Bored? Skint? Get out there and try one of our top 15 microadventures this weekend.
Where did our sense of adventure go? We once hitched across the great continents, ate unidentifiable street food and slept on creaking overnight buses. Adventurous, these days, is having a madras with X Factor.
At WTG Towers, we want to reawaken the adventurer in us all, so we asked king of the weekend and author of Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes, Alastair Humphreys, for some advice.
“I knew loads of people who wanted to live adventurously were not doing so,” Humphreys says. “This is because of real life barriers such as time, money, expertise, fitness or living in suburbia rather than somewhere wild and adventurous.
“So I set about coming up with ideas that contained the spirit of adventure but which could be done regardless of these constraints. Remove the barriers, remove the excuses.”
So what exactly is a microadventure then?
“A microadventure is an adventure. It’s as simple as that,” spells out Humphreys. “It’s just an adventure that is short, simple, cheap, local, and therefore achievable.
“If you are a sceptic, consider this: if you go and sleep on a hill and really do hate it, then at least you can return home reassured that actually you are quite happy with your normal life. That’s a good thing to discover.”
Top 15 microadventures to try this weekend:
1) Follow a river to its source
How to do it: Not only do riverside trails make for scenic countryside walks, but there is something therapeutic about tracing a large body of water back to its trickling source. Take an afternoon or a weekend to follow a river up into the hills.
What to take: Walking shoes, basic supplies, water bottle and a tent.
Upgrade your adventure: For the more adventurous, take a dip near both the mouth and source of the river (providing it’s safe to do so).
2) Get a bus to the end of the line
How to do it: You’ve always wondered what it was like, but apart from that one narcoleptic friend who is always missing their stop, you don’t know anyone who’s ever been. Journey into the unknown by taking a train (or bus) to its final stop and spend the day there; after all it’s hardly Baghdad, it’s just Morden.
What to take: A positive attitude, a smile and your wallet.
Upgrade your adventure: Go to the opposite end of the line – the distance from home increases the sense of adventure.
3) Walk magnetic north until dusk
How to do it: Play the part of Roman city planner by picking a spot and walking directly north for as long as possible. The challenge is to not deviate from your path, meaning you may have to traverse hills, rivers and woodland to stay on track. When the light fades, you’re out of time.
What to take: Walking shoes, food, water and a compass.
Upgrade your adventure: This microadventure is best enjoyed with the company of friends, so why not keep the adventure alive by checking in to a B&B at your final destination and spending an evening mixing with locals.
4) Follow a historic trail
How to do it: A simple concept that’s made possible with a little help from digital resource Old Maps Online. Find a historic road, river or railway line that once ran through your town and follow its ancient trail through the modern city, hopefully adding a new perspective to a familiar place.
What to take: A printed map.
Upgrade your adventure: For a longer, more challenging, adventure, traipse along the original borders of your nearest city.
5) Climb to the highest point in your area
How to do it: Use a map to find your highest local peak no more than 15 sq km (10 sq miles) from your home. Once calculated, set out and reach it. Even if your microadventure leads you up more of a molehill than a mountain, there is still something extremely satisfying about arriving at a summit.
What to take: Good hiking gear, plenty of water and warm clothes.
Upgrade your adventure: Increase your search area and tackle multiple peaks in a weekend.
6) Pick a spot from a tower block
How to do it: Proving that microadventures really can be, well micro, ‘tower block targeting’ (as we’ve penned it) is the perfect lunch break activity for those working in big businesses. To start, head to the top floor of your office block and select a distinctive landmark (a park, a church or even a tree) from the window. Now attempt to reach it. With only the sun to guide you you’ll quickly find yourself a stranger in your own city.
What to take: A watch (you don’t want to get back too late).
Upgrade your adventure: Completing this microadventure at the weekend allows you more time to explore and the chance to travel further afield.
7) Meet on a hill
How to do it: Organise a memorable catch-up with friends by grabbing a couple of bivvy bags and meeting on a hill. A night under the stars passing round a bottle of whisky will renew a sense of adventure that evaporates as we age. Friday nights may never be the same.
What to take: Bivvy bags (or tents), warm clothes, a nip of something to keep you warm and food.
Upgrade your adventure: Spend multiple nights under the stars, incorporating a day of trekking between the evening camps.
8) Go wild swimming
How to do it: From waterfalls and tidal pools to lochs and lakes, there is an abundance of wild swimming on Britain’s shores. All it takes is a sharp intake of breath and a little bravery. The Wild Swimming website can recommend plenty of spots where you can take a dip.
