More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. 53% to be exact. It can feel suffocating in the city, and our routines become so monotonous that we lose the spirit of adventure. I remember first moving to London. I wanted to do everything that people who move to London from the countryside do. I wandered Oxford Street for fun. I went and gawked at the gates of Buckingham Palace. I spent a lot of money in expensive bars. I’ve now lived in London for the best part of eight years, and for the last five at least, I’ve avoided all of those things. What I have found though, is that there are real adventures to be had right in the heart of London, that don’t leave you feeling fleeced. Here are five ideas for the urban adventurer.
- Leave your bubble. Go to your nearest train station and get a train at least fifteen miles away from your house. Wherever you live, the chances are that there are some really interesting places in the distance between. For me this meant a trip down to London’s border, the M25. Walk back, using google maps to find the greenest route. In London, there are parks and woodlands everywhere. You’ll more than likely have to make decisions over which ones you want to visit (the ones with cool sounding names).
2. Fox hunting. Not fox hunting as in with a bugle and a pack of hounds. Cities are full of foxes, tearing open your bins and screaming bloody murder through the night, but where do they go in the daytime? Look for your nearest woodland or cemetery. Find a nice spot and sit still for twenty minutes or so. How often do you do that, outside, away from a laptop or television? Before long, you’ll see a fox. Watch where it goes. See if it’s a lone fox or a family. Watching a relaxed fox, who thinks it’s alone, is a very different experience from chasing one out from behind your bin. They’re proper wild hunters afterall.
3. Find a hill. Everyone should have a favourite hill. I’m yet to find mine, but I know plenty of top contenders. Depending on what you want in a landscape, all hills have their unique selling points. What you shouldn’t do is google ‘best view in my city’ because you’ll end up sharing it with throngs of other googlers, and your view is ruined. A quiet hill, looking at nothing, is more serene than the postcard view of St Paul’s shared with twenty others, with cameras and loud conversations. Londoners, try One Tree Hill, early in the morning.
4. Be childish. Why should children have all the fun? I’m mainly thinking of rope swings here. If you haven’t had a go on a rope swing since you were running around in the woods as a child, go and make one. First of all, making stuff is fun. Teach yourself how to tie knots that will hold the weight of an adult. Find the perfect spot, with an appropriate level of danger. You’ll not have laughed so hard in a long time. Also, if you make a good one, think of all the fun others will have thanks to you.
5. Do drinks. Our default way of catching up with friends, with a simple twist. Go for drinks in your nearest woodland. Take a bag, fill it with nice beers, wine or whatever you fancy. Get a bunch of mates and walk into the middle of the woods. Your out of the ordinary setting will create out of the ordinary conversations. You’ll remember them. You might feel a bit silly, hiking to a pop up watering hole. But what is silly about catching up with friends away from the crowds, where you can hear each other? (Not to be confused with chavs necking white lightening in the park.)
If all else fails, get up early and get out of the city. This weekend I’m going to climb Cadair Idiris in Snowdonia. I plan to get up at 4am, drive to North Wales, reach the summit, get back down and drive home in time to collapse in a ball on the floor, exhausted, with my thirst for adventure well quenched.
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