Tag: Christmas

The Twelve (Outdoor) Days of Christmas Treasure Hunt


Get the family outdoors this Christmas with a fun treasure hunt

It’s ten in the morning on Boxing Day. The shine has already dimmed from the presents scattered around the house. The batteries in the whizz-around toy finally died two hours ago (thank God) and the kids have already started asking when Santa will be coming back. You sit slumped on the sofa; a combination of exhaustion and red-wine hangover creates a thick fog in your mind.

Sound familiar? With all the build up to Christmas and weeks of preparation, it’s easy to feel a bit blue come Boxing Day. But there is a solution! Something that will wake you up, keep the kids occupied and take their minds off their new toys (or the TV) for a few hours.

So dig out those wellies, hats and scarves. Get out of the house to your local wood or park and prepare to play the Twelve (Outdoor) Days of Christmas Treasure Hunt.

What do you need to play?

At its most basic level all you need is a bit of imagination and a place that’s safe for people to explore. You can either do the treasure hunt as a family or split into teams (ideal if you have relatives over). If you’re in teams and want to be competitive you may want to bring along a pen and paper and some kind of timing device plus a prize for the winning team or family. (Just re-use one of the boxes of chocolates you gave as presents – no one will notice.)

The beauty of this treasure hunt is that is needs absolutely no preparation. Because let’s face it, after Christmas Day, you’re all prepped out.

How to play

The purpose of the treasure hunt is to collect different types of natural materials in numbers relating to the Twelve Days. For example:

12 beech twigs
11 tiny pebbles
10 pine cones
9 holly berries (watch those prickles!)
8 orange leaves
7 pieces of silver birch bark
6 acorns
5 golden feathers (ok, brown feathers may have to do)
4 strands of ivy
3 earthworms
2 black stones
1 oyster mushroom growing on a tree (have an adult along to help pick the right edible mushroom)

You’ll probably need to adapt this depending on the flora and fauna in your local area. For example, if you live near a beach, you could look for shells and seaweed instead. Please DO NOT try and literally recreate the items in the Twelve Days of Christmas song. Gold rings are rather hard to find in your local park and swans have a nasty bite.

If you have teams competing against each other, the winning team is the first to collect all their items. Or the team with the prettiest feathers. Or whoever makes the best nature art out of what they’ve found. You decide. Need a tie-breaker? Get them to calculate how many of nature’s presents they’ve collected in total.

Adults-only version

Just because you don’t have kids doesn’t mean you can’t go on a treasure hunt! And what’s more, an adult treasure hunt can involve pubs (many of which do hot chocolate if you’re feeling a little delicate). Why not get some friends together and set a photo treasure hunt? A group of swans, a pear(less) tree, a bunch of mistletoe. First team back with a photo of everything wins (and gets to buy the first round).

However you decide to play, the main thing is to get outside, get some fresh air and have fun.

Merry Christmas everyone, and have an even merrier Boxing Day.

How to Keep Fit During the Festive Season


Run at night to see a different side to the city

It’s the middle of December. Christmas is just a few weeks away and the festive parties, catch-ups and mince pies are starting to stack up. It’s dark in the mornings, dark in the evenings and generally a bit cold and wet. All in all, not much motivation to get out and train.

Many people (including me) can get a bit relaxed about keeping fit at this time of year. (For relaxed, read lazy.) This is then followed by guilt-laden New Year’s resolutions to be better boys and girls. This year, why not make a resolution before Christmas instead? Sure, it needs a little willpower to implement, but there is a way to avoid the permanent hangover that often marks the festive period.

Let’s take it as read that we’re all busy people with packed social diaries, busy jobs and Christmas shopping still to do. (If you’re still looking for pressies, you may be interested in my Christmas gift guide. Presents for yourself count too you know.) So how on earth do you fit in any exercise, let alone a decent training session, around this?

Take it easy, but don’t stop

I know, I know. I said we were going to talk about keeping fit. But realistically, December is a time for maintaining your fitness levels, not pushing harder. Your poor body goes through a lot at this time of year: late nights, early mornings, a richer-than-usual diet and possibly more alcohol than it’s used to. Give yourself a break and don’t go pushing for a PB just yet.

Then there’s the flip side. I don’t know about anyone else, but as soon as I stop rushing around and rest my body decides it’s time to get ill. The solution? Gently ease your body into the Christmas hols, rather than slamming on the breaks. A bit of exercise can help you relax as well as allowing yourself some time away from the hot, germ-ridden office or pub.

Get out during your lunch break

It’s dark when you go to work and dark when you leave. At this time of year, we really struggle to get any sunshine on our skin, so make the most of any opportunity to get out. Even if you never take a lunch break at any other time of year, get yourself out for at least half an hour a day over the next few weeks.

If you can fit in a quick run, that’s your exercise sorted. But even if you don’t have time for a run (or changing facilities at work) a half-hour walk will give your body a break from the desk and your mind a break from work. You’ll feel better for it and probably have a more productive afternoon as a result.

Get the family involved

What’s the one day of the year EVERYONE gets out exercising? The day it snows! Kids who were previously glued to their Xbox or iPad are suddenly clamouring to go sledging or build snowmen. Everyone runs around like crazy people and you all return home tired and happy.

In Britain at least, there is no guarantee of snow. But that’s no reason not to start a family tradition of getting out and active. For many years, when I was at my parents for Christmas, we had a family tradition of going for a run on Christmas morning. (Yes, we are slightly strange like that.) But it was kind of nice to get some exercise in before the wine and food and feel like we’d earned it.

Run / walk / cycle to work

When time is short, one way to fit in a training session is to incorporate it into your commute. It may be dark when you leave the house, but if you’re lucky you’ll get a beautiful sunrise on your way in – something you may not have noticed if you’d taken the car or train to work.

