5 fun ways to use your route-planning app

It’s no secret that I think the best route-planning app is OS Maps but whichever map app you choose, you’ll be pleased to hear these clever geographical gizmos aren’t just useful for planning walks, runs and cycle rides.

Route planning apps can also be a whole lot of fun.

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Sustainable New Year Resolutions for Outdoor Adventurers

Last year’s new year resolution

I’m not really a new year’s resolution type of girl. Mainly because I don’t have a good success rate, but this year I did manage to complete (just about) the new year’s resolution (some might call it a challenge) I set in January 2023.

I didn’t shop in supermarkets for a whole year.

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Are outdoor gear ‘essentials’ too expensive?

What kit do I need for a DofE expedition?

The topic of outdoor gear essentials has, in the past, been a favourite of mine. From Ten Tors kit lists to wild camping tent recommendations, I have been just as keen as the next outdoor expert to insist people need certain kit to take part in certain outdoor activities.

But this year, as I faced my first group of 2024 Duke of Edinburgh’s Award trainees, I realised how much my thoughts on the topic of essential outdoor kit have changed over the last 20 years.

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How to use snap to path in OS Maps 2023

What is snap to path?

If you know how to use the OS Maps app to plan a walking route, you’ve probably already used the snap-to-path feature. It’s a useful tool that can take some of the time (and clicks) out of creating an online route by automatically aligning it with existing roads, paths and tracks.

It’s useful but not perfect…yet!

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Frantic Christmas Eve? We have ten quick outdoor activities for the whole family.

For many of us here in the UK, Christmas Eve is a time of preparation. As well as the obvious jobs like sprouts, presents and potatoes, there are those tasks nobody else ever thinks about. You know the sort of thing.

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How to get the whole family to go for a walk this Christmas

The Christmas holidays are nearly here. The family needs entertaining. And you need a break from Christmas preparations. Why not forget the to-do list for a few hours, and go for a walk with the whole family?

Well even I can think of plenty of reasons!

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Experiences not things. How to give the gift of adventure this Christmas.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Twelve mountain days, eleven lonely beaches, ten Dartmoor tors, nine lochside ambles, eight city walks, seven misty trig points, six damp Munroes, FIVE WIND-BENT TREES, four bunkhouse nights, three lonely ridges,two camping trips, AND A TRAIN TICKET TO THE SEA.

‘I’m not buying as many Christmas gifts this year.’

‘This Christmas will be a cheap one.’

‘We’re just buying presents for the children.’

Whether it’s the cost of living crisis or our collective realisation that we need to reduce our desire for more things before climate change makes that choice for us, I’m hearing the phrases above more than usual this year.

It’s not impossible to avoid the Christmas consumerism dash but it’s not easy either. Whether external or internal, the pressures are all there. Last year we made all our Christmas presents. Crocheted blankets, jams and pickles, homemade sweets. It was hard work but good fun and very rewarding.

The gift of adventure

This year however I’ve had another Christmas gift idea that might suit those of you with less time. ‘Experiences not things’ was my mantra when our family was young. Partly because we didn’t have the income for many ‘things’ but mainly because I honestly believe that experiences make far better memories than possessions.

So how exactly can you give the gift of adventure for Christmas without resorting to yet another waterproof jacket, even more thermal base layers or the very latest smart watch? I’m not saying I don’t appreciate those things but I am pondering alternatives.

And I’ve come up with a few gifting ideas that might work:

The gift of travel

If you’re concerned about climate change but love to explore, one of the best ways to get around is by train. As I’ve found out this year, adventures by train can be brilliant fun but train tickets are often expensive.

Adventure present #1 – train travel vouchers

You don’t have to travel far by train to have a great day out but some of our train lines and stations offer fantastic adventure prospects. I’ve had a look around and found the following train vouchers and outings that could make great Christmas presents.

