Hobby Month

Happy Hobby Month!​ January is a great time to have a go at something you've always fancied trying or wished you could do. Don't wish it, go for it! To get you started, here's some hobby inspiration from our GetOutside Champions and Ordnance Survey staff.

Bog Snorkelling - Caroline Barnes, OS Human Resources

For the past 20 odd years I’ve been taking part in the World Alternative Games in Llanwrtyd, Wales, competing in Bog Snorkelling and Bog Cycling; both do what they say on the tin although the Bog Cycling is infinity harder!

They take place each August Bank Holiday and are now described by Lonely Planet as one of the top 50 must do experiences. In the early years there was a handful of us, a bog, a valley and the inevitable rain. No toilets, no changing facilities and no access road.

Caroline ready to bog cycle
Caroline with her medal for bog snorkelling

Now several hundred competitors take part from all over the world, we have 2 portaloos – no expense spared! – a coffee/tea van, an access road (if you have a 4x4) and the obligatory t-shirt stall. A number of TV stations now also turn up although the poor chap from BBC Wales who tried to interview me as I was clambering out of the bog may have learnt a few new words!

Bog Cycling is a whole lot harder and involves a lead-weighted bike (to keep you on the bottom of the bog), a lead weighted vest and lead weighted helmet which are all good until you fall off the bike, sink to the bottom of the 6’ deep bog and can’t stand up which is potentially life-limiting! The water is natural bog water so contains lots of mud, weed and random wildlife. Oh, and it’s VERY cold!

Beach cleaning - Katie Tunn, OS GetOutside Champion

For me, there’s nothing more calming than wandering along a shore, listening to the waves and watching the changing colours of the deeper water. It’s a soothing, timeless place... Apart from one thing. Walk along any UK beach and you’ll notice it’s dotted with brightly coloured bits of rubbish.

Plastic bottles, fishing ropes, things that have been flushed down the loo... the list really is endless. The trouble is that it’s not just unsightly it’s also poses a potential danger to wildlife who can become entangled or mistake plastic shards for food.

There are many reasons why I think picking up litter on a beach walk is one of the most satisfying things you can do... You’re making the habitat safer for wildlife. You’re making the beach more beautiful. You’ve given your outing some purpose and won some feel-good points with it.

But that’s not all... it’s actually really good fun! Most first-time volunteers are sceptical but soon become enthusiasts. It’s interesting to see what washes up where and scouring the timeline means you find lots of little hidden treasures such as seaglass, painted China and shells. I’ve yet to find my giant chunk of valuable ambergris (hardened speed whale vomit) but I’ll keep looking!

As a Surfers Against Sewage rep I run big community beach cleans and help others organise them. They’re great fun and a good way to make friends but that’s not the only way to try out beach cleaning. With no specialist skills or equipment needed, all you need to do to get started is just start picking stuff up.

If you haven’t tried it before I think you should give it a go - trust me, it’s addictive!

Katie's beach cleans

Check out the National Trust list of beach cleans to get you started.

Nordic Walking - Jo Lines, OS Cartographic Production

Nordic Walking is a “whole body workout” using two poles which means walking exercises the upper as well as the lower body.

I go out with the New Forest Nordic Walking group twice a week in the spring, summer and autumn and once a week in the winter. We usually meet at Deerleap on the edge of the New Forest and walk for around 80 minutes, taking a variety of different routes.

Group Nordic Walking

The group is, it’s fair to say, predominantly female but there are some males (mostly called Dave for some reason). Whilst I can only walk on a Saturday morning or Monday evening, there are walks during the week too. Since starting in 2012, I have made new friends, got fitter and grown to really appreciate the New Forest and its seasons. “Socials” are organised regularly too, such as early-morning walks with breakfast half-way and after-walk picnics and pub lunches.

There is a special technique to learn before you can join the group walks, but, with excellent instruction, it’s easily accomplished. And for those who want to get even fitter there are regular High Intensity Fitness Sessions which are quieter affairs as we’re usually too puffed to chat.

To get started, visit the Nordic Walking website to find groups in your area.