What to take: Swimming bathers (in case there are other people around) or a wetsuit, and a towel.
Upgrade your adventure: Float downstream on an inflated tractor tyre. Choose a point to enter and allow the river to take you downstream to somewhere new.
9) Tackle one of Britain’s toughest cycling climbs
How to do it: Puffing your way up one of Britain’s toughest cycling climbs is perhaps the best way to guarantee a Sunday lie-in since the beer growler reappeared. Pick up 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs: A Road Cyclist’s Guide to Britain’s Hills and scale any of the ascents near you without stopping.
What to take: A bicycle, a helmet, a copy of 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs: A Road Cyclist’s Guide to Britain’s Hills, water and food.
Upgrade your adventure: What comes up must come down. So after completing the ascent, turn back and speed down the hill for a second adrenaline rush.
10) Go stargazing
How to do it: If the forecast looks clear, head for a stargazing site recommended by Dark Sky Discovery and pitch up your bivvy bag in a secluded spot. Take out their ‘Star-Charts’ (seasonal stargazing guides that will help you pick out the constellations better than Galileo ever did) before snoozing under the stars.
What to take: Bivvy bag, Dark Sky Discovery Star-Charts, food and a sleeping bag.
Upgrade your adventure: Hold a stargazing weekend at one of Britain’s dark sky parks: Galloway Forest in Scotland, the island of Sark or Exmoor National Park.
11) Watch a sunrise from the middle of nowhere
How to do it: Armed with little more than a bivvy bag and a sense of exploration, pick the remotest place on a local OS map and aim for it. If the spot is good enough to guerrilla camp, settle down for the night and awake to watch the dawn break from the middle of nowhere.
What to take: Bivvy bag, OS Map, food, sleeping bag, alarm clock.
Upgrade your adventure: Pick a remote spot that faces both east and west where you’re able to watch the sun set at dusk and then rise the next morning.
12) Catch a train to somewhere new and cycle back
How to do it: Why jet off somewhere exotic when the likes of Portmeirion and Twatt are on your doorstep? Buy a train ticket to a place you’ve never visited before, explore, and then make your way home again on two wheels.
What to take: A bicycle, a map, some money and a pre-booked train ticket.
Upgrade your adventure: Swap the train for a ferry.
13) Hitchhike with a stranger for as far as they’re going
How to do it: Over the years, the number of travellers thumbing a lift seems to have declined, but there are still plenty of hitchhikers out there and, more importantly, still drivers willing to pick them up. Grab a ride with a passing car, stay with them until their final destination and explore the new area before hitching home.
What to take: Some decent stories to share.
Upgrade your adventure: Try a jailbreak hitchhike. Give yourself a full 24 hours to make it as far away from your starting point as possible.
14) Go on a localised safari
How to do it: Forget Kenyan game parks and Rwandan gorillas, you don’t need planes or plains to encounter incredible animals. Use the Wildlife Trust’s ‘Great Places To See’ guides to discover creatures you’ve never seen in the wild before. It may be Canadian geese or cormorants along a canal or deer in the New Forest, but you’ll soon find that Britain’s backyards are teeming with wildlife.
What to take: ‘Great Places To See’ guides, binoculars and a packed lunch.
Upgrade your adventure: Camp out overnight and go in search of creatures that only come out after dark.
15) Stay in a mountainside bothy
How to do it: Staying in a bothy, at least in the eyes of the Mountain Bothy Association, is like camping without a tent. These remote shelters, found across the isolated hillsides of Britain, are rustic, rural and very basic at best. To bed down in one, choose your nearest shelter from the bothy map, set out early and attempt to reach it before dusk. Then prepare a meal on the open fire and bunk up for the night, preferably with a nip of something to keep you warm.
What to take: Water, food, a torch, a sleeping bag, warm clothes, firelighters and firewood.
Upgrade your adventure: Do away with the bothy altogether and pick up a bivvy bag instead. These lightweight shelters are the size of a sleeping bag, and are water- and windproof, allowing you to camp outside if you don’t reach a bothy.
And as a special stocking filler…
16) Walk home for Christmas
How to do it: Santa may have to make it to the house of every good boy and girl before Christmas morning, but you’ve just got to make it home. Set off as early as you need and walk to where you’re spending the holiday. Take a bivvy bag for a longer trip.
What to take: Your Christmas presents, an OS Map, food and water.
Upgrade your adventure: Increase the stress levels of your wedding day by making your way to the altar on foot.
Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes by Alastair Humphreys is on sale now.
You can follow all of Alastair’s microadventures on his blog.