Online skills for outdoor enthusiasts

Once lockdown is lifted, us outdoor enthusiasts are going to be bursting at the seams to get out exploring once more. What can we do now to hit the ground running when our freedom is given back to us?  Learn a new skill perhaps?  It’ll set you in good stead and learning keeps us busy. Here are our top picks:

Navigation

For those who enjoy being out on the open water but haven’t yet gained the confidence to go further and faster, a course on navigation and seamanship should give you that essential drive. Providers like the Royal Yachting Association offer classroom online courses for new or inexperienced skippers and also crew. You can then move onto more niche, advanced courses fort powerboats, yachting and helming. They’ve turned the exercises into interactive online experiences. Topics include engine checks, anchoring, weather forecasts and tidal awareness.

Knots

Animated Knots is a fab place for learning how to tie all kinds of knots for boating, fishing, climbing, whatever your fancy. Easy to follow instructional videos mean you’ll pick them up quickly and can come back to practice time and time again. There’s a ‘Knot of the Day’ and a basic introduction to tying knots if you’ve never learnt about this skill before.

Map reading

If there’s one skill that most of us could do with refreshing, it’s map reading. Many of us have probably learnt in the past but are now so reliant on our phones, View Ranger or GPS systems that we’ve forgotten much of what we were taught in school. A lot of this information can be found online and Ordnance Survey has a huge resource. Click on ‘Education’ at the top of their website and not only can you teach yourself, you can also easily see how to teach your children. There are downloadable flashcards, interactive games and PDFs explaining map reading signs and symbols. https://getoutside.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/guides/beginners-guides-map-reading/

Compass skills

You can take your navigational map reading skills up a notch by learning how to use a compass. By doing so, you’ll be able understand how to get a bearing on a map. This is an incredibly useful survival skill both for finding your way and helping others to find you when you’re lost. Again you can find courses on the Ordnance Survey website. The Ramblers Association also has a good explainer.

Bushcrafting

Want to learn how to light a fire without a match? Build a shelter or forage for food and water? Andrew Price is a bushcraft expert whose ‘A-Z of Bushcrafting’ channel on You Tube is great for anyone wanting to become more confident in the wilds and to pick up some survival skills. At the moment, you can practise all this from the comfort of your own garden and be more ready than ever for a spot of wild camping after lockdown.

Wood carving

Learning to carve wood is an incredibly relaxing and mindful technique so it’s perfect for times like these. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or a shed, there’s no excuse not to have a go. Try the Woodcarving Workshop with master caver Chris Pye. Once we’re able to explore more, you can start looking for different woods which you will be able to use your newfound skills on. Look for fallen branches with beautiful burs inside or pick up driftwood along the beach.

Foraging and identification

There’s no better time than this to brush up on your identification skills when it comes to edible mushrooms, plants, and flowers. You could either do this online or by purchasing a new book then look into recipes for foraged food. Wild Food UK has loads of options and you can filter them by preferences and the Woodland Trust has a month by month guide as to what can be found.

Bird watching

In a similar vein, have you ever wanted to be more knowledgeable about the birds you see on your expeditions? Learning to identify birds, not only by sight but also by their call, is a mindful activity and it’s something you can do now in the garden. The Birds of Britain and Ireland app, £0.99, is very good and you can upgrade to the pro version for £13.99. It has a wonderful resource of bird call sounds. The RSPB also is a good website and Collins Complete Guide to British Birds is an excellent reference book with thousands of photos.

Campfire cooking

If you’re yearning for the freedom of camping, why not take this time to practice the essential skills? Try putting up your tent at home which will not only help you in future but also give you a chance to check your tent for tears and rips and make any necessary repairs whilst you have a chance. Research into campfire cooking, taking into account the necessary safety requirements, and make a small campfire in your garden if it’s large enough. A quick search online will bring you a wealth of recipes to try.

And finally

Whatever challenges and obstacles this strange unprecedented time is giving you, try to search for positive opportunities. Reading that great book, seeing that classic film, or, perhaps learning about trees are all good options too. As outdoor enthusiasts ourselves, we are also feeling the strain of being locked into our homes and gardens. We see it as a chance to go back to basics and refresh or learn skills we need for the outdoors. We will soon be able to make so much more of our adventures later this year and in future ones too. But remember you are still allowed to enjoy some serious sofa surfing if it takes your fancy while staying at home!