Make new experiences, learn new skills

AFTER nearly a year in lockdown, most of us are itching to escape the everyday and have an adventure – whether it’s in the hills, on a river or along a wild beach.

And with the easing of restrictions in sight, now’s the ideal time to start planning for when you can finally pack a bag and cut loose on a badly needed break.

If you’re in the mood for a holiday that’s full of new experiences and gives you the option to learn some fun new skills, you’re in the right place. How about a hot air balloon trip? Or a crack at abseiling, glassblowing, foraging or breadmaking?

Botanist Liz Cwilewicz, who runs Moor Wild Experiences, taking people on exploratory tours of Exmoor in Devon, says: “Being outdoors is good for our wellbeing, which has never been more important. Lockdown has brought a lot of people closer to nature: life has been slower so people have had time for a daily walk, which has stirred their interest in the wildlife around them. And wildlife has been more visible because there’s been less traffic about. It has been a very special time to be outside.”

While much of the world will remain off limits for a while, there is no shortage of fun activities to get involved in or exciting places to discover right here on our own doorsteps, in some of the best countryside in the world. So why not get in the mood by planning your next holiday? It’s all out there waiting for you, in this fascinating country we call home.

Food, glorious food

Learn to bake bread, rustle up a Thai curry or lay on a Middle Eastern feast from scratch at this riverside Didsbury cookery school. It’s just one of the activities you can discover on the Manchester & Beyond site.

Take the kids along for fun-filled classes and there are also foodie events led by chefs at the top of their game. Whether you’re a novice or an old hand, there’s something to suit everyone, and there’s even a barista school for those who take their coffee seriously.

It’s all about having fun with food, learning tips and tricks and gaining confidence in the kitchen.

A ride on the wild side

Immerse yourself in 6,000 years of farming history in the Cheviot Hills, which cover parts of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.

For an introduction to a landscape that is no stranger to myth and legend, take the Ingram Valley Farm Safari on board the farm’s Tractor and Trailer Express, one of England’s National Park Experiences, telling the amazing stories behind the country’s landscape.

You’ll learn how deer, sheep and cattle all play a role in conservation and if you take the Arty Footsteps experience, you’ll also be able to get creative along the way.

You bushtucker beauty!

After a year of confinement, how better to blow away the cobwebs than by learning all about outdoor survival in the grounds of the Graythwaite Estate in the spectacular Lake District National Park, Bushcraft sessions teach the skills of outdoor living – friction fire lighting, shelter building, woodcarving and even making weapons. Graythwaite provides other experiences, too, such as glamping in the grounds, off-road driving, clay-pigeon shooting, archery and axe throwing.

From bait to plate

How does a day of fishing and food in the South Downs National Park sound? Fins and Forks offers you the chance to bag a shrimp in a rock pool, snag a squid (to be given the chilli salt treatment) or catch a trout on the fly. Chef Michael King’s exciting new venture includes a smokehouse, cookery lessons and a Chef’s Table, and takes all-comers on a culinary journey along the coastline and waterways of East and West Sussex. All the equipment is provided, and you’ll acquire some sharp new skills for preparing what you catch.

Foraging, firepits and finding your way

Picture the scene: the sun is setting; you’re sharing a freshly stonebaked pizza with family and friends (which you made together in an outdoor oven); and there are marshmallows toasted over a roaring firepit and a mug of hot chocolate to come. You’ve spent the day on a hike, learning to navigate Exmoor in Devon and identifying and collecting wild edibles as you go. You owe it all to Moor Wild Experiences and your fun, informative guide, the botanist Liz Cwilewicz. Bat walks at dusk along the Heddon Valley, where you can spot the creatures in their wild environment as they become more active when night falls, are also available.

Two wheels better

The Yorkshire counties earned their stripes as a cycling destination after the Tour de France started in Leeds, West Yorkshire, in 2014. East, West and North Yorkshire have almost every kind of landscape covered, from the eastern flatlands and the rolling Wolds to the Dales and the Moors. Cycle England has routes that take in the best of Yorkshire’s World Heritage sites – Fountains Abbey and Castle Howard – while its Way of the Roses stretches 170 miles across England, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, finishing in the East Yorkshire harbour town of Bridlington, where some fish and chips on the seafront is a must.

Get arty

The adventurously creative can look to expand their repertoire into glass at the Driftwood Glass Studio, a Great Walking Trails experience, in beautiful North Norfolk. The studio offers everything from taster sessions and children’s courses to a two-day stained glass workshop. It’s all about getting in touch with your creative side here. You’ll be invited to design and create your own works using paints, cutting techniques, lead work and kiln firings. The North Norfolk coastline and countryside offer plenty of artistic inspiration.

Balancing act

Learning new sporty skills on the water spells fun for all the family. Stand-up paddleboarding has become a big trend in recent years (and you can take your dog with you), while canoeing and kayaking let you really explore our waters, following rivers all the way to the sea. For an England Originals Experience, skilled adventure guides at Original Wild, covering Bath, Bristol and the southwest, promise exhilarating activities on the water, as well as climbing, mountain hiking, raft building and abseiling. If you’re keen to take the plunge…

Go social climbing

Bouldering is rock climbing stripped down to its bare essentials. Without resorting to ropes or harnesses, the challenge is to climb a route using just your technique, judgment, strength, climbing shoes and a big bag of chalk. The climbs are high enough to be exciting without being terrifying. After opening in 2006, Sheffield’s Climbing Works became the first bouldering venue in England and Wales to be designated a National Performance Centre by the British Mountaineering Council. It’s a fun, sociable alternative to the gym – and in 60 minutes you can burn up to 600 calories. There are also plenty of other fun adventures nearby – discover them at The Outdoor City.

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