Defeat those winter blues

The winter months after Christmas can be a lacklustre and drab time of year, but Rebecca Bartlett believes there are many ways to defeat those winter blues




The New Year is the perfect time to head outside and get adventurous, allowing the winter sun to dispel those blues. Many studies have shown that there are many benefits to being active outside, with leading to a better improvement in body and mind than being active indoors.

– Join an outdoor gym

The National Trust has an outdoor gym scheme to help provide people with the many benefits that exercising outdoors provides. Training outdoors can burn up to 20 percent more calories whilst giving your body a bigger challenge due to uneven surfaces making you work that little bit harder. The scheme not only encourages people to spend more time exploring the country but also ensures you can save as much money as possible. They provide a detailed 31 day plan to get you started, covering everything from the basic warm up and cool down techniques to fun methods to enhance the most simple of runs. All you need to organise is where you’ll partake in your new fitness scheme. The plan, devised by personal trainers and outdoor exercise specialists, Eco Fitness, allows you to adapt the plan to fit your needs and strengths, whilst creating an extensive exercise routine you’d be motivated to maintain.

– Go geocaching

For those looking for adventure on your doorstep, geocaching is the perfect activity to get you out and about. Known as the modern day treasure hunt, the activity uses GPS devises to aid the search of containers, known as ‘geocaches’, hidden in various locations around the country, before allowing you to share your experiences online. With over 75,000 geocaches in the UK, as well as numerous locations globally, this activity is perfect for anyone who enjoys the fun of a search within a modern day setting.

– Jump on a bike

Spend a day with the world rushing past you, rapidly changing with every minute, whilst the wind blows away any leftover holiday cobwebs, clearing your mind. Cycling is a perfect way to get out and about in the winter sunshine, feeling adventurous. There are numerous places where you can gain a brilliant ride, from a gentle country cycle to an extreme mountain bike trial. There’s an opportunity for everyone of all expertise. And with numerous trails up and down the country there’s a place nearby – visit the National Cycle Network to plan your next adventure on wheels.


It may sound slightly strange but listening to five minutes of birdsong a day is the perfect way to overcome those winter blues. Ecologists at the National Trust claim that birdsong could be “beneficial to our well being” due to the “warm glow” it gives us.

For many, birdsong is something of a lost beauty, overshadowed by busy lives and the hectic commute. This is further limited during the short, dark winter months as birds become more interested in finding food, with only a few birds, like the brave robin, found singing its heart out.

However, with thanks to the National Trust, there is now no need to wait till spring to fully rejoice in this wonder. Taken from birds at the Trust’s Woodchester Park in Gloucestershire, an online collection of recordings has been created allowing listeners to immerse themselves in birdsong. They also provide a handy guide to which bird the call belongs to, as well as offering the option of a free download to brighten up any winter commute.

For more information, and to have a listen, click here.

Improve your flexibility, strength and balance by taking up Yoga. There are numerous classes taking place in gyms throughout the country, but there’s nothing better than improving you wellbeing by visiting a yoga retreat. Get away from it all in body and in mind and learn a new exercise whilst within a stunning setting.

Four Seasons Yoga is running a Yoga and Walking Weekend 6-8 January at the Islington Hotel just below Haytor in Dartmoor. The classes are held at either end of the day so you can fill your days with what you most enjoy doing, walking on Dartmoor, taking a trip to the coast, visiting local towns of enjoying the hotel facilities. The package includes dinner, bed and breakfast and a double or single room. So you could share with someone who doesn’t want to participate in the yoga sessions at the usual room rates, you can even bring your dog to ensure you enjoy those Dartmoor walks.

Have a weekend of relaxation at Holycombe House, Whychford, 2-5 February. The weekend yoga retreat, run by Jackie Jones Yoga, allows you to recharge away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. With both accommodation and meals included in the cost of the weekend, it is the perfect opportunity to make some time for you.


Getting out and about for charity is the perfect way to blast away those winter blues whilst helping those in need. Numerous events run throughout the year, covering a variety of themes, with the crazier experiences generating the largest amounts of money. However, if these don’t take your fancy you could always organise your own event. Although, make sure you gain the charities permission before embarking on a personal event.

– Risk your life
Risking your life for charity has become a common way to generate large sums of money whilst having an adrenaline-filled experience. Skydiving is a popular choice combining the thrill of a freefall with glorious 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. Bungee jumping too has become a popular fundraising activity with events springing up all over the country. Most people opt for the 160ft crane jump due to Middleborough being the only location in Britain offering a bridge jump. For those who prefer to be strapped to something slightly larger in size, many charities offer sponsored abseiling or zip wire events throughout the year.

– Challenge yourself
The three-peak challenge is perfect for those who wish to gain a similar buzz whilst remaining on solid ground. Discover some of the country’s most stunning landscapes whilst you attempt to climb three of the UK’s highest mountains – Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike – within the space of 24 hours. This could be advanced into the four-peak challenge with the inclusion of Slieve Donard in Northern Ireland, although due to travel requirements it is advised to leave 48 hours for completion.

– See how long you can go
For those who like to stay closer to home, endurance tests are a perfect option for a crazy charity event. Many charities offer endurance bike or swimming events, inviting people to join in their goal to reach a certain distance within a given space of time. A popular event is, as a team, cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats, or do a coast-to-coast route. Personal events can be tailored to suit you strengths and interests, with the longer the distance, the greater the interest.


– Plant a tree
Offset your carbon footprint and help create a special woodland for future generations to enjoy. The Woodland Tust are offering a free pack to communities who want to plant trees in their local area from January to March 2012, as part of their Jubilee Woods Project. With more phases planned throughout the year, there are many ways to get involved, and help create a greener future.

