7 Weekend Adventures Around London
Try something wild without venturing more than two hours from the capital
An adventurer and qualified expedition leader, The City Adventurer Henry Haselock wants to encourage people to embark on their own adventures. Here, he recommends weekend activities in touching distance of London.
There’s no need to book a week or two off work to experience outdoor adventure. Even with a 9-to-5 in London, my weekends are dedicated to action and exploration. I try to do at least one major expedition a year – in 2016 I completed an unsupported crossing of the Chalbi desert in northern Kenya and a 200-mile trek in the Kyrgyzstan mountains – but to keep my thirst for adventure slaked year round, I keep my hand in with activities closer to home.
Here are a few examples of mini adventures, all with two-hours’ travel of London, that give me the hit of outdoor adventure I crave.
Photograph: Brendan Foster Photography
You don’t mess with the Gurkhas. With a motto of “better to die than live a coward”, describing the Nepalese military outfit as a hardy bunch is somewhat of an understatement. But it should give you some indication of the intensity of this walking challenge, which was originally designed to test the endurance of these much-respected soldiers.
This version takes place in the Hampshire and West Sussex countryside (the Gurkhas themselves have Hong Kong to contend with), and challenges teams of four to romp across 100km in under 30 hours. Make sure you’ve got yourself a great pair of walking boots, thick socks, supplies, stamina and that never-give-up Gurkha spirit to pull you through. 28th-30th July, £200-£240 per team, gwt.org.uk
RECOMMENDED: The Best Adventure Holidays in the UK
Hang Gliding Taster Session
Not only an adrenaline-filled day trip, but also some incredible Monday morning bragging ammo for the office. Green Dragons is based in Surrey and offers a one-day taster course in hang gliding (and paragliding, if you prefer). You’ll be schooled on the parts of a hang glider and what it can do before learning how to launch it and – pretty crucial this bit – direct it. Then in the afternoon you get the chance to fly the glider solo. £175-£199, greendragons.co.uk
Wildwood Bushcraft Survival Weekend
Photograph: Wildwood Bushcraft
Getting used to that sinking feeling when you settle into the sofa to watch an episode featuring Bear Grylls or Ray Mears only to realise you’ve seen it before? Of course you are, you’ve seen them all! Put that interest in outdoor survival to better use at a wilderness survival and bushcraft school just a stone’s throw from London.
Based in Sussex, Wildwood will teach you things such as how to forage for food, fire-making techniques, shelter building and trapping methods. It’s better than a weekend of dribble-chinned channel surfing, for sure. Various dates, £170, wildwoodbushcraft.com
RECOMMENDED: The Best Activity Holidays in the UK and Ireland
Twelve-Hour Trail Adventure Running
Adventure racing takes outdoor pursuits, anything from trekking to skiing, to the next level with extreme objectives that push participants to their limits. It’s a breeding ground for some serious adrenaline.
Surrey-based Tri-Adventure offer a variety of adventure races and activities, but it’s their non-stop 12-hour Night And Day Race, which mixes trail running and mountain biking with navigation, that has our fingers hovering over the “Enter Here” button. 16th-17th July, £90, triadventure.co.uk
White Water Rafting
You don't have to long-haul it to the American backcountry to tackle some rapids. Lee Valley White Water Centre based in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, an hour from central London, offers three hours of soggy, adrenaline-inducing adventure. They’ll explain the best way to navigate the drops and eddies of the rapids, give a you a quick activity assessment, then push you, and your shipmates, over the edge. £50, gowhitewater.co.uk
Rock Climbing At Bowles Outdoor Centre
There are plenty of indoor climbing and bouldering centres in and close to London, but if you want a taste of nature, head to Bowles Outdoor Centre on the border between Kent and Sussex, near Tunbridge Wells. A stunning sandstone crag offers 230 rock climbs up to ten metres and across a range of grades from 1a to 6c. There are courses available for those new to the sport, but experienced climbers can simply, ahem, rock up and get involved. £5, bowles.ac
Abseiling The Arcelormittal Orbit
Alright, it’s not outside of London, but depending on where you live it could easily take an hour to get to the Olympic Park, so we’re making an exception and including this 262ft abseil down the UK’s highest sculpture on the list. When descending the side of the ArcelorMittal Orbit in Stratford, make sure to soak up the views of the city, because looking down is a pretty bad idea. £85, wireandsky.com
Follow The City Adventurer on Instagram @cityadventurer_uk
Get the Coach Newsletter
Sign up for workout ideas, training advice, reviews of the latest gear and more.