This is another one where you get to go to the post-work party guilt-free – just make sure you’ve packed your shower kit and clothes to change into.

Run back from the Christmas party

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably one of the few who hasn’t totally given up on exercise. So you may not think this next idea too crazy to contemplate. But it is a way to fit both socialising and training into your busy schedule and is particularly useful if you live in a city. Go to the pub, or Christmas party, but rather than getting the bus, train or taxi home, why not run back?

Now, I’m not recommending you go all out on the booze front and spend your ‘run’ stumbling into lamp posts and rubbish bins. But if you know you have to run home you’ll be more likely to go easy on the drinks, which your head will thank you for the next day. Just pack up your trainers, running kit and a headtorch; change in the pub toilets and trot out into the streets. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds cities most beautiful at night.

So there you go. Make a pre-New Year resolution to keep fit during this festive season, then get out there and do it. Merry mince pies everyone.

16 Christmas Gifts for People Who Love the Outdoors


Find the perfect Christmas gift for outdoor-loving people

As we’re well into December now, I thought a bit of Christmas gift inspiration was in order. You may all be more organised than me and have your presents bought, wrapped and under the tree. (Is it wrong to admit I haven’t started shopping yet?). But if you’re stuck about what to buy for friends and family who love the outdoors hopefully this guide will help.

I’ve tried to keep it budget friendly (under £50) and included a few more unusual options, for the person who has everything.

Christmas gifts for runners

I was really jealous of my fiance’s merino buff when we were running in snowy Scotland recently. For warmth without weight (or itchiness), check out this stylish selection of buffs. Plus, 1 percent of the proceeds will be donated to non-profit organisations working for the environment. From £22 at www.buffwear.co.uk.

At this time of year, most runners are having to train in the dark. To get away from the roads and have a real run, a headtorch is a must. Alpkit’s Prism 630 is reasonable priced, water resistant and kicks out an impressive 630 lumens. Perfect to make sure your runner gets out and home again in time for dinner. £43 from www.alpkit.com.

If your running friend really doesn’t need any more socks, trainers or running mementos, why not consider a subscription to a magazine? Trail Running is the only UK magazine dedicated to off-road running and packed full of inspiration. From £24 with a free baselayer top from www.greatmagazines.co.uk.

Christmas gifts for cyclists

Every cyclist likes a tick-list and this is one of the best. Great British Bike Rides covers 40 of the best road rides across England, Scotland and Wales. The book gives a detailed breakdown of each route with downloadable GPX files. £25 from www.v-publishing.co.uk.

Combining a tyre lever, spanner, screw drivers and a host of other tools, the Nutter Cycle Multi Tool is a neat, lightweight tool that should fix problems a cyclist may come across. It even has a bottle opener (though no drinking and cycling please!). £39.99 from www.fullwindsor.cc.

If you’re looking for an off-the-bike gift, this recycled punctured inner tube belt may fit the bill. Or these bike chain earrings made from upcycled bicycle chains. Belt, £34 and earrings, £8 from www.cyclegeezer.com.

Christmas gifts for climbers

I have been a religious fan of Climb On! bar for years. It’s about the only thing that sorts my dry skin out after a day of climbing – and gets it ready for the next day. £9.99 from www.urbanrock.com.

3RD ROCK is a family run clothing business based in the Peak District with an environmental ethos. I’m a huge fan of their clothes for climbing in: if you’re looking for presents for the climber in your life check out the Orbit Vest (£22) and Luna Recycled Bra Top (£33).

Keep your climber injury-free with Dave Macleod’s excellent book, Make or Break: Don’t Let Climbing Injuries Dictate Your Success. Drawing on his own experiences and existing research, Dave covers both prevention and treatment of different injuries with advice and techniques specific to climbing. £29 from www.davemacleod.com.

Christmas gifts for hikers

A set of Contoured Coasters from Alp & Ash would be a great present for anyone who loves the British Hills. Handmade, you can pic ‘n’ mix across the range of English, Welsh and Scottish hills to create a bespoke collection. From £8.

I was lucky enough to get a Sigg Hot & Cold ONE bottle for my birthday and so far it’s shaping up to be the best thermos flask I’ve owned. It has a handy one-hand opening system and it guaranteed to keep your drinks hot for hours. (Though be warned – I actually burnt my mouth forgetting how hot the liquid could be!) £22.99 from www.uk.sigg.com.

A map is a great gift for any hiker. But what about a whole set of them? A 12-month premium subscription to OS Maps gives unlimited access to Standard, Aerial, OS Explorer and OS Landranger maps, plus over 400,000 suggested routes for the bargain price of £23.

Alternative Christmas gifts

Still struggling for ideas? If your intended recipient doesn’t want ‘things’, how about these alternative presents:

  • If your cyclist has one too many bikes, how about donating one in their name? World Bicycle Relief donates sturdy bikes to students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs across Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. Looking closer to home? The Bike Project is a London-based project that takes second-hand bikes, fixes them up and donates them to refugees.
  • One gift that will go down a treat for any active person is a sports massage. Whatever sport they’re into, a massage is a great way to loosen up aching muscles after a hard training session.
  • Treat your explorer to a bushcraft course to learn the basics of surviving in the wild. Various companies run weekends and longer courses across the UK. For a lower cost (and lower commitment) alternative, TheCanoeMan runs taster sessions from £30.
  • The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour87 brings the magic and adventure of the Banff Festival to cities across the UK. The films cover a wide range of sports and adventures, so there’s something to inspire everyone. Tickets are £14 (or £12 if you go to both shows).

These gifts can also make great birthday presents at any time of year. If you’ve got a suggestion for a great gift, add it to the comments below! I should also say that none of the links are affiliate links and I get no compensation from any of the companies listed for promoting their products – I just think they look great!