Tag: Orienteering

10 Things to Do With Your Extra Hour of Daylight


British Summer Time is here! With promises of long, warm summer nights, sunny evenings at the crag and weekends packed with adventure from dawn to dusk. Admittedly, we’re still in March, which means for every day of sun you get one of rain with the additional bonus of the occasional hard frost, but hey, that’s what living in the UK is all about.

I love this time of year. Finally, the dark days of winter are behind us. There’s no longer the agony of staring out of the office window, knowing that by the time you get to leave work, the sun will have slipped away. And let’s face it, it’s much easier to get motivated to go for a post-work run when it’s still light outside.

If you’re itching to get outside, but lacking in inspiration, here are ten fun things to do outdoors with your extra hour of evening daylight.

Take a Different Route Home From Work

If you cycle, walk or run to work, winter commuting can be a punishing experience. Every day becomes a battle of your will versus the weather. Whether you have your head down, pedalling into a headwind, or you end up fighting with your umbrella as you get soaked by a passing lorry, the shortest route home is usually the preferable one.

The reward for your perseverance, is the warm, dry summer evenings, where commuting becomes a pleasure rather than a chore. So now you have a bit more daylight, why not choose an alternative route home and explore more of your local area? Use the CycleStreets planner to plan a longer route home on quiet back roads and cycle paths or swap your road bike for a mountain bike and go off-road.

Go Bouldering Outside

It may not be quite light enough to justify getting your ropes and trad gear out just yet, but there’s plenty of daylight for a quick bouldering session after work. With roadside venues such as Almsclife (Yorkshire), Bonehill Rocks (Devon), Burbage (Peak District) and Dumbarton Rocks (west of Glasgow), you can be parked up and have your bouldering pad out before most of your work colleagues have driven home.

If you’re new to climbing and have been training indoors over the winter, now is the perfect time to test out your skills on real rock. Just remember that bouldering outdoors can be quite different to indoors; check out these tips from the good folks at UKClimbing.

Get Out in the Garden

If you need some outdoor time, look no further than your own back garden. Gardening is relaxing, creative and can be pretty hard work! The combination of spring sun and rain means that everything is starting to grow, so it’s time to get the lawnmower out, tidy up the garden and start planting out those seedlings you’ve been nurturing in the greenhouse. Follow the RHS’s guide for jobs to do at this time of year.

Go on a Microadventure

Have you spent the winter snuggled up at home reading, planning and dreaming of adventure? Now is the time to get out there and have some! I know, I know, you need to ease yourself into this adventuring malarky. After all, the grey drizzle spreading over the M25 is quite different to the hot, wild African plains. But this is where microadventures come in.

Microadventures are pint-sized adventures. They’re not about taking on some huge daunting challenge that you need to raise thousands of pounds for. And there’s no need to go to your boss and beg for six months off work. Microadventures are simple, local and cheap, but most importantly, fun. Whether it’s cooking dinner over a camp fire, a mid-week overnight bivvy or even camping in your garden, microadventures are exactly what you want to make them. For more ideas and lots of tips check out Alastair Humphreys’ excellent blog.

Try Orienteering

If you’ve never tried orienteering (and if not, why not?), now is a great time to start. Most orienteering clubs put on friendly summer evening events at local parks and woodlands. These are ideal for beginners, and they’ll usually be someone around to show you the ropes. Check out this newcomer’s guide to getting into orienteering, and find an event near you on the British Orienteering website.

Take the Kids on an Adventure

I’m going to be a bit controversial, but hear me out. Spring is here. It’s time to turn the TV off, put the iPad out of reach on the top shelf and limit access to the Playstation. It’s time for a family adventure.

Now the evenings are lighter there are loads of (free) outdoor activities you can take advantage of. Cycle along a canal towpath, go on a treasure hunt or feed the ducks in the park. Go in search of the Gruffalo, roast marshmallows on an open fire or build a den in the woods. Your kids will have a great time and will be so tired, you’ll all get a great night’s sleep.

