By: Blonde Two
You don’t usually see these particular Two Blondes in wetsuits but it’s definitely spring and definitely time to get outside, so we recently decided to try something new (well walking in a wetsuit is just plain silly!) In the UK we are blessed with a cornucopia of outdoor activity options, and these days, outdoor fun isn’t limited to school trips or Scout camps. Whatever age you are and whatever your outdoor activity ideas, there are organisations out there that can support your desires to try something new (we were about to try paddle boarding in this photo). Whether you want to enjoy the outdoors with your family, with a group of friends or with a team of young people, there is an activity provider to suit you. In fact there are so many options you might find it difficult to decide which you would like to try first. In order to help you choose, we have put together a list of five Blonde outdoor experiences and what to look out for when it comes to support and instruction.
Walking and hiking
Both walking and hiking (longer walks with bigger rucksacks) are easy enough to try on your own or with a couple of friends. You can start walks of all lengths from your doorstep. However, unless you are covering ground you already know, we would definitely recommend a map and a few basic map reading skills. If you want to go on a guided walk or undertake some training, look out for guides, instructors or activity centres with group leading qualifications and experience as well as good local knowledge. If you want to learn how to read a map and can get yourself to Dartmoor, we highly recommend our own navigation courses!
Whilst it is easy enough to find water for wild or outdoor swimming (check out the Outdoor Swimming Society’s Wild Swim Map), getting used to swimming outdoors, particularly in cold water, is best done in a group. This outdoor activity is gaining popularity and swimming groups are springing up all over the UK (and further afield). Social media, particularly Facebook, is a good place to find company, and if you are after safety advice (which you should be) we can recommend the Outdoor Swimming Society’s ‘Survive’ pages.
Thanks to the explosion in blow up SUPs and kayaks, paddle sports are currently experiencing a UK renaissance. By far the safest and most satisfying way to learn paddle sport skills is to do so in the company of a qualified instructor. Look for activity centres whose instructors hold British Canoe Union (BCU) coaching qualifications. Blonde One and I recently took a trip to Dorset to find out more about one such centre. Land & Wave offer paddle boarding and sea kayaking at Swanage Bay and Sandbanks as well as a whole host of other exciting water and land activities. We had a fabulous time and agreed that one of the great things about trying an activity with a top quality centre is that the instructors know exactly how to help everyone have a good time, no matter what their experience or ability level.
If you want to try an outdoor activity as a family or with a group of friends, survival skills or bushcraft might be a great Get Outside option for you. Firelighting and skills such as archery are a great leveller, with everyone getting the opportunity to find success in different ways. There are plenty of bushcraft experiences out there but we recommend finding a provider who can offer a variety of opportunities and use only qualified staff. Look out for Archery GB coaching or instructing qualifications, and NCFE accredited bushcraft courses.
Coasteering is great fun and far less scary than it sounds. If you fancy spending a few hours exploring the coastline both in and out of the water, snug and safe in wetsuit, buoyancy aid and helmet, we really recommend you give coasteering a go. The UK has plenty of fantastic coasteering locations accessible from holiday destinations (Dancing Edge in Dorset being a fine example) but if you aren’t near the coast, you could consider gorge walking or the more extreme canyoning instead. Coasteering sometimes requires the support of a safety boat and is definitely best done in a group with an experienced instructor.
Activity instructor training
If you have already discovered a love for the types of activity above and are looking for a career change (at any age), you might want to consider life as an outdoor instructor. One thing you often notice when you visit outdoor centres is the level of team work and camaraderie evident amongst their teams of instructors. The outdoor leisure industry is hard work and not initially well paid but it does offer a myriad of rewards and perhaps the best job satisfaction out there. There are different routes into the outdoor industry including degree-level university courses and apprenticeships. both of these will help you gain your National Governing Body (NGB) awards but, if you want a really immersive introduction, why not enrol on an outdoor instructor training course with a recognised outdoor centre.