort and is something that can involve a massive range of things. We deadheaded and pruned the roses and tidied up the Jasmin which is determined to block access through the front door. You could also cut the grass, weed the flower beds, re-pot some plants or take some cuttings, plant some vegetables – and then sit back and enjoy looking at your handiwork.
11 Have a barbecue
The classic way to spend time outside in your own back garden… I burnt a few burgers, sausages, mushrooms and corn on the cob for our dinner. You could be much more adventurous in your cooking, but I was trying to squeeze in lots of other things so went for simple.
12 Make a bug hotel
Last year’s bug hotel is now teeming with insects, so I made another one to give them room to spread out a bit. They’re very simple to make; I cut up some old bamboo canes into short lengths and tied them together with a bit of string before hanging it in one of the trees in my back garden.
13 Make pressed leaf pendant
We pressed lavender flowers and various leaves into lightweight air-drying clay to make pendants we can hang on necklaces or from key rings. That clay is strangely lovely to hold – super light and easy to mould, taking on the shape of the flowers and leaves we chose easily. I can definitely see myself making more of these as gifts for family.
14 Paint pebbles to hide for others to find
I recently discovered the simple joy of painting pebbles thanks to Comms Unplugged. We used my new Posca Pens to paint designs on pebbles to be hidden around for others to find, the idea being to give people a nice surprise when they’re out on their walks. Painted pebbles also make great paperweights if you’d rather keep your best work for yourself. Remember that you shouldn’t be taking lots of pebbles from beaches to do this, you can buy bags from garden centres – we used a few that were scattered around my garden and painted weather inspired artwork on them!
15 Cut a garden posy
I have a friend who will go into her garden once a week and take a few cuttings to make a small garden posy to place in her kitchen window. I took my scissors to some lavender, pampas grass, holly, and a few other things I can’t name, and filled a mug with a simple display of the outdoors. It was so nice having a few cuttings indoors, it’s something I have continued most weeks since then.
16 Do some stargazing
We had a clear night and so enjoyed some stargazing using the Night Sky app (with the sound off, the strange soundtrack on that app is just annoying). It was interesting to learn more about the stars I could see from my back garden – and wonderful that we could actually see them without venturing away from where I live.
17 Read a book or magazine
We ended our day with a cup of tea in the garden, reading magazines by the light of our head torches. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s the simple things in life that make me smile the most.
Saturday Morning – Cotswold Country Park and Beach
18 Eat breakfast in the garden
Starting the day with a meal in the quiet and fresh air of the garden is a genuinely lovely way to take a few minutes to yourself. It doesn’t even matter if you make it inside first (no-one wants to put the barbecue on at 7am…); we had eggy bread, breakfast of champions!
19 Visit a Country Park
There are hundreds of Country Parks and Nature Reserves up and down the country, run by different local and national organisations, and all with different kinds of facilities and activities on offer. We headed to Cotswold Country Park and Beach for the morning and spent a few hours ticking off a good handful of activities. They were kind enough to provide free entry for the three of us, which would normally cost £12 per car at this time of year.
20 Go to the beach
Going to the seaside is by far one of my favourite things to do outside – I find the sea always has the right thing to say to me when I’m looking at it. Now on this particular occasion it was raining, and the beach we were at was very much fake, but it still counted… I got my shoes and socks off and enjoyed the sand between my toes.
21 Go paddling
Paddling in the sea, a lake or a river is one of life’s simple pleasures. You’ll notice that the vast majority of the activities on this list are very simple, and I guess that is the point.
22 Build a sandcastle
Building sandcastles is a very British way to spend time outdoors… mine was no masterpiece, but yours could be…
23 Make paper boats and float them on a lake
This was a lot of fun. We hid (from the rain…) under a ledge by the lake and followed instructions on YouTube to make our boats out of thick paper. We floated them from the boat launch and were very pleased with our handywork – although we then had to fish them out of the lake because they went a bit further than we thought they might!