Get Fit with an Outdoor Bootcamp

Fed up of sweaty gyms? Give yourself plenty of arm-waving space by taking your work out outdoors. There’s also the added bonus of being able to breath fresh, unfiltered air. If you like being shouted at, British Military Fitness run classes at all levels across the country. UK Outdoor Fitness also offer nationwide classes (possibly with less shouting) and there are plenty of local trainers around if you’re looking for some one-to-one training.

Go to an Open Air Cinema

If you’re looking for something a little less active, then take a seat at an open air cinema. You can usually take along a picnic and drinks and they’re hosted in venues from castles and stately homes to rooftop gardens and cobbled streets.

If a spot of theatre is more your thing, then get along to a performance at Regent’s Park in London, Grosvenor Park in Chester or the stunning Minack Theatre in Cornwall.

Enter some evening running events

If your weekends are packed full of family commitments, opportunities to enter running races can be few and far between. The good news is, that as the evenings start getting lighter, there are more opportunities to compete in events after work. There’s a pretty comprehensive list of events here.

If you’re lucky enough to live near the hills, then there’s no excuse not to try out some of the local fell races. The
Fell Runner website has a full list of FRA registered races and you can search by region to find events in your area. Want to have even more fun? GO ORIENTEERING. (I’m not going to tell you again.)

Take a sunset walk

One of the nicest things about this time of year is that the sun sets at a perfect time for evening sunset walks. It’s not so early that you’re stuck at work, and you have plenty of time to get home for a late dinner afterwards. Take a stroll through your local park, woodland or fields. Close your eye and breathe in the sounds and smells of nature. Relax and enjoy the swathes of colour across the sky as the sun dips below the horizon. Be at peace.

What’s your favourite way to use the extra daylight we have in the evenings? Get in touch on Twitter and let me know, or drop a comment in the box below. Happy adventuring!

10 Reasons Why Orienteering is the Best Sport Ever

Girl holding a map and orienteering

Who would have thought getting lost could be this much fun? (photo (c) Federazione Italiana Sport Orientamento)

When you see the word orienteering, what springs to mind? Funny red and white flags? Getting lost in damp forests? Strange people dressed like they’ve just emerged from a 1980s psychedelic pajama party? (If the latter, then you must have been to a ‘proper’ orienteering event.)

I would be the first to admit it can appear a crazy sport. The basic principle is this: you have a compass, an electronic dibber thing and a ‘map’, which to the uninitiated looks rather like an artist’s impression of the London tube map overlain with hieroglyphics. And it probably makes about as much sense.

But stick with it. Because with a little patience (and a good sense of humour), what is at first confusing, transforms into a delightful puzzle. There is no other sport that tests both the mind and the body in quite the same way. It’s like trying to solve a level four sudoku puzzle whilst simultaneously running an obstacle course and playing a virtual reality car racing game.

Are you convinced yet? If not, then read on for ten very good reasons why you should get out orienteering today.

1. Orienteering is a sport for life

Literally. As soon as you’re able to toddle on your own two feet, eager parents will be fighting to take you round the string course (especially if there are sweets at the end). At the large events there are age classes that cater for runners from age ten (younger competitors can ‘run up’) to ninety, and everyone shares the same finish lane. There aren’t many sports when you can carry on winning well into your eighth decade.

2. It’s not all about running

‘But you have to be a super-fit runner to orienteer…’ is probably one of the most common excuses I hear for not trying out the sport. And the answer to this is a big, fat resounding no. Sure, if you want to be winning events then it helps to be a decent runner, and elite orienteers are some of the fittest bods around, but fitness is no barrier to orienteering. Many people walk round their courses, and if you’re just starting out this can be a good idea whilst your navigation improves.

Plus, there are actually four disciplines of orienteering: foot, mountain bike, ski and trail orienteering (designed for people of all physcial abilities to compete on equal terms). So there’s something for everyone.

3. Every event is different

Bored of running the same old training routes? Plodding the same streets, week after week. Yup me too. This is why running is BORING and orienteering is FUN. I can pretty much guarantee that in your orienteering lifetime, you will never run the same route twice. Which means there is always an element of the unknown when you set off. Variety is the spice of orienteering life.

