The RSPB is encouraging people to swap the sofa for stunning scenery this January as part of a new partnership with Sport England. The joint venture offers the chance for people to beat the festive blues by running, canoeing, climbing and cycling with wildlife on two RSPB nature reserves.
Using £199,865 of National Lottery funding, the two-year project, which is aimed at getting people out and active in nature, will see RSPB Strumpshaw Fen in Norfolk and RSPB Rainham Marshes in Essex equipped with bikes, canoes, running routes and a bouldering course to help visitors experience wildlife from a different perspective.
Elaine Holderness, RSPB Project Manager, said: "Nature and staying active is very important to our health and wellbeing. With this partnership project, the RSPB wants to encourage as many people as possible to get outdoors and active this January. This could be cycling round the peaceful lanes discovering marsh harriers, taking to the water in a canoe for an encounter with an otter or kingfisher, or for the more adventurous, clambering over rocks and boulders, experiencing the reserve from a different perspective.
"The most popular New Year's resolution for people in the UK (51%) was to get fitter and healthier. This project presents the perfect opportunity for people who aren't keen on the gym or traditional fitness classes and would prefer to complete their resolution surrounded by beautiful nature and wildlife - and at far less of the cost."
The partnership kicks off in January with a month's worth of events aimed at helping visitors get over the festive blues and enjoy being active in nature.
At Strumpshaw Fen visitors will get the unique opportunity to take a canoe out onto the river Yare , which is part of the wildlife rich Norfolk Broads, or cycle round the quiet country lanes with stunning views of the open rural landscape and meandering rivers before taking a walk through Strumpshaw's reedbeds famous for its bitterns, otters, dragonflies and butterflies.
Weekly 'Wild Runs' are open for all - whether you're the next Mo Farah or just looking to start jogging. The smooth terrain provides perfect views of the river Yare and plenty of opportunities to see wintering wetland birds. The 5km route will pass the UK's largest corvid roost where upwards of 50,000 rooks, jackdaws and crows roost during the winter.
Rainham Marshes is just a stone's throw away from London and nestled beside the river Thames. The cycle scheme gives visitors the opportunity to loop the perimeter of the reserve and explore the surrounding area, taking in views of the river Thames and down to London from the river wall. Rainham is ideally positioned for a cycle adventure, with easy access to Sustrans route 13 and further afield, exploring Beam Valley and The Gaynes Parkway.
Sport England Property Director, Charles Johnston said: "I am delighted that thanks to almost £200,000 of National Lottery funding, now even more people can become active in the great outdoors. Sports in less traditional settings like this offer a rewarding experience, with fresh air, great scenery as well as a chance to try an activity a little off the beaten track."
For the more audacious, visitors can flex their muscles and test their climbing ability on the bouldering course installed at the heart of the Rainham Marshes.
To find out more about the RSPB's and Sport England's Active in Nature partnership project, or to find out what activities are available close to you, visit: https://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/collections/active-in-nature/index.aspx