24 Play boules
Boules is one of those games of my childhood. I borrowed a set of boules from a friend and promptly lost against both Katy and Sarah. Best of six next time?!
25 Play in a kid’s park
Swings, ropes, climbing frames, zip lines… I think we forget how to play as adults. We played in the parks at the Beach and again later over at the Cotswold Farm Park – as long as you’re not holding up kids wanting to play, and don’t break the equipment, I think kids play parks are fair game for adults!
26 Go climbing
There are lots of places to go climbing outside, whether that be clambering up rocks and tors when out on a hike, scrambling up to the summit of a mountain, bouldering with mats undeneath, or using natural or manmade climbing walls with ropes and belays (and instructors!). There is quite a decent length traverse wall set up at Cotswold Country Park and Beach that we tried out. I can confirm that it’s not easy in hiking boots or when it’s raining heavily!
The Aquaventure inflatable obstacle course on water was the most hilarious activity of the weekend by far. I should probably say something about feeling like a beached whale but I think I’ll save that for its own blog post another time. It was way harder than I’d imagined, but still an incredible amount of fun. We paid £15 each for the activity plus £5 for wetsuit hire, which was the most we spent on any activity over the weekend but did feel like good value for the hour-long session. We’re already making plans to return in the summer to give it another go.
28 Swim in a lake
Over the last year I’ve fallen back in love with what’s now known as wild swimming – that is, taking a dip in a river or lake rather than an official pool. The cold water is supposed to be very good for you, and I just love the feeling I get from a quick swim outdoors (even if changing afterwards is a bit of a pain). We swam in a lake, partly due to constantly falling off the Aquaventure obstacle course, and also through choosing to add this activity on when we we were already in our wetsuits.
29 Go paddle boarding
It was very windy on the lake which made the stand-up part of paddle boarding very difficult, but we did at least get 30 minutes without rain to enjoy our paddle boarding experiences. Katy even tried yoga on hers, but I was too chicken, I really didn’t want to fall in! We paid £10 each to hire the equipment for half an hour, and were left to our own devices on the lake.
30 Go kayaking or canoeing
I love to paddle. It’s one of those activities I keep returning to whenever I get the chance. I’m not very good at it, but it’s a great workout (I always feel it the day after), and a decent way to relax at the same time. I should make sure I find time to get in a boat again soon. We paid £6 each for the equipment hire and, as with the paddle boarding, were left to our own devices for half an hour.
31 Play mini golf / crazy golf
The simple mini golf course at Cotswold Country Park and Beach was absolutely covered in rabbit droppings, which was a real shame because it kind of ruined it for us. But I didn’t lose, which is a bonus, as it meant I didn’t have to buy the ice cream. Sorry Katy! We paid £3 each for the equipment hire, plus a returnable deposit.
32 “Be” outside
Sometimes all we need is to stop, sit, drink tea and watch the world go by. We packed up a flask of tea and some peanut butter and jam sandwiches from home, and took a good half an hour after our adventurous morning on and in the water to just be outside and watch the world go by. We didn’t chat much, we didn’t look at our phones, we just enjoyed the breeze and short dry spell and took the moment for ourselves.
33 Follow a sign to see what’s there
There’s a brown sign on the A417 I’ve driven passed a number of times that shows parking and a viewpoint, so we followed it to see what was there. It took us to Barrow Wake Viewpoint, overlooking Birdlip, which turned out to be well worth the detour. Looking at the OS Map there are a few walks from here which I definitely need to do. It’s also on the Cotswold Way, which I hope to complete sometime.
Saturday Afternoon – Cleeve Hill and Common
34 Learn some history / find something historical
Ordnance Survey maps are covered with historic sites and monuments, offering something interesting to go and see and providing a glimpse into our history that can easily be researched if you have your phone with you. Did you know that an area of Cleeve Common was an ancient Iron Age fort? And that there are the remains of a ring settlement? Next time you walk your local area, take a bit of time out to look at the geographical clues and learn who might have walked there in years gone by.