4. Orienteering is the friendly sport

Orienteers love introducing new people to the sport. Turn up to any event and you’ll be sure to find some eager face to help you work out which bit of the compass points north, the difference between a re-entrant and a depression and what the blue squiggly lines on the map mean. Most orienteering clubs have specific events aimed at beginners or young families, plus training sessions when you can get to grips with basic navigational techniques.

Many clubs hold post-training socials, and at the larger events, members congregate in club tents. Wander in after you’ve finished and within two minutes someone will be peering at your map excitedly jabbering about ‘optimum route choices’ and whether you took the direct or long route to number five. Just humour them, ok? It’ll be you one day.

5. There’s always room to improve

There is rarely such a thing as a perfect run in orienteering. Even on your best day, you’ll lament the two seconds you ‘wasted’ climbing over a stile, or debate whether you could have stolen a minute if you’d have taken a slightly different route. Don’t get me wrong, it can be incredibly frustrating when you mess up. (And even more frustrating if you’re stuck in the car with a sulking companion for two hours on the drive home.) But it means there’s always something you can work on and some way to get better.

6. Orienteering takes you to places you’d never otherwise go

Quite literally. Many orienteering events are held on private land where the organiser has to get special permission from the landowners to hold the event. So you get to explore woodlands, moors and valleys you’d never normally go to.

7. It’s a full body workout

Orienteering is not just off-road, it’s off-trail. Once you get beyond the easier beginner routes, the courses are designed to avoid paths as much as possible. Depending on the area, the terrain can vary from beautifully runnable pine forests, to heather strewn moors, and intricate boulder fields. You may end up jumping across streams, leaping fallen trees or fighting through thickets of trees (usually only if you’ve got lost).

This is why orienteering courses are quite short. But try running a 7km road race and compare that to a 7km orienteering race in the Lake District and tell me which one you wake up aching from the next day. Yup, and that’s your core aching as well as your legs.

8. But it’s not all about getting muddy

Whilst orienteering is traditionally associated with hills, forests and parks, a whole new niche of orienteering has sprung up in towns and cities across the country. Urban orienteering combines lightning-speed navigation with fast running. Many clubs run monthly, or even weekly urban evening events, particularly during the winter months. As the navigation and the maps tend to be much simpler, these can be a great introduction to orienteering for newbies. Plus they usually start and finish in a pub. It’s important to rehydrate y’know.

If you live in London, I would highly recommend the Street-O series of events – even if you don’t fancy being competitive, they’re a great way to explore parts of the city you never knew existed.

9. You can compete all over the world (without being an elite athlete)

There aren’t many sports where you can compete in 70 countries, whatever your level of expertise. Once you’ve learnt the basic orienteering map symbols, the language is the same wherever you go. Many countries host orienteering festivals: multiple days of events with social activities in the evenings. And city races are a great way to add a bit of interest (and exercise) to your next city break.

If you’re looking for international events, the World of Orienteering Calendar is a good place to start, but it’s by no means exclusive.

10. It gives you skills for life

I’d like to see anyone try and deny that navigation skills aren’t important. EVEN in this modern day world of iPhones, Google maps and GPS watches. I sometimes wonder why other people struggle to remember directions, seem to have absolutely no sense of direction and can’t hold a map the right way round. Then I remember that these people probably weren’t sent out into a deep dark forest to get lost (literally) from the tender age of ten. (Thanks Dad.)

So the moral of the story is: parents take your children orienteering! Let them go out and get lost! It will teach them to be independent, adventurous and non-directionally challenged. And one day they will thank you for it. Even if it’s just because they managed to find their way home from the club rather than spending the night behind the wheely bins.

If you’re raring to go, check out the British Orienteering Federation website for details of all UK events and your local club. Still hesitant? Watch this video and then dare to tell me it doesn’t look just a teensy bit fun.

Thanks to Federazione Italiana Sport Orientamento for the great photo (used here under Creative Commons licence). You can view the original image here.