Long spring and summer evenings were made for little adventures in the great outdoors. But what are the best ways to squeeze every drop of fun from the summer months?
Sian Lewis – author of The Girl Outdoors – the wild girl’s guide to adventure, travel and wellbeing, is here to help with her guide to 10 easy summer adventures
Below she introduces her favourite ways to get outside and get active, from sleeping under the stars and cooking up a campfire feast to messing about on the water in canoes and on stand-up paddleboards.
So hold tight and get ready for to test your boundaries, try something new – and put some adventure back in your life!
Spend a night in the wild. Picture: Getty
1. Camp in the wild
The romantic notion of sleeping in the mountains in a lone little canvas tent doesn’t just have to be a fantasy. Wild camping is the fine art of setting up your tent in the back of beyond and waking up a pocket of nature that’s all of your own.
It’s not legal everywhere in Britain, but on some of Dartmoor and in a lot of Scotland you’re free to set up camp on open moorland where you like, providing you keep to certain rules. Pack as light as you can for a wild camp and leave no trace of your visit.
• Find out more with our Beginner’s guide to wild camping.
Exhilarating, refreshing, immersive – swimming in the wild is well worth taking the plunge. Picture: Getty
2. Go wild swimming
Human beings are 60% liquid, so perhaps it is no surprise that stepping into water can feel like coming home. Immersing yourself in an empty lake or the rolling ocean frees your mind; stretches out your limbs and washes away the stress of the outside world.
Once you start seeking out quiet reed-edged rivers and pellucid forest plunge pools you’ll be astonished at the beautiful wild spaces you’ll find. Stay safe by checking the water depth and currents before you swim – and take a flask of hot chocolate to warm you up afterwards.
• Look for the perfect swimming spot at wildswimming.co.uk; the same website has advice on safe wild swimming.
Get your fix of the outdoors by pulling on your running shoes. Picture: Getty
3. Try trail running
Taking to the trail is a million miles more interesting and engaging than pounding the pavement. Trails are beautiful, quiet, and ever-changing with the weather and the seasons.
Plus, negotiating mud, rocks, tree roots and the occasional squirrel keeps your brain engaged and your legs and feet working in a less repetitive way, which can lead to fewer injuries. Start out with a gentle jog along an easy-to-navigate coast path before you plunge into empty woodlands and the wider wilderness.
Hot smoky fish, stars in the sky, good company. Bliss. Picture: Getty
4. Cook on a campfire
There’s nothing nicer than cooking up a storm over a crackling fire, beer in hand. Grilling is my go-to method for cooking over a fire. When your campfire has blazed away for long enough to produce a glowing bed of hot coals, use a stick to spread them out to make an even base, then pop a grill on top.
To gauge whether a fire is hot enough to cook on, hold your hand about seven inches over it – if you have to draw it away after a few seconds, it’s ready. For a slap-up camp dinner, try grilling freshly-caught fish with lemon juice and salt.
At night the wild world comes alive – putting a tingle down your spine. Picture: Sian Lewis
5. Go night walking
Stars shining, owls hooting, a landscape wreathed in twilit blue – night walking is magical. Walking or hiking in the witching hour heightens your senses to the beauty of the natural world around you and reveals a whole new nocturnal cast of wildlife.
Buy a decent head torch and start with an easy ramble with a friend. Pick a clear, moonlit night and follow an obvious landmark, like a road. Make sure you’ve got a fully charged phone, a head torch, a map and a GPS system, and if you want to venture further, take a tent or bivvy bag.
Get all the gear – or borrow some old panniers and hit the road. Picture: Getty
6. Go bike-packing
If real life makes you itch to down tools and hit the open road with the wind in your hair and home disappearing on the distant horizon, bike-packing has your name on it. Cycling with camping gear strapped to your bike is a wild and free way to escape, with the added bonus of being a lot speedier and further-reaching than a hike.
It’s a cheap way to explore, too – all you need is a trusty bike, a pair of panniers and some lightweight camping kit and you’re sorted for a weekend biking adventure. Start by planning an overnight cycle to a nice campsite and back, or try cycling to your next festival before you plan a cross-country jaunt.
• Find out more with our Guide to bike-packing.
Let your van bring the adventure to you. Picture: Getty
7. Rent a campervan
Campervans are the ultimate adventure-enablers, a ticket to the wide open road with your bed ready in the back for when you get tuckered out from all that exploring. A campervan lets you combine all the best bits of glamping (candles, duvets, kitchen sink, wine) with the ability to move your new home around, stay in pretty campsites and park up overlooking a beautiful new beach every day. If you’re renting a van for just a weekend you can get away with something tiny and sardine-like but cute, like a classic VW, but if you’re after a family home for a week or more you might be comfier splashing out on something big and packed with mod cons.
Find the rhythm of the river, then haul up and pitch tents for a complete escape from the daily grind. Picture: Sian Lewis
8. Go canoe camping
For a wonderful weekend of wild living, try this recipe: take one canoe. Add two waterproof barrels and fill them with tent, sleeping bags, food, water and other camping goodies. Add a friend. Take a paddle each and proceed down a reed-lined river, stopping off to camp under the stars. For best results, pick a sultry summer weekend.
The easiest way to sample the delights of canoe camping is to find a canoe hire company happy to sort you out with canoe rental for two or three days. The River Wye in Wales and the Great Ouse in East Anglia are both beginner-friendly paddles, and local guides can drop you off with a map and pick you up at the other end of your trip.
• Read more about canoe camping.
Be absolutely certain you have found a safe spot – then make that leap. You can do it! Picture: Sian Lewis
9. Go cliff jumping
Springing off a cliff face and free falling into the sparkling ocean is one of my favourite ways to both delight and terrify myself. Cliff jumping is wild, joyous and makes you feel a little like James Bond. But it is also a pursuit to treat with a lot of respect.
If you want to jump into water from any height, make sure you carefully check the depth of the water below first, including scouting for any submerged rocks and ledges. If you are returning to a spot you’ve jumped before, make sure the tide has not retreated, making the water shallower.
When you’ve mustered up the courage to jump, leap out well away from the cliff side, and then bring your body into a tight pencil shape. Aim to enter the water feet first.
Bring some balance into your life with a paddleboard. Picture: Getty
10. Try stand-up paddleboarding
SUP-ing (or stand-up paddleboarding) might seem like one of the newest active sports on the block but it has actually been around forever. Hawaiians have been practicing what is now the fastest growing water sport for centuries – they just called it Hoe He’e Nalu.
Paddleboarding involves standing up on a large board and using a paddle to propel yourself forwards. You can SUP on a flat river or lake, which is easy to get the hang of. Alternatively, if you’re feeling confident , try riding waves on the sea, which is trickier to master and involves a smaller board. It’s worth booking a quick lesson to get the knack of it – then you can paddle off into the sunset.
Find out more…
…inspiration for a summer of adventures in new book The Girl Outdoors, by Sian Lewis. This wild girl’s guide to adventure, travel and wellbeing is a beginner-friendly bible for women looking for information and inspiration to get out in the great outdoors, get fit, get healthy and have fun. It is available from Bloomsbury for £13.49.