35 Use a map to find something interesting
Those who know me know I didn’t use a map to find Cleeve Hill itself, it’s my local hill and I absolutely love it up there, however it’s always good to get the local map out and have a look to see what else you might be missing. Today we found Ben’s Tump and Huddlestone’s Table. If you’re new to map reading, start with the viewpoint symbol, they’re always worth heading to.
36 Walk up a hill
We parked in the village about half-way up the hill and walked the rest of the way up. With each metre climbed, more of the scene over Cheltenham and the surrounding area came into view. The questionable weather meant that we actually had very defined views for a change rather than haze – the Malverns were looking stunning.
37 Walk on a National Trail
There are 16 official National Trails in England and Wales, and hundreds of other marked routes. This weekend we walked two short sections of the Cotswold Way, one at Birdlip and one on Cleeve Hill. You don’t have to do them all at once, they make for excellent easy to navigate short walks, too.
38 Visit a National Park / AONB
Designated National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are a sure fire way to make sure you’ll see some beautiful scenery, however you choose to spend time outside. We spent most of the weekend inside the Cotswolds, which is a 787 square mile AONB mainly in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, but also in parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire.
39 Roll down a hill like a child
Adulting is overrated… this was on my original menu of activities on my list, and it was also the most suggested activity when I asked on twitter and Instagram what you thought I should do. Rolling down a hill encompasses all the feelings of carefree play and childhood. We found a suitable spot on Cleeve Common for me to do it, avoiding the sheep poo and the golfers… so dizzy!
40 Bag a trig
Trig points are generally good places to head because they will (almost) always indicate a good view. Cleeve Hill is at 315m above sea level and the highest point in the Cotswolds. I honestly love it up there.
41 Fly a kite
I think flying a kite was the most unexpectedly successful activity of the weekend – we had a lot of fun playing with Katy’s recent purchase, so much so that I think I need to get one of my own. And yes, we sang…
42 Take some scenic photographs
The easiest way I find to walk with purpose is to head somewhere with the intention of taking some photos. I’ve probably taken hundreds of photographs of the view across the valley from Cleeve Common, but you can see my house from up there and I can never resist!
Saturday Evening and Sunday Morning – Cotswold Farm Park
43 Go camping
One of the best ways to get some outdoors time is to stay out all night – you don’t have any choice then! We pitched up at the campsite attached to Cotswold Farm Park, which was kindly gifted to me by the Farm (along with entry into the Farm itself on the Sunday) to help with my challenge. We were fortunate to get the tent up in the dry, as it rained constantly from then on…
44 Have a campfire
Is there any better way to spend time outside than around a campfire? I love it. And for this challenge we were allowed to use a beautiful fire pit from W Fire Pits that had been set up at Cotswold Farm Park for the evening – and with the rain lashing down at times we were hugely grateful for the heat and light they provided. It was also a nice place to meet and chat with others who were enjoying the activities put on by Cotswold Farm Park that weekend.
45 Backwoods cooking
We made curried vegetable parcels with sweet potato, baby corn, sugar snap peas, courgette, bell pepper, red onion, chickpeas and curry seasoning. It caused quite a lot of interest considering we were right outside the bar and restaurant at the Farm Park, I think some were a bit disappointed we didn’t share! We ended up eating our food inside because the rain was so heavy (we loved having a little spot at the back of the restaurant while there was live music being played), but we cooked it outside and backwoods style first. We also cooked pudding on the fire – baked bananas with chocolate and marshmallows, which were certainly the envy of the people in the restaurant!
46 Whittle a spoon
While dinner was cooking I continued a little bit of last year’s spoon attempt. I really should have chosen a smaller piece of wood, and kept my promise to myself to chip away at it throughout the year – it still looks nothing like a spoon. I think I’m going to discard this one now and try something else next time.
