The benefits of spending time outdoors are well known. It can boost vitamin D levels, improve our mental wellbeing, help us sleep better – and even enhance our creativity and problem-solving abilities.

However, if you’re bored of your regular walking or cycling route and fancy learning something new, then you might be wondering how else you can make the most of the Great Outdoors.

To help you get inspired, here are six skilled activities that you can learn outside while having some fun at the same time.

1. Take up whittling

Whittling is a simple form of wood carving that, at its most basic level, only involves a knife and a piece of wood. With these, you can carve whatever you please: bowls, spoons, figurines, and chess pieces are popular among the whittling community.

Besides being an enjoyable activity that exercises your creativity and coordination, whittling is considered to have a wide variety of therapeutic benefits. Research suggests that it can help with mindfulness, reducing stress, and encouraging positive emotions.

Plus, a successful whittling project leaves you with a tangible result, making it a highly rewarding way to spend your time. Whittled objects can also be gifted to loved ones, or used to decorate your home or garden.

Although whittling doesn’t necessarily need to be learned or practised outside, working with wood is a wonderful way to connect with nature, and carving outside only increases this connection.

You can also collect your own wood on nature walks and hikes. However, most modern whittlers opt to buy softwood blocks that are specially selected for whittling. Amazon also has plenty of varieties of softwood that can be delivered to your door the very next day.

When starting your whittling journey, there are plenty of great resources online, such as Make from Wood and Best Wood Carving. These websites have comprehensive advice and tutorials for beginners so that you can get straight down to creating your masterpieces.

Alternatively, why not check our beginner’s guide to carpentry or list of 12 practical things you can make from wood? You can also browse the selection of wood carving courses on the learning section of our website.

2. Paint landscapes outdoors

We’re incredibly lucky to have an abundance of natural beauty to enjoy here in the UK – from sun-soaked countryside and enchanting forests to sprawling coastlines and awe-inspiring mountains.

Wherever you live in the UK, there’s undoubtedly a beautiful natural scene for you to admire, so why not put brush to canvas and paint what you see?

Painting landscapes outside (or ‘plein air’, as it’s referred to in the art world) offers you the unique experience of not only engaging with nature physically but creatively as well.

Landscape painting is a skilful yet enjoyable activity that encourages you to live in the present moment and notice the smallest details in the world around you. You could even consider going on ‘painting trips’, where you combine your artistic skills with a nature walk or hike.

Painting from a real-life scene (rather than a second-hand source, like a photograph) can also help you to really hone your talent because it presents extra challenges – such as the changing light and weather. These challenges force you to adapt and plan, but they can also inspire you artistically.

To get started, all you need is paint, water, brushes, paper, and a portable easel. However, for a more comprehensive guide on all the equipment you might need for your plein air landscape painting trip, take a look at this checklist from Liveabout. And for some help getting started, consider having a look at this guide from Outdoor Painter.

For even more help with learning the craft of landscape painting, you might want to check out our beginner’s guide to painting. Alternatively, you could try one of the landscape painting courses (or more general painting courses) that we have available on our website.

3. Become an angler

Angling (a method of fishing with a rod and a line) is a popular pastime in the UK. In fact, 102,000 people participated in angling in England in 2019. Between canals, lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and, of course, the ocean, everyone in the UK is only a stone’s throw away from a fishable body of water.

Angling is a fun activity, but it’s also an excellent excuse to get out amongst nature and observe wildlife (kingfishers are always a popular sight amongst anglers). Plus, it’s deeply meditative and offers a chance to practise patience, perseverance, and mindfulness.

There are many types of angling, but the two that are popular in the UK are…

  • Coarse fishing – Coarse fishing is the most popular type of fishing in the UK. It’s practised on freshwater bodies such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and canals. Coarse fishing involves returning fish safely and unharmed to the water after you have caught them.

  • Sea fishing – Sea fishing is pretty self-explanatory. In coastal waters, you can fish for species such as mackerel, bass, and cod.

Though the pure enjoyment of catching fish can be traced back hundreds of years and remains popular, concern is growing over the UK’s key fish populations – with haddock, mackerel, and langoustines being the only species currently at healthy numbers.

With this in mind, it’s important for anglers to be as environmentally conscious as possible, not only to preserve the health of the UK’s fish populations, but of the wider environment.

Many anglers develop a love and respect for aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and inherit the responsibility of protecting them. For example, anglers are often the first to report environmental issues that need addressing – such as incidents of pollution.

Fishing responsibly involves using tackle that’s biodegradable and will cause minimal harm to fish. You’ll also need to make sure to practise proper bank-side etiquette – like leaving no trace of your presence and treating fish with great care. For a guide to eco-friendly fishing, you might want to check out this article from Angling Direct.

