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In 2005 Dunk and I made the decision to move our two young boys who were 5 and 3 at the time from the brawling city of Birmingham to a tiny idyllic rural countryside village 16 miles from Carmarthen, South Wales.
We are exceptionally lucky to have the Brecon Beacons as our ‘backyard’ enjoying a whole National Park to adventure in. Moving here, from Birmingham, was the best decision we ever made. Our boys have grown up in some of the most stunning scenery the UK has to offer. Their Secondary School was in the National Park and quite literally shared their playing fields at lunchtime with deer. Yes really.
I grew up in Birmingham. Did I miss out because I lived in a city? Absolutely not. I have treasured memories of adventuring. Here is how you can adventure in the urban outdoors.
Adventure Anytime, Anywhere
Adventures do not have to be climbing mountains or exploring exotic places. Britain has an abundance of parks, nature reserves and wildlife parks, all closer to you than you might think. Heck, even your own garden can be a wildlife haven and with very little effort or cost.
Set up a bug palace in your garden. This is a pile of wood, fallen leaves and other natural materials that have lots of holes and crevices for mini-beasts to burrow and call home. If possible leave as much of your garden as wild as you can. Your butterflies, bees and birds will thank you for it.
You can feed garden birds relatively cheaply using safe food scraps such as:
Porridge oats (uncooked)
Cooked pasta and rice
Soaked currants, raisins and sultanas
Biscuit crumbs and pastry crumbs
Urban Green Spaces
Although I have never been, Central Park in New York looks amazing. Completely surrounded by concrete and some of the busiest streets in the world, but the vast expanse of Central Park is well utilised and appreciated by locals and tourists. Did you know that Central Park in NY is based on the design for Birkenhead Park on the Wirral? No neither did I. You really do learn something new every day. Nature is all around us, we just have to look.
For me though, Earlswood Lakes in Birmingham has wonderful childhood memories. On a Sunday afternoon, we would take the short drive to the area where dad (who is still involved with the scouts in his 70s) would lay the OS map out on the car bonnet and my brother, sister and I would take it in turns to close our eyes and randomly point to a spot on the map. Dad would then teach us navigation skills and wildlife appreciation while we ventured to the chosen spot.
Earlswood is made up of three reservoirs: Terry's Pool, Windmill Pool and Engine Pool. They are perfect for rambling, bug hunting, bird watching and if you are really lucky you might even be able to see the rare Lesser Spotted Woodpecker!
If you do not have an Earlswood near you. I can guarantee you will have at least one park close to you. It doesn’t have to be a National Park or even a large one like Central Park. Make an effort to take a walk around your area and see what hidden gems you can find. You do not even need an OS map anymore. The majority of us have smartphones with Maps installed, but walking really is the best way to see what is around you.
I would always encourage the use of physical maps as tech can be unreliable. Map reading is a valuable skill and I write more about the benefits of OS Maps in my quick guide.
Many more treasured memories of sitting on the grass, making daisy chains. Even as a mum, taking my boys after school and at weekends to play on the swings or conker hunting and tossing through the autumn leaves. Picnics in summer with a frisbee or football.
Get A Dog
Okay, I don’t advocate this one unless you truly are committed. A dog is a lifetime commitment and cost just as children are. Think before you own. However, the joy a dog brings to a family and if you ever need an excuse to get out a dog is the perfect one.
I grew up with Roger the Cocker Spaniel and then Misty the retriever. We now have three pawsome pals, Loki the German Shepherd, Neo the Beagle and Mojo the Jack Russell. Dogs help you to take walks in the woods or go bounding on the beach, but even a stroll around the block, you are out and most likely will get chatting to other dog walkers.
Most towns and cities have at least some green spaces. You have explored your local park, where to next? In most large cities, and even towns you probably won’t be too far from a canal. Man-made waterways to link towns and cities and carry goods before cars.
I loved as a kid, walking along the canal banks in Birmingham, bug hunting, butterfly watching and blackberry picking. They are a haven for wildlife and a great way to keep fit, especially if you are lucky enough to have locks that you can help open and close.
Keep Your Commute Interesting
Gone are the days that everyone lived local to work and could walk or cycle, but there are still plenty of ways to make the most of your commute. Can you park in a different place, close by and walk the last bit, or get off the bus a stop before.
If you can’t manage this always try to take a walk during your lunch break, even if it is just to get out of the office for an hour. It will help clear your head, re-focus and re-energise you. You might even be able to start a ‘work walk’, go on to start a new trend. You can find more top tips for busy people to reconnect with nature here.
I hope I have inspired you so far, but if you still need some convincing and do not want to go with the paper maps then you can go digital. Pokemon Go was on to a good idea, it definitely gets people outside more.
Ordnance Survey online maps come with a green spaces layer available for free online and there are other layers you can play with too. You can also find inspiration for great days out and ways you can enjoy nature near to you with their #GetOutside scheme.
Get Outside Go Explore
We went to explore Carmarthen Castle when were first moved to Wales. We pinpointed the map and navigated to the spot, but we were not expecting the little that is left nestled between the council offices and shopping centre. Much like Swansea Castle too.
We were surprised, but laugh about it now. That is the beauty of exploring, look for the small things they can be just a precious.
Find Your Wild
This post was inspired by a Twitter chat that I took part in, hosted by the amazing #OutdoorBloggers team. They run a monthly chat just type in the hashtag to find the next date or contact us for details. You don’t have to be a blogger yourself, but they are a great way of chatting with like-minded outdoor enthusiasts who offer lots of ideas and inspiration.
You can connect on Twitter using the hashtag #AdventureWild and tell us how you adventure? Are you Urban Warriors? We would love to hear from you. If you do not have twitter you can use the comments below. Share away and inspire others.
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