According to the last census a staggering 80% of people in England and Wales live in urban areas. I am part of this 80% as are many of my fellow lovers of the outdoors. Living in the city has many advantages but does mean that getting to the ‘true outdoors’ is sometimes just not practical in a short weekend or evening after the 9-5 (or 8-7 as I’m sure some city dwellers may relate to) has finished. This calls for thinking outside the box to get some outdoors time into your free time. Here comes a five point plan….
Point one: Get a map
Your city is probably greener than you think, an OS 1:50,000 is perfect for this. Look at all those lovely green areas on there waiting to be explored, I bet a lot of them are within the city limits. Then cast your eyes wider, towards the edge of the city – more green and then remind yourself of the scale of the map suddenly the countryside really doesn’t look that far at all.
In many cities it’s less than 10km away, that’s only an hours run or 30 minutes cycle – today taking up my own challenge I got to the city based countryside in 10 minutes from my very urban front door (I was on my bike, see my previous post on why you too should get on your bike). If you are lucky enough to live in Bristol, you can walk to the countryside, it is but a hop, skip and jump across the iconic suspension bridge.
Point two: Get a garden or an allotment (or access to one)
Growing plants is easy; all they need is sunshine, water and soil. For a tiny bit of effort (no one job in the garden ever seems to take more than 15 minutes) the rewards are so life affirmingly brilliant that I challenge anyone not to enjoy the feeling of having grown something yourself. In addition to all these lovely things you can garden outside, that means a good lungful of fresh air and that peacefulness that we all crave after a hectic week at work. I am definitely NOT a gardener but even my non green fingers have managed to plant some bulbs, not kill some shrubs and grow some sweetpeas, tomatoes and even a chilli plant from scratch.
Point three: Get in your swimwear
Being in the water for most of us is a real break from the daily routine. I mean sure we all (hopefully) meet with some water during the day to have a wash but a good full immersion isn’t something most of us do on a daily basis. Swimming outside is a great way to get outdoors in the city; lido or wild swim I’m sure your city has something that fits the bill. Have a hunt on www.wildswimming.co.uk or have a google for your local lido. If it tops Bristol Lido please let me know – for me that’s the current benchmark although I’m looking forward to visiting Portishead open air pool this summer.
Point four: Get to the charity shops
Shopping is not a pastime. However a trip to a local charity shop can provide a world of inspiration for trips near and far. A number of charity shop finds have inspired my trips – you can find all sorts in there – maps, guidebooks, adventure books; in fact just this morning I had to stop myself buying the ‘Illustrated guide to adventures’ which potentially would have seen me take up deep sea diving and volcano exploring. On second thoughts maybe I should nip back for it…
Point five: get indoors to make getting outdoors easier
In this cryptically titled point I am referring to yoga and Pilates. Nearly all outdoor activities are more enjoyable the better you are at them. Flexibility and core strength will improve any outdoor athlete’s performance. Unfortunately most of these classes are held indoors – I wish this wasn’t the case. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that enjoyable aching feeling at the end of a good days outdoor activitying however when that aching continues well into the next week we may find ourselves wondering if perhaps there is a different way, something that could have helped us ease our aches and pains – enter yoga. Great for climbers, walkers, skiers, cyclists and many more I cannot enthuse about its benefits enough. Ditto Pilates, focusing on core strength combined with spinal flexibility it too will improve your outdoor experiences no end.
I’d love to hear how you get outdoors in your city.
Thanks for reading,