Or, if you’re new to angling and you’re looking to get started, consider taking a look at Go Outdoors’ guide to fishing for beginners. You could also think about joining the Angling Trust, where you can get access to up-to-date news, information, and advice about angling and related topics.

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4. Learn some bushcraft skills

Bushcraft is not so much a singular skill, but the practice and implementation of a set of skills – ones that can increase your comfort when finding yourself in the ‘bush’ or the ‘wild’.

There’s no definitive list of skills that fall under the umbrella of bushcraft, but here are some popular ones…

  • Shelter construction
  • Fire building
  • Finding water
  • Plant identification and foraging
  • First aid
  • Navigation
  • Knot-tying

While many people may call these ‘survival skills’, ‘survival’ and ‘bushcraft’ are slightly different practices. The main distinction is that people learn them for completely different reasons.

People learn survival skills in preparation for a time when they might need them to stay alive in a natural environment that’s cut off from civilisation. Whereas people usually engage in the art of bushcraft as a recreational activity – to connect with nature, take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and perhaps even reflect on how dependent we’ve become on the comforts of modernity and technology.

To start learning some bushcraft skills, check out this article from Bushcraft Buddy, or this beginner’s guide from BushcraftInfo. You don’t need to go out into the wilderness to begin your bushcraft journey. Instead, you can practise some of the skills at home or in your garden.

Once you’ve got your head around some of the essential basic skills, you can organise a camping trip or a hike to put your skills to the test.

5. Take up kayaking or canoeing

If you’re interested in learning a new skill that’ll take you on a journey through nature, then why not consider kayaking or canoeing?

Kayaking and canoeing are pretty similar. They both involve paddling a waterborne vessel. However, the vessels, gear, and techniques that you use in each activity are slightly different.

Canoes are usually open-top vessels in which the paddler either kneels or sits on a small seat. When canoeing, you use a single-bladed paddle.

Meanwhile, kayaking involves using a closed-top vessel in which the paddler sits with their legs outstretched forward. When kayaking, you use a double-bladed paddle.

You can kayak and canoe pretty much anywhere with a sizable body of water, as long as you have permission from the owner. Here in the UK, you’re never very far from a canal, river, reservoir, lake, or ocean.

As well as centring around nature, kayaking and canoeing are also effective forms of exercise. Better Health tells us that they improve cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. They’re also low-impact, which – compared to other high-impact physical activities – can reduce the risk of injury, as well as wear and tear of joints and tissues.

If you want to get involved in kayaking or canoeing, the best way to learn the proper techniques, as well as any relevant safety information, is to join a paddling club. You can search for clubs near you here.

6. Learn how to create a wildlife-friendly garden

One of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of spending time outdoors in nature is spotting wildlife.

However, with continued urbanisation, agriculture, pollution, and climate change, the Natural History Museum tells us that 41% of the UK’s animal species have declined since the 1970s and that hundreds of species are at risk of disappearing altogether.

One way you can help with the conservation of our animal species – as well as enjoy the benefits of observing wildlife at home – is to learn how to create a wildlife-friendly garden. Here are a few relatively easy and inexpensive ways to make your garden more wildlife-friendly…

  • Create a pond – Pretty much any body of water will provide some sort of value to animals in your garden, from being a source of drinking water for birds and mammals to providing a small habitat for amphibians and snails.

    Making a pond can be as simple as using a buried bucket, or you might want to create a larger pond, complete with pond plants and other accessories. For guidance on how to build a pond in your garden, take a look at this step-by-step guide from the RSPB.

  • Plant trees and shrubs – Planting trees and shrubs can be a simple way to help conserve wildlife and help attract animals to your garden, as they provide all kinds of species with shelter and food.

  • Create animal houses and hotels – You can create a wide range of homes in your garden for animals like hedgehogs, birds, and bees from wood or old containers. Animal houses and hotels protect creatures from predators and give them places to breed, helping to boost their numbers.

    For help on how to build your own animal homes, check out the RSPB’s guide to building a bird box, and the Woodland Trust’s guide on how to build a bee hotel.

  • Make a compost heap – Composting mimics and accelerates the natural process of decomposition. This can help to reduce the amount of waste our households produce and create nutrient-rich food for our gardens.

    However, by making a compost heap or pile, we can also provide a refuge and feeding area for animals such as hedgehogs, frogs, and insects.

For more tips, you might want to check out our article; 11 ways to make your garden more wildlife friendly.

Final thoughts…

Whether you’re naturally outdoorsy and want to add a new skill to your repertoire, or simply looking for a fun, new way to get your fix of fresh air, hopefully, this list has some inspiration for you.

For more ideas on outdoor activities, check out our article; 10 fun outdoor activities to try today. Or, if you’re looking to improve your connection to the natural world around you, you might want to have a read of our list of 32 ways to connect with nature and feel inspired.