47 Go on a night hike
Ours was just a short one because of the rain, but we headed out from the campsite for a wander in the dark. Hiking at night is so different to the daytime, everything feels much further apart, and trees look much more spooky!
48 Get up and out for sunrise
Sunrise might be pushing it because it was wet and cloudy so there was no sun, but we were up before light and watched the world wake up. The birds were busy collecting food and the campsite was quiet. We sat and drank tea and enjoyed a few moments to ourselves before the day started properly and we continued with the activity challenge.
49 Visit a farm
There are lots of opportunities to visit farms here in Great Britain, whether that be at a family farm or a working farm. Cotswold Farm Park is a bit of both, and I was given early access before the public to wander around, learn something about how the farm works, and just enjoy some time with the animals. A lot of it was outside – we fed and played with the goats in the field and said hi to the donkeys and cows, but I will happily admit that my favourite bit was the chance to cuddle some gorgeously soft bunnies in the small animal barn. Oh, and we met some four-day old Saddleback piglets which has to be the cutest thing ever!
50 Feed some animals
We were allowed the opportunity to give the goats and sheep at Cotswold Farm Park their breakfast. They were SO noisy and happy to see us (we were their first human contact of the day)! If you’re not visiting a farm you could feed the ducks at the local pond, or leave some food out for the hedgehogs in your own back garden.
51 Make bread
After we’d fed the farm animals it was time to feed ourselves. I think making bread outside has become something of my signature… it’s such a simple recipe, and can be cooked on any kind of stove or even a campfire if you’ve got one going. We had ours for breakfast, cooked on my little cheap gas stove. I made both sweet and savoury versions and we all had our fill, tucked just under the porch of my big blue tent.
52 Go on a nature walk
After breakfast we did the marked wildlife walk at Cotswold Farm Park, which took us through a coppice, around some iron age ruins (more history!), and through a pasture field with highland cows and various rare breeds of sheep. It was only about a mile (we did the shorter of the two walks available), but a lot was packed in that short time. If you’re in the area you might be interested to know you don’t need to go in the farm to do this walk, it’s outside the gates.
53 Dig for potatoes
It’s the wrong time of year for pick your own strawberries, but there are options all year round if you’re willing to get a little bit muddy! We dug for potatoes – I only found a couple, but Katy was a dab hand and found loads. We donated them to the local food bank as we knew we wouldn’t have opportunity to cook them ourselves.
54 Plant a tree
The Woodland Trust are running a very important campaign to plant trees to help tackle climate change, and gave me the opportunity to plant a couple for my challenge. I planted a Rowan Tree and a Hazel Tree to help form part of a new hedgerow at the Farm Park. We also learnt a few tips to help us with our tree identification activity later that day – it’s always good to have the opportunity to chat to people who are passionate experts.
It turns out that skipping isn’t particularly easy in the rain wearing waterproof trousers and boots… but I didn’t fall over.
56 Play frisbee
As with the skipping, this wasn’t easy in the wind and rain, but we had a good try anyway.
57 Paint or draw your view
This one is good for inside the porch of your tent if the weather is not great – like for us. I’d packed my watercolour pencils and some decent paper and we sat quietly for a while drawing our view. I don’t make time for art much anymore, and so this was a real pleasure and joy, I could have sat there all morning drinking tea and drawing various things.
58 Meditate and stretch
Sarah guided us through a short body balance style stretching session. We didn’t have mats and the ground was very wet, so it was a short session, but very much needed after all those physical activities the previous day.
59 Walk through the woods
Wandering through the woods is an excellent way to spend a few moments – or an hour – or a day. And if you’re in a dense woodland it’s perfect when it’s raining, too. We made the most of the surroundings at Cotswold Farm Park and even learnt something about farming practices in the UK as we wandered thanks to the information boards and displays.
