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Two older people feeding the ducks outdoors

Active Outdoors in Norfolk

Norfolk is abundant with beautiful open outdoor spaces. From local villages, to country trails, to beaches, there are plenty of places to remain active outdoors.

On this page, we'll bring you the benefits of getting outdoors, resources and places to remain active locally, and tips on how to remain safe.

What are the benefits of being active outdoors? ❯
Where can I go to be active outdoors? ❯
Accessible routes to enjoy ❯
Staying safe outdoors ❯
Useful apps and resources ❯
Find a local club or team ❯


Five reasons to get active outdoors

Couple jogging in park

1, It's fantastic for your physical health

Being physically active is good for your health wherever you do it, but taking your activity outside brings additional benefits. Studies have suggested that walking or jogging outdoors can bring down your blood pressure and heart rate, as well as reducing the stress hormone cortisol. Fresh air helps promote good sleep, while sunshine gives you essential vitamin D. So building some outdoor activity into your routine can help you feel good and stay healthy during the Covid pandemic and beyond.


Small dog being walked

2, It supports your mental health and wellbeing

Numerous studies have found that spending time in nature has a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing. Stepping out into green spaces for your walk or run gives an extra lift to your mood and increases your feelings of self-esteem. And woods, fields, and parks are great places to practise mindfulness - taking some time out of your busy schedule to relax and use your senses to reflect on your natural surroundings.

Missing meeting up with friends at work, the gym, or coffee shop? You can still meet up with one other person outdoors and being active together is a great way to reconnect with people, build relationships and reduce feelings of isolation.


Norfolk sandy beach

3, It's easy to stay local and maintain social distancing

Norfolk is blessed with thousands of square miles of open space, from its stunning coastline to the peaceful Broads, the big skies of the Fens, and the Breckland forests. Not to forget the many green spaces and riverside paths of the fine city of Norwich! Norfolk has about 2,400 miles of public footpaths to explore, with over 1,200 miles of walks, cycle paths and bridleways brought together in the Norfolk Trails network. So you're never far from a quiet spot where you can safely exercise while sticking to social distancing guidelines.


Man playing tennis outdoors

4, You can try a variety of different ways to remain active

There's no limit to the ways you can remain active outdoors. Whether you enjoy walking, running, cycling, hiking or playing outdoor sports, there's something for everyone. From tennis to boules, being active outdoors can provide a fantastic way to be social and have fun.


Child Playing in the dunes on a beach

5, It's free, it's always open, and it's for everyone

You don't need to buy a ticket to get outside and be active, or any special equipment apart from comfy footwear and clothing suitable for the great British weather! Whether it's a stroll with the kids to the local playground, a sunny afternoon on the beach, or a jog around the block with a friend, it's all free for you to enjoy whenever you want to.

Norfolk has many easy access paths and boardwalks which are accessible for wheelchair users and those with limited mobility, as well as families with pushchairs. See the accessible resources section below to find out more.


Find places to get active outdoors

There are hundreds of ways you can be active outdoors in Norfolk. You're not just limited to a local walk or a run; the possibilities are endless!

We've listed some popular routes for walking, running, and cycling as well as some open spaces and wooded areas below, however why not make the trip your own by trying something a little different?

This could be an outdoor sport, such as a game of tennis, football or even catch. Alternatively, you could try a scavenger hunt; this idea is good if you have kids or if you just want a bit more excitement on your route.

At the bottom, we've listed some more ideas on things you can do outdoors to vary up your trips, in case you need the inspiration.

Walking and running

  • Norfolk Trails: Discover 1,425 miles of walks, running routes, and bridle routes along the Norfolk Trails. Explore hundreds of miles of long-distance paths, take a gentle stroll around a circular route, or discover the county's coastal treasures. Use the interactive map to find a route near you.

  • Walking routes in Norfolk: Visit Norfolk lists walks throughout the county, include long distance walks and shorter walks.

  • AllTrails: AllTrails lists the best running trails in Norfolk by area. There are routes for both long and short distance runners.

  • National Trust: The National Trust looks after some stunning coast and countryside in Norfolk, and some sites remain open to the public. If you're travelling by car you'll need to book and pay for parking in advance at some of them - check the website to see what's open and to book.

If you're looking for parks and open spaces, as well as woodland you can explore locally, check out this section.


Cycling


Parks and open spaces

Whether you're with the kids or looking to meet up for a socially distanced walk, run or picnic with a friend, there are plenty of open spaces dotted around the county. These are great, safe spaces open to everyone, some of which will enable you to play various sports and even hire out areas.