– Become a Mystery Walker for the Ramblers

Take a gentle walk along around your local area and help protect the traditional British stroll for future generations. Britain’s walking charity, Ramblers, are looking for Mystery Walkers to help examine the state of the footpaths in England and Wales. Similar to that of a mystery shopper, people are encouraged to test out their local pathways whilst highlighting its condition and the walks enjoyment. The scheme aims to create a map of the best and worst paths in the county whilst ensuring footpaths remain open for public use. Put on your boots and take a stroll with the knowledge that you are helping to preserve our pathways for future generations.

– Go on a working holiday

It may not sound like a normal way to conserve nature, but enjoying a holiday can help create a more sustainable future. The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV), offer numerous breaks throughout the country designed for those who wish to make a difference. Based in a variety of stunning settings, the selection of over 200 different holidays range in length to location, activity to accommodation, so there’s plenty to choose from. Be it restoring moorland in England to woodland management in Scotland, there’s something for everyone.


– Winter sunrise / sunset

Many people tend to link breathtaking sun activity with the warmer months, however there are numerous places across the country offering something as spectacular. Beginning your day with a stunning sunrise is the perfect way to dispel those blues, whilst the later rise time allows for longer in bed. With over 27 miles of picturesque coastline, East Anglia’s Sunrise Coast boasts the chance to view some of the best sunrises in the UK within a beautiful location; the name says it all. If, however, you prefer to end your day watching the sunset with a glass of wine then Saligo Bay on the Isle of Islay, is the perfect location. Named by many as the island’s most beautiful bay, the light conditions are ideal for photographers so don’t forget your camera.

– Starling roosts

Above numerous fields, woodlands and reed beds, dark clouds have been forming since November, offering people a chance to see one of nature’s most jaw-dropping spectaculars; starlings. During the winter months, hundreds of thousands of these birds come together to form huge clouds as they swoop, turn and wheel in unison across the British landscape. Somerset has some of the best locations to catch this phenomenon, with the Avalon Marshes being considered one of the finest. The Marshes, close to Glastonbury, are split between three sites – Shapwick Heath, Ham Wall and Westhay Moor. Make sure to contact the Starling Hotline before travelling to gain the latest updates on the starling’s activity. Call 07866 554142 or email for more information

– See snowdrops

The current long dark days are the perfect time to go in search of snowdrops, as the delicate flowers transform woodland floors across the country. The National Trust is running numerous snowdrop walks across the country offering an opportunity for people to experience nature’s new beginnings, while uplifting their spirits. Due to the unreliability of nature, it is difficult to predict the exact time when this British beauty appears allowing you to view the transformation from bud to bloom. Celebrate the arrival of spring by putting on your wellies and taking a stroll.


Christmas can be an expensive time of year for most, with the bank accounts everywhere feeling the strain come January. You don’t, however, have to spend your free time cooped up indoors as there are many free activities available to occupy your time and relieve those winter blues.

– Just walk

Put on those boots and let your feet do the walking for once. Far too many simple walks have been complicated with planning and maps that all the fun of it has been lost and after a while it begins to feel like a chore instead of a fun activity. Relive the joys of adventure once experienced as a child and head out on an exploration of the local area. Children are able to leave the house without any pre-planning and end up discovering secret areas of the country almost lost completely to man. Yes they might not be able to find their way back afterwards and might constantly stress their parents, but they don’t care. They’ve had a brilliant day. Adults, however, try to make sure that every element of the day is pre-planned, down to every last minute. For some reason we feel that planning it all will save us time, but it does, in actual fact cause us more grievances than needed. Go pack a bag, put on your boots and see where you end up.

– View public art

Art is no longer confined to stuffy galleries with numerous inspiring, large-scale sculptures located throughout Britain. Anthony Gormley’s ‘Angel of the North’ (above) near Newcastle is the iconic figure with many other locations boasting these spectacular sculptures. Andy Goldsworthy ‘Striding Arches’ around Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland, Thomas Heatherwick’s ‘Bleigiessen’ installation outside the Welcome Trust’s Gibbs Building in London and Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ at Crosby Beach are just to name a few.

– If you’re stick in the city, visit a park or garden

Britain is famed for its numerous green spaces offering a variety of views and experiences within them. Primrose Hill offers a chance for Londoners to escape the rat race and experience the breath taking view across the city, whilst the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh offers a huge range of native and exotic plants, mature trees and outdoor sculptures. With countless parks and gardens to choose from, what have you got to lose?



– Join a hiking group

For some, exploring the great outdoors is a lone activity. It’s a time to think and reflect on life without encountering any distractions. However, others tend to prefer the opportunity to walk within an organised group. Those who do gain the opportunity to meet new people, share experiences and knowledge, whilst gaining the safety and support that a group walk offers. You are also able to meet people of the same ability allowing for you to be able to go on walks suited for you, not others. Some groups also have affiliations with various locations and companies allowing for you to gain the vitals at a discounted price. Hiking groups are a perfect way to gain new life experiences, whilst being able to meet new people.

– Go bird watching

Twitchers around the county would agree that bird watching is the perfect way to brighten up your day. Many bird watching groups run days out throughout the country, attempting to view some of the best of British birds. However, there are also many ways you can gain a chance to watch birds without joining a group. You’ll be able to see many species in your local area, whilst a visit to the numerous nature reserves across the country will present you a prefect place to catch a glimpse of a new type. You’ll be rushing around Britain in search for the rare breeds before you know it. Pack a lunch, grab your binoculars and go.

– Creative writing course


Everyone apparently has a book within them, and attending a creative writing course is the perfect way to organise your thoughts and turn them into a best selling novel (hopefully). Groups run throughout the country with a variety of options offered, suiting all abilities. The Arvon Foundation, run fiction-writing and poetry workshops led by published leading authors and poets, in stunning Shropshire countryside.