#15Outside365 - Eli Bishop, OS GetOutside Champion

My new hobby for 2019 is getting outside every single day for at least 15 minutes. It is scientifically proven that just 15 minutes a day can significantly benefit mental health.

When my mental health is at its worst even getting out the front door can be a challenge, so by telling myself that it’s just 15 minutes' makes it so much more achievable. It is after all just 15 minutes.

Eli outside at Castel Padarn
Eli throwing leaves on a walk in Bristol

Sometimes its sitting on a bench, taking time to myself but mostly its walking and more often than not that 15 minutes is becoming 30 minutes, an hour and already after only a few days in to my challenge I am waking up and cannot wait to get outside.

Small steps DO lead to big changes.#15Outside365.

Orienteering - Rob Finch, OS Remote Sensing


Orienteering is an exciting and challenging outdoor sport that exercises the mind and the body. The aim is to navigate between points on an orienteering map as fast as possible.

I love orienteering as it is different every time: different courses and different challenges and to different areas. From your local park to universities, in our National Parks, to the streets of cities or even off to Scandinavian forests.

Check with your local orienteering club. Most clubs have permanent orienteering courses in local parks that you can try at any time or basically all events have courses suitable for beginners and families (and with help available).

The British Orienteering website could be a great place to discover what's on in your area, plus check out this beginners guide video.

Rob orienteering

Motorsport Volunteering - Peter Harris, OS Enterprise Operations

Thruxton racing


I’m a Motorsport Volunteer official at weekends as a Safety Car Observer for the ‘British Touring Car Championship’ and support races. When I’m not in the car I marshal ‘on the bank’ as well as a host of other disciplines. I’m also a Volunteer Motorsport marshals trainer.

My hobby has taken me around the world with the latest venue being Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi.

Motorsport Volunteering involves an excitement and a camaraderie with a group of like-minded people coming from all walks of life. We get to experience the outdoors in the fast lane!

Road Cycling - Rob Bushaway OS Engineering


I enjoy covering long distances, watching the scenery change and challenging myself. It’s good for both mental and physical health.

I’m an active member of two clubs, Ordnance Survey’s Cycle Club and a local racing club, the DHC. I’ve had opportunity to ride with Chris Froome, along with ~300 other Southampton residents when he tweeted that he’d be riding from Southampton University to Winchester train station. 1% of riders finished with him, I wasn’t one of them.

One year I raised close to £800 for UNICEF through asking friends and family to sponsor me on a number of organised rides (including the Ride London 100) and other challenges (like a Tough Mudder). I also have an annual appointment to drive a “support vehicle” and “live tweet” for a friend while he raises money riding the BHF London to Brighton off road.


Road cycling in countryside

How to get started?

Buy a bike > ride it > buy gloves and padded shorts > ride further > buy a GPS device > ride further and faster > buy more kit > ride further and faster > buy more kit > ride faster.

Check out the GetOutside Cycling pages for more inspiration and routes.

Walking - Glyn Dodwell, OS GetOutside Champion

History walks

My academic background places me firmly into Archaeology and History, having an MA in Archaeology & Heritage. But for me this is not confined to text books or archaeological excavations.

Hillside

Wherever you go in the UK you will not be far from some archaeology or history in the landscape. You must have seen the word ‘Tumulus’ in maps all over the place – well these are prehistoric burial mounds.

Certainly, in the south of England you occasionally come across hill top structures defined by steep bank and ditches, dating from the Iron Age. If you live or walk in the north of England, you have the mighty Hadrian’s Wall and in mid-Scotland the Antonine Wall. Visual history is all around us and a study of it can easily be included in virtually every walk we do.

Amateur Radio walks

I've been a licenced Radio Amateur since I was 14. Equipment was too heavy and bulky to take out walking. Advanced tech now means smaller radio transmitters allow for portable operations.

radio transmitter

In 2006 I joined a group of Radio Amateurs who took their portable radios to the tops of hills and mountains. We spoke to other amateurs, in over 100 countries, in a programme called Summits On The Air.

In the UK we climb to the top of Marilyns and operate our radios. For me the challenge, apart from getting to the top, is to develop radios and aerials that are small enough to fit in my rucksack. This an aspect of my hobbies that allows me to combine two of my interests in one.

