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Alternative Adventures | 8 Inspirational Ways To Explore Closer To Home

From local walks to peak-bagging expeditions and daily 5km runs to urban fastpacking, here's 8 of the best lockdown-friendly adventure ideas

Coronavirus has made the past 12 months a strange time for outdoor enthusiasts. Global lockdowns and travel bans have limited our horizons, and for months the mountains have been out of bounds. Adventure ambitions have been shelved and backpacking plans cancelled. It’s been a year of Netflix and gardening, rather than far-flung adventure – but the past year hasn’t been all bad.

Despite unprecedented limitations on personal freedom, outdoor lovers have responded to the pandemic with passion, energy and ingenuity – and found ways to experience adventure closer to home. For some this involved taking advantage of relaxed restrictions in the summer and autumn to undertake long-distance, multi-day expeditions. For others their adventure fix came in the form of local walks, runs, cycles or swims, all undertaken from the doorstep.

Of course, we’d encourage everyone to respect the current ‘stay at home’ regulations and to only exercise locally. But that doesn’t mean adventure is strictly off-limits. There are still lots of ways to get outside and experience that buzz of doing something intrepid. Whether you’re planning a big trip this summer (when lockdowns are hopefully a thing of the past), or want to launch straight into a local challenge right away, here’s some inspiration for you – 8 of the best alternative adventures we’ve spotted over the past 12 months.

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Best Alternative Adventures: The Top 8

  1. Nicola Hardy – Peak-bagging 116 local hills
  2. Frankie Butler – Marathon training on a wheelchair
  3. Agnieszka Dudlik – Running 5km everyday for a year
  4. Will Renwick – Urban fastpacking in London
  5. Rory Southworth – 7 wild swims in 7 days
  6. Jamie Neill – 100,000 steps in 24 hours
  7. James Forrest – 214 Wainwright fells in a fortnight
  8. Sarah James – 1,000 miles in a year

Adventure 1: Nicola Hardy, Hiking 116 Local Hills

Cumbria-based Nicola Hardy had planned to trek the 3,000km Te Araroa trail in New Zealand in 2020, but sadly the Covid-19 crisis put paid to those adventure dreams. Refusing to be defeated, she set herself an alternative coronavirus-friendly adventure closer to home: to walk all 116 Wainwright outlying fells (the hills listed in Alfred Wainwright’s lesser-known book The Outlying Fells of Lakeland).

She said: “It has been a fantastic adventure – escapism, freedom and tranquillity – and I’ve absolutely loved it. The outlying fells are mostly very quiet and remote, so all of my walks have been very Covid-friendly, ensuring I’m not adding to over-crowding in honeypot areas. Plus the fells are generally very small, gentle and grassy, so well within my abilities, thus significantly reducing the risk of any accidents. I was very conscious of adventuring in a sensitive and sensible way.”

Adventure 2: Frankie Butler – Wheelchair Marathon Training

22-year-old geology student Frankie Butler, who uses a wheelchair full-time after a hockey injury left her with CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome), hasn’t let lockdown – or her health condition – get in the way of her adventure goals. She is currently working towards wheeling the elevation of a Munro in two months, wheeling a half-marathon route over multiple legs and, ultimately, wheeling a full marathon in Spring 2021.

She said: “Being outdoors and completing challenges has been a lifeline for me – it reinstates that sense of purpose that I lost since my injury. I am getting myself back one adventure at a time! Exercise can change your whole perception of a day. You could have had the worst day possible, but getting outside and exercising can pivot that day on its head and make you feel you’ve achieved something.”

“These lockdown challenges I’ve set myself have provided the only decent mental escape from the difficulties we are all facing just now. It really helps to take time for yourself to mindfully explore nature and focus on the challenge ahead. Also, exercise acts as a hypo-analgesic, helping to reduce my pain and distract me from it – it’s a win-win!”

Adventure 3: Agnieszka Dudlik, Running 5km Everyday for a Year

Agnieszka Dudlik (or Aggie to her friends) ran a minimum of 5km everyday in 2020 – that’s an incredible 366 runs in 366 days. She clocked up a whopping 2,275km, ran one full marathon on one day, four half-marathons and climbed 24,732m – the height of almost three Everests from sea level. Some of her favourite routes included Cunswick Fell near her home in Kendal and a run around Grasmere lake and Rydal Water.

She said: “Running 5km everyday was pretty challenging and I only committed myself halfway through the year – before that I never even dreamed I could make it to the end. I was absolutely buzzing towards the end and I felt absolutely amazing, almost like I was unstoppable and could achieve anything.”

