‘Winter frosts lend forests the magic of Narnia’
The heating is on. The leaves are gone. Darkness is descending before teatime. Winter is upon us, and the temptation to curl up and hibernate is strong. But resist! Not only is there plenty of fun to be had in the great British outdoors right now, despite the chill, it is important for your mental and physical health too.
The NHS estimates that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects one in 15 people in the UK. The depression-like symptoms – which can be particularly severe throughout December, January and February – are the result of decreased exposure to sunlight.
Even if you’re not a SAD sufferer, getting out and making the most of winter’s meagre rays can help improve your mood. Not to mention that leaving the house and staying active can help counteract the eating and drinking excesses of the festive season. Some might be lucky enough to fly south for a shot of winter sun. But there’s no need – there are plenty of outdoor pleasures to tempt you off the sofa at home. Britain can be brilliant in this so-called bad weather.
This is a time of crowd-free trails, honeypots without tourists, air laced with woodsmoke and dark-beamed pubs at their cosiest. It’s a time of new views revealed by denuded trees, frosts that lend forests the magic of Narnia and some of the country’s best wildlife spectacles – from vast flocks of overwintering birds to the birth of wideeyed seal pups.
The British landscape, often lauded for its gentle, bucolic charm, can become fiercer too. Stormy seas provide gnarlier, more consistent waves, hill hikes turn into crampon-worthy expeditions and mountains cloaked in snow offer Alps-lite sports potential. No need to fear, though – there are plenty of experts who can show you how to explore safely through the season. All you need is a sense of adventure. And a good coat. dry-land rig – a sort of stand-on tricycle – through the countryside. Hot drinks around the campfire, or even a night spent in the on-site Sami Tipi, adds to the Lapland vibe.
A two-hour full mushing experience with Arctic Quest costs £99pp, Tipi from £99 (07968 794758; arcticquest.co.uk).
Tewkesbury Park looks out on the Cotswolds and Malverns (B&B doubles from £99; telegraph.co.uk/tt-cotswoldstewkesbury-park-hotel).
Cumbria’s countryside takes on a different guise in the depths of winter