Find more inspiration on walking here or find over 1.2 million routes on OS Maps.

Women's Rugby - Sarah Driver, OS Field Surveyor

I play Women’s Rugby for my local club, and the tri-county (Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire). It’s a great way to keep fit by doing something different, you also make a great network of friends that will last a lifetime.

It’s also not all about the playing either, I’ve recently become a member of the first NLD Youth Council, as well as, taking on the NLD Women’s Manager role.

if you're interested in getting involved, whether that be playing, coaching, refereeing or just watching, you can find your local club here.

Sarah's rugby team

Fly fishing - Simon Ware, OS Data Consultant

My hobby is fly fishing, which for me is all about people and places, about time spent in wild places with the best of friends. To paraphrase one of fly fishing’s eloquent writers…

“The calling is the involvement with the world of nature… the incidental beauties of moor and field and riverbank, of the trees and flowers that grow there and the life that lives there, and the central and captivating beauties of water and trout…” (Laurence Catlow)

Of the wild places that fly fishing has taken me so far, none captivates me more than Malham Tarn.

Malham Tarn


Malham Tarn. Photo credit robdenson.co.uk

Check out five of the best fly-fishing spots from the Guardian.

Cycling - Helen Pollard, OS GetOutside Champion

My hobby of cycling started out as an essential form of transport to help me to get around as an impoverished uni student. Many years later I am cycling more than ever as I turned a hobby of mountain biking into a business encouraging all to get involved with cycling.


Cycling for me is a brilliant way to spend your time. It is super healthy, a well known stress buster, fitness improving activity and positive for the environment too. It can be done solo or in a social group including as a family activity. It is accessible night or day and all seasons and once you have invested in the bike (and a good helmet!!) its free!

Cycling allows you to experience the natural environment in an invigorating way covering more distance at a faster pace than can ordinarily be achieved by walking or running. Its brilliant for kids where simple trips to the park can be changed to a super exciting adventures. My favourite times are spent out exploring with my daughter Daisy and friends on our bikes #GetOnYourBike.

You can find heaps of cycling inspiration on GetOutside.

Group of kids cycling

Running - Karl Rushen, OS GetOutside Champion

Karl running


Truth be told my 'hobby' extends well beyond January. I've already spent most of the Winter preparing for my Spring Running Goals, but for me January means it's time to get serious about the improvements I want to make.

It's not 'New Year, New Me'. It's a realisation that I need to honour the promises I've made to myself.

A hobby is the start of a better you, finding a passion, fuelling it and using it as a means to improve your life is the best way to help you grow as a person, to enable you to fulfil dreams and explore the possibility that you're capable of just about anything you set your mind to.

Here's some running inspiration and routes to get you started.

Birdwatching - David Holland, OS Research Scientist

I have been a birdwatcher for as long as I remember, and I spend a lot of my free time outdoors, looking for birds and other wildlife. For some people, this can be an expensive hobby if, for example, you feel the need to hire a charter aircraft to fly you to the latest rarity on Fair Isle or the Scilly Isles.

For birders like me, on the other hand, the pleasure is in walking round the local area, looking at the changes in the wildlife over the weeks, months and years and building up a knowledge of the natural world around us. Birdwatching (or “birding” as we tend to call it) is not something I do at a specific time or place – if I’m outside, I am always on the lookout for birds flying past. Often at lunchtime I walk around the office, binoculars round my neck, just in case something interesting flies over.


In recent years, these interesting sightings have included Red Kites (two this week!), Peregrine Falcons (now getting quite common in this area), Ring-necked Parakeet (there’s one which flies over Adanac Park quite often as I’m walking in to work), Waxwings (in the car-park a few years ago), Black Redstarts (on the roof) and, perhaps most unusually, a Red-legged Partridge perched on a huge pile of gravel.

All my records go into a national bird dataset run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and I also carry out surveys of birds for the BTO in summer and winter, so I feel I’m making a small contribution to the sum of knowledge about the state of Britain’s birdlife and the wider environment.

Waxwing bird

So, this January, if there's something that you've always fancied trying, try it. If there's something you've always wished you could do, don't wish it, go for it and just do it.

Happy Hobby Month!

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