Adventure 4: Will Renwick, Urban Fastpacking in London

Fed up of being hemmed in by the city, Outdoors Magic editor Will Renwick satisfied his wanderlust cravings this summer by inventing a new sport he coined ‘urban fastpacking’. The concept? To set off on a whistle-stop post-work adventure, sleep in the wild, and be back at his desk for 9am the following morning. So one evening after a hard day’s graft, he left south-central London, ran 15 miles into Kent, and wild camped in the countryside (this was in August when overnight stays were allowed). His camping stove broke – perhaps a blessing in disguise as his planned dinner was a super noodle and porridge combo – but at least he had two cans of Magners to keep him going. Watch a video of Will’s microadventure below.

He said: “I ran from Zone 2 to the outskirts of the city for a sneaky mid-week wild camp. It is far easier to escape London than you’d think and quickly I was out trail running in lovely open green spaces. I packed everything into a 15L backpack and kept my gear as ultralight and minimalist as possible. It felt epic to escape the city and the trip proved you can find adventure on your doorstep if you really want to.”

Adventure 5: Rory Southworth, 7 Wild Swims in 7 Days

Frustrated that he could no longer access the Lake District’s tarns for wild swims, Lancaster-based Rory Southworth decided that lockdown wasn’t going to stop him enjoying a cold dip. So this February he set himself a challenge: to run from home to his local river (the River Lune) everyday for a week, and to take on seven wild swims in seven days. Each run would be 8km or longer and each swim would be a minimum of 250m – a mini project designed to satisfy his adventure cravings.

He said: “I wanted to see how creative with the routes I could be, especially during winter when the River Lune flow fluctuates so much and the water temperature is so cold. I really wanted a focus too – and this challenge gave me that. Heavy rainfall and storms caused some problems, with the river full of debris and very high and fast-flowing, but I adapted as best I could. I’m so pleased I took on the challenge. It got me back out swimming, gave me a better insight into my local river and gave me a little bit of physical suffering too!”

Credit: @charlottegetsaround

Adventure 6: Jamie Neill – 100,000 Steps in a Day

Scot Jamie Neill, alongside his friend Allan Devine, wanted to take on a tough physical challenge this January that would still adhere to the strict lockdown rules in Scotland. Their idea? To walk 100,000 steps in a day around local parks and trails. It involved a 4am start and midnight finish – that’s 20 hours on the move – but, after over 40 miles of hardcore hiking, the intrepid duo’s step-o-meter finally clicked over to the magical six-figure mark.

Jamie said: “It was a rather random challenge, with no prep or frills. I completed five loops of Strathclyde Park and three of the Chatelherault Green Bridge Trail, and finally I made it. It was a long day but one for the cookie jar: if you immerse yourself in tough situations enough and have the right mindset, any challenge won’t be as daunting and you’ll always be ready to go.”

Adventure 7: James Forrest – 214 Wainwright Fells in a Fortnight

Looking for an antidote to the boredom of lockdown, inov-8 ambassador James Forrest seized on the opportunity of eased restrictions in the summer and decided to go on a (very long) Lake District walk. His aim was to set a new record for a self-supported, continuous hike of all 214 Wainwrights. Along the way he walked 525km, ascended 36,000m and wild camped for 14 consecutive nights to set a new record of 14 days and 11 hours.

He said: “I’m so happy that I found the strength and resilience to keep going and make it to the finish line – it was really emotional arriving into Keswick, cheered on by friends and family. That moment will stay with me forever. It was the challenge of a lifetime. I love the Lake District and – if I can somehow forget the thrashings I took from some awful weather – I hope the enduring memories of my expedition will be the times when the sun did shine and I relished the peace, beauty and escapism of Lakeland.”

Adventure 8: Sarah James – 1,000 Miles in a Year

Sarah James, a civil servant and self-proclaimed ‘plus size hiker’ from Manchester, usually enjoys travelling to the Lake District to bag Wainwrights – she’s climbed 114 out of 214 so far (just 100 to go). But, due to lockdown restrictions, she’s been stuck in the city for many months and forced to enjoy hikes closer to home. She has set herself a target to walk 1,000 miles in 2021 and has ticked off almost 150 miles so far.

She said: “I’m hoping for some longer walking days in summer, hopefully in some nicer places, but for the time being I’m enjoying getting out in the fresh air on my local trails. Giving myself an overall mission has improved my motivation – and I’m relishing the focus it has given me. I’ve started enjoying night-time walks too. The moon rising, watching the stars, hearing an owl – it can be quite atmospheric.”

For More Like This:

The Best Walks In The Brecon Beacons | 10 Mapped Routes

The Best Walks In The Peak District | 10 Mapped Routes

The Best Walks In The Lake District | 10 Mapped Routes

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