Parks:

  • Norfolk Wildlife Trust: Get close to nature on your doorstep at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's many reserves. A few are still closed to visitors - check the website for details.
  • Whitlingham: Whitlingham Adventure have some great resources for getting out and about with the kids, and turning every outing into a learning opportunity!

For a full list of parks in Norwich, click here.

For a list of parks outside the city, check this out.

Woodland areas:

  • Forest site: The Forestry Commission looks after sites across Norfolk including the UK's largest manmade lowland forest, the 18,730-hectare Thetford Forest. Use their map to find a forest site near you.
  • Woodland walks: Indulge in a spot of forest bathing at dozens of Woodland Trust sites across the county - find a woodland near you.

Click here for a full list of woodlands in and around Norwich.

For a list of woodland areas further out of the city, click here.


Find accessible places to enjoy

Lady in wheelchair enjoying time outdoors with a friend
  • Norfolk Trails' Access Tested Walks include booklets with key information such as practical details and route maps and descriptions. Download them here.
  • Norfolk Easy Ambles are a series of walks that have been designed for people living with dementia to enjoy with their carers. You can download walk leaflets here for free.
  • The Norfolk Coast Partnership have selected a range of accessible for walks for everyone to enjoy the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Stay Safe Outdoors

Now more than ever it's important to make sure that we're all doing our bit to make being outdoors safe for everyone.

You can now exercise alone, with members of your household, or with up to 1 other person from outside your household. For more detailed guidance see the Gov.uk website.

Here are some useful resources to review before heading out:

It is also imperative to remain aware of your surroundings for your own safety. We've written an article on best practices for staying safe when walking or running alone which you can read here. Whenever you head out on a walk or a run, remember: CLAPS.

C: Communicate
L: Listen
A: Apps and software
P: Prepare
S: Stay seen, stay safe

This is particularly important for those who run or walk frequently alone to ensure you reduce the risk of danger. Download our CLAPS poster so you never forget, and be sure to share it with others who are active outdoors.


More apps and resources

Build up your walking and running confidence

  • NHS Active10: Motivate yourself to move more with the free NHS Active10 app. It records how much walking you're doing and sets you goals for doing more. Download it for free here.

  • My Pace Up: Moving Medicine's 12-week My Pace Up walking programme gives you a gradual, structured approach to increasing the amount you walk each week. Download it for free here.

  • Couch to Fitness/5k: There are several apps and programmes out there which aim to help you gradually build up your fitness. Whether you want to set a goal (such as 5k) or just become more active, you can join in with these and see results straight away. You can either make use of various apps on your smartphone or alternatively, check out online groups which will help you.

Apps to mix up your outdoor activities:

  • Try a hidden trail: The GetOutside app is packed with ideas on things to do, both with the kids and if you're riding solo. It includes hidden away walking trails, and the best tested routes with coffee and cake stops on the way for that added motivation!
  • Join a scavenger hunt: The ActionBound app is full of free scavenger hunts which will have you exploring local areas and finding out facts you might not otherwise know. What's more, you can also create your own and share them with your friends so you can all take part in your own time.
  • Try Geocaching: Similar to a scavenger hunt, Geocaching is described as the 'World's largest treasure hunt.' With over 3,000 Geocache sites around Norfolk, it could be an exciting new addition to your next walk.
  • Other games: There are several apps and games you can play to make your walk or run a little more interesting. From Pokemon Go! to Zombies Run, there's a category for everyone with immersive storytelling modes to keep you entertained on longer walks. If you do listen to these whilst walking, make sure you're doing everything you can to stay safe.

Apps to keep yourself safe:

  • Kitestring: Kitestring checks up on you when you're out, and sends alerts to your chosen contacts if you don't respond. This is good for those who will be out but have their phones readily available to read.

  • bsafe: The bsafe app tracks your walk or run, and features an alarm that when activated sends out emergency alerts to your contacts with your location, so you can be found in an emergency.

  • Road iD: Not only will Road iD enable you to track your runs and help improve your fitness, it has been helping keep walkers and runners safe through physical bracelets and tags you can wear. This is good for anyone who doesn't feel safe taking their phone on their walks with them.

Local clubs and groups

Whilst lockdown has prevented most clubs and groups from operating normally, many are still communicating virtually to keep their members active and motivated for when they can resume as normal.

  • Walking groups: To find local walking groups near you, try the Activity Finder, or