With the UK slowly opening up again, it’s time to rediscover your love for the Great British outdoors. Here are seven activities you can do…
When the first national lockdown was announced in March 2020 to combat the coronavirus pandemic we responded with inventive ways to keep fit, whether it was discovering new local walking routes, building a home gym or doing yoga over Zoom. Outdoor retailer Decathlon has called 2020 the Year of Persevere and with the country opening back up once again, the summer of 2021 could well be the season of having fun in the great outdoors and playing more. Here are just seven alfresco activities you can get up to in the UK this summer...
It’s felt at times that, besides being in the confines of our own homes, walking was the only thing many of us did during each of the lockdowns. Now strolling your neighbourhood or nearby park has become a little tedious, the UK’s wildernesses offer the opportunity to reconnect with British nature in spectacular fashion. The Yorkshire Dales is one of the best places in the country to do that, with its glacial valleys, heather-topped moorland, limestone karsts and rich mining heritage forming a fascinating wild mosaic. There are many windswept trails to tread, too, from short afternoon hikes to multi-day treks. A Forclaz Trek 900 Symbium rucksack will be your best friend when it comes to tackling the four-day Herriot Way Walk, while a pair of Quechua MH500 walking boots will allow you to take in the rock formations and atmospheric landscapes of Ilkley Moor in comfort.
It’s becoming difficult to remember the last time we slept anywhere other than our own homes and a night under canvas would be the perfect tonic. Campsites across the UK have become so diverse that no one is the same and you could spend much of the summer enjoying raw overnight encounters with the outdoors – each one as completely different to the next. You could string up a Quechua one-person hammock between the trees of Gill Head Farm’s Hidden Field in Cumbria, or you could pitch your Forclaz Trek 500 tent among the rugged granite landscapes and heather-flecked hills of the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. That’s just scratching the surface. Fancy combining wine-tasting with camping? You can do that at Ten Acres Vineyard in Devon. Or if you simply want to unzip your tent door to unbeatable views, then prepare to be rewarded with a countryside panorama after clambering up Yes Tor in Dartmoor National Park.
Many of us rediscovered our love for cycling during the various lockdowns and while we were rusty on the pedals to begin with, there are plenty of places for us to polish our skills. The many mountain biking trail centres dotted around the country are good places to start, with their well-looked-after trail systems expertly graded according to their ability. Then, when you’re ready to take the next step, the UK’s vast network of bridle paths and cycling trails will be waiting for you. The Rockrider XC 50 Eagle mountain bike is a great option for those just starting out and you can test it out on the gentle paths of Cornwall’s Camel Trail – once the old Padstow-Bodmin railway. Once you become more experienced, it can also withstand whatever uneven territory you ride, whether it’s the broken slate tracks of the Snowdon Ranger Path or the sandy soils of Peaslake in the Surrey Hills.
According to Decathlon’s Year of Persevere, the thinner traffic during 2020 meant there was a huge uptake in road cycling. It became an unexpected family activity, with an 18% increase in children aged under 16 cycling between May and July 2020 – with this in mind, the Btwin Triban 500 children’s road bike is the perfect partner if you and your kids want to head out regularly. Road cycling isn’t just about getting an eyeful of tarmac, either, as some of the best routes are so stacked in postcard-perfect scenery it can be difficult to keep your eyes on the road. Yorkshire is well known for its picturesque roads and the Settle Circular whizzes through a handful of chocolate-box villages and spellbinding green hill country. However, if you want somewhere a little quieter, make for the mountains, lochs and castle ruins of Scotland’s Assynt Achiltibuie Circuit or the winding Elan Valley in Wales.
The UK’s waterways have become the ideal location for those seeking a safe spot for recreation and exercise. They offer unlimited fresh air, a tranquil environment and it’s easy to social distance. Kayaking is one such sport that can be done individually or in pairs, affording both solo escapism or the chance to catch up with friends once restrictions lessen this summer. If you’re looking to buy your own kayak, the experts at Decathlon recommend wide and flat models for occasional paddles, while long and tapered kayaks are ideal for more regular use. Inflatable kayaks like the Itiwit Strenfit X500 add extra portability, while rigid models like the Tahe Outdoors Zegul Ormen MV 147 offer greater stability. Once you’ve made your choice then it’s time to hit the water: the likes of Cornwall’s River Fal, Stackpole in Pembrokeshire and Derwent Water in the Lake District are scenic and gentle introductions.
Participation in stand-up paddleboarding has been in the ascendancy for several years now and the enforced lockdowns have only served to continue that trend. A lot of stand-up paddleboarding’s appeal is down to its ease in which to master but if you’re still not sure if it’s for you, this handy guide from the team at Decathlon will help you decide. They recommend an inflatable board such as the Itiwit 10-foot board, which is perfect for beginners looking to dip their toe in the water. Many of the UK’s rivers are excellent locations for stand-up paddleboarding novices, including the reeded banks of the Great Ouse in Bedfordshire and the languid willow-fringed waters of the River Wye in Herefordshire. Once you’ve racked up the paddling miles you can glide trickier coastal spots for greater rewards, like spotting bioluminescent plankton in Anglesey or spying cold-water corals near Lundy Island in Devon.
Despite swimming being specifically listed as a permitted form of exercise during the first lockdown, indoor swimming pools were forced to close. Swimmers had no choice but to take their pastime outdoors and so wild swimming’s popularity accelerated. Wild swimming is older than you think, with writer and environmentalist Roger Deakin seen as its godfather following his 1999 book Waterlog. And despite its recent boom, there are still plenty of hidden swimming spots tucked well away from the masses, including Deakin’s favourite, an idyllic 3km-stretch around Outney Common along Suffolk’s River Waveney. The clear waters of the River Thames’ Pangbourne stretch is the most accessible wild swimming spot from London, while the spring-fed lake of Goldiggins Quarry in Cornwall catches the sun with an ethereal beauty. If you’re heading further north to somewhere like Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms, make sure to pack a Nabaiji cold-water neoprene wetsuit so you can soften the impact of the chilly waters.
Decathlon has heaps of high-quality products for you to choose from. From tents and camping gear to clothing to suit the unpredictable British weather, Decathlon has eveyrthing you need to make your staycation dreams a reality.
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