  1. All Aboard offer gift cards towards train trips booked on their website. Your loved ones could be heading up to Mallaig on the West Highland Line or discovering Scandinavia by rail. The possibilities really are endless.
  2. London North Eastern Railway offer LNER eVouchers that can be used to purchase tickets (from the LNER website) for trips across the UK (including other train lines). Along the LNER network your giftees could get all the way up to wonderful Inverness or enjoy the Mallard Experience at the amazing National Rail Museum in York.
  3. This one isn’t cheap or particularly sustainable but the wonderful Flying Scotsman celebrates its centenary in 2023. And I can’t think of a better reason to treat someone you love to a trip. Whether you think they’ll enjoy a Royal Duchy Tour or a trip along the rivers Thames and Severn, you might be tempted to join them on one of these very special train adventures.

The gift of experience

Adventure present #2 – accommodation vouchers

If travel is the most expensive element of an outdoor adventure, accommodation can come a close second. Not everyone wants to winter wild camp but your gift could make a winter adventure more possible. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Both the YHA and Hostelling Scotland offer vouchers for stays at their hostels. Your gift could be put against a private room or even pay for a whole night in a shared dormitory. Why not suggest an exploration of the Rothiemurchus Estate from dog-friendly Cairngorm Lodge Hostel or a beach break at YHA Borth? And yes, they can take their dog on the train.
  2.  The National Trust’s gift cards can be used against their beautifully located basic bothies and bunkhouses as well as entrance to their properties (and that all-important cake). I can recommend the North Devon bothies but you’ll need buses as well as trains to get to them.
  3. Why not avoid accommodation costs altogether and buy your loved one a ride in one of the UK’s sleeper carriages. This one’s definitely on my bucket list. I can’t decide which I want to do first; wake up in Fort William ready to explore from the Caledonian Sleeper or have a dawn dip in Penzance straight from Night Riviera train.

The gift of knowledge

Adventure present #3 – outdoor expertise

There are plenty of experience-based present options out there but to my mind the best of these are the ones that leave someone with useful skills as well as great memories. Here are a couple of ideas that you could combine with a train trip.

  1. Learning to navigate using a map and compass can help keep your loved ones safe when they’re out walking, running or gravel biking. The NNAS offer different levels of personal navigation courses, with recommended providers all over the country.
  2. SUP or stand up paddleboarding is experiencing a boom in popularity but as with all watersports, a bit of knowledge can go a long way towards safety. British Canoeing have recognised this with their new (2022) four-hour ‘SUP Safer’ award. Check out Paddles Up Training to find providers.
  3. Mountain walking in winter may sound exciting but doing it safely requires the right set of equipment and skills. To help your loved ones reach the next level of adventure, why not invest in a winter mountain skills course from Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre, Glenmore Lodge.

Budget-friendly gifts

Family train adventure

Of course, if all the above are beyond your budget, outdoor adventure can be found right from your doorstep, even during the Christmas Break. Here are just three ideas for budget-friendly adventure gifts that aren’t things but will create memories.

  1. Create a quiz with answers to be found around your local green space.
  2. Prepare a picnic with the Boxing Day leftovers then head to the park.
  3. Add ‘adventure’ forfeits to a favourite family game. Perhaps ‘sit in a local stream’, ‘create a mud sculpture’ or ‘throw a welly as far as you can’. The possibilities are endless.

Fed up with Christmas adverts? We have a new game for you!

Frankly-incensed by Christmas spelling mistakes? We have a few helpful turkey tips…

 

Three fantastic Devon walks from train stations

You might have noticed my recent focus on adventures by train. At the beginning of 2022 I decided to explore the possibilities of travelling by train, not just for day trips or holidays but to enjoy all my usual outdoor activities, and hopefully a few more.

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What is it like on Dartmoor at night?

Discover Dartmoor at Night

There’s a full moon. You’ve decided it’s time you finally went for that Dartmoor night walk. Or perhaps you’re even heading out wild camping on Dartmoor.

But it all seems a little bit scary.

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There can be a downside to sunshine days, especially if you’re camping!

I’m writing this on a sunny May day. We’re about to set off on a campervan trip. The house is covered in piles of gear, most of which will end up back in the house cupboards (we only have a very small campervan). As I pack, one thought is foremost in my mind.

I’m wondering what the weather will be like.

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