Bike exploring: Help for Heroes
OS GetOutside Champion, Helen Pollard, takes us on a great Mountain Bike (MTB) route used as part of the delivery of MTB leadership training to Phoenix House staff in collaboration with Cycling UK.
The clocks have changed, autumn is waning, the nights are drawing in, and it can be very tempting to stay indoors in the warm all winter. But resist the urge to hibernate. Staying active in the colder months will make you healthier & happier.
Plus, Britain’s wild spaces and mountain ranges can be at their very best in the colder months.
When winter rolls around and I find myself spending lots of time working indoors or commuting in the dark, I get planning my next weekend adventure. One of the easiest, and most satisfying, to organise is a long ramble with friends or family on a Sunday – and my favourite walks usually end up at a country pub where I can warm up by a fire over a roast.
Grab an OS Map of your county and set yourself the challenge of planning routes to country pubs near you.
Don’t dream of escaping winter – instead, embrace the cold and head to the mountains. Scotland’s glorious mountain ranges look beautiful clad in snow, and when they become a white winter wonderland, they’re the perfect place to explore and learn new skills. You could learn to ski at one of Scotland’s five ski centres, get to grips with the basics of mountaineering skills, such as how to use crampons and an ice axe, or even try sleeping in a snowhole, a very basic version of an igloo. You can’t really get further from hibernating than that.
Forget lunch al desko. Reclaim your lunch hour and make it about getting outdoors and getting active at least once or twice a week. See what challenges you can set yourself in just an hour – you could plan an urban hike around your city, go to an outdoor exercise class or just ramble in the local park. Fellow OS Champion Zoe has fantastic ideas for how to spend One Hour Outside on her blog, Splodz Blogz.
Get active every day in winter by swapping the car or the bus for a cycle or a walk to your office. It can be tough to get going on freezing early mornings, but if you layer up and take the plunge, you’ll reap the benefits, feeling more awake when you get to work and fitting a great workout into a busy day. Plus, if you cycle to work, you can then eat ALL the office cake, no problem.
Need motivation to get training outdoors on dark evenings? Sign up for an event such as a half marathon, a cycle ride, a triathlon or a sponsored walk. Having a firm goal in your diary is great motivation to get outdoors and get active regularly in the runup to the event.
Just spending half an hour in your back garden (or if you haven’t got one, an allotment, a community garden or even tending a window box) is mindful, fun and can give you a much-needed dose of Vitamin D. Getting a garden ready for spring is super-satisfying – a winter garden might seem dormant, but there’s still plenty to do, such as building a compost heap, digging up beds ready for a spring vegetable patch or just building a feeder to keep the local wild birds happy all winter.
Outdoorsy breaks in Great Britain aren’t just for balmy summer weekends. Remote cottages, glamping sites and bothies hidden in beautiful landscapes are arguably at their very best in winter, when the crowds have gone home, and you’ll have wild places all to yourself. Try my list of favourite winter escapes for inspiration, including a secluded bothy, a yurt and my favourite wild camping spot.
Yes, you can camp in winter – you just have to be prepared and well kitted-up to deal with lower temperatures. Follow my tips for happy winter camping, make sure you have great quality gear and if in doubt, try a winter camp close to home and just for one night. You might just get hooked on the joy of walking up in nature and unzipping your tent to a frost-clad landscape.