60 Go bird watching
We wondered if we’d see any birds with it being so wet and windy, but I guess they still have to eat. There were some places to watch birds from within the nature walk and woodland walk at the Farm Park, but we got most sightings by looking into the trees and bushes surrounding the camping field. I won my binoculars in a competition a few years ago and don’t use them nearly enough; I think I will make identifying birds my next self-learning topic.
Sunday Afternoon – Pittville Park and Cheltenham Town Centre
61 Climb trees
I’m such a kid at heart, you’ll know that from the rolling down a hill thing, but I can’t resists a good climbing tree. This one was actually right in the middle of Pittville Park – you don’t have to go far to have fun outdoors.
62 Walk around a lake
Lakes come in all sizes, and thankfully for me the one at Pittville Park is quite small which meant we could easily add in walking all the way around it to my challenge.
63 Go geocaching
Geocaching is another one of those ways explore somewhere with purpose – good for kids and adults alike. Some are much harder to find than others, but it’s all about the search. I shan’t give anything away on where we found this particular one, but if you open the Geocaching app (I use the free one) while in Pittville Park in Cheltenham, there are at least two easy ones to find.
64 Play Pokemon Go
I did a talk about my silly challenge at Cotswold Farm Park on the Saturday night, and at the end I asked if anyone had any suggestions of activities I could try and add into my menu for this year. I downloaded Pokemon Go there and then, and played it around Pittville Park, just for Sam… I don’t think I’ll be playing it regularly, but I can see how it gets people out and about exploring, and I certainly don’t have any problem with that.
65 Identify some trees and plants
Walking through the park and into town we spotted Silver Birch, Sweet Chestnut, Oak, Maple, and several other types of trees. And we didn’t even need the PlantSnap app I’d downloaded after receiving some tips from the Woodland Trust earlier in the day.
66 Go urban wandering
It’s very important to remember that spending time outdoors isn’t just about the countryside. We found Cheltenham’s Centre Stone, and visited St Mary’s Minster, which is Cheltenham’s oldest building. And I really enjoyed some of the graffiti around the car park on Portland Street, too.
67 Walk to the shops
My involvement in Ordnance Survey’s GetOutside campaign, and the birth of OneHourOutside, was all down to learning that most people won’t even walk to the shop for milk and bread if it will take more than 15 minutes. So we walked to the little Tesco just over 15 minutes from the park to get our picnic supplies, a very easy outdoors activity.
68 Eat an ice cream
Drive to a nice viewpoint where there’s an ice cream van, and sit somewhere to enjoy the view whilst enjoying your Mr Whippy… or in our case, make the person who lost at mini golf buy the ice cream from the nice ice cream shop in town and eat it on the way back to the park.
69 Play Pooh sticks
Another one of those childhood playtime activities, you just need a bridge over a stream or river, and some sticks… Sarah won with her witch’s finger stick, and I lost with my marshmallow toasting stick!
70 Play conkers
I think you’re supposed to let conkers dry out for a day before you try and smash your friend’s to pieces, so the game itself was a little lacklustre, but we tried!
71 Have a picnic in the park
And finally, of course, we ended the weekend-long challenge with a picnic in the park.
And that was it… 71 activities in 48 hours, in the pouring rain of the Cotswolds to celebrate National GetOutside Day.
There were plenty of activities left on my menu of ideas that we either didn’t get time for or couldn’t do thanks to the weather, which was horrendous at times, especially overnight. There were more outdoorsy crafts such as making leaf bouquets or daisy chains, sleeping out under the stars in the garden, hiring a pedalo or rowing boat on a lake, going running, swimming in the Lido, going to an open air concert (the music and talks at Cotswold Farm Park were moved into the bar), watching the sunset, visiting a Nature Reserve, walking a dog, doing an obstacle course. The list is almost endless when you take time to think about it.
This was certainly a bit of a long post, but I thought putting all the activities I did in once place might be interesting and useful. If you’d like to know more about any of the things we got up to, please 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 make One Hour Outside your goal for the rest of the year – or even the whole of 2020? A little bit of time outside every day can really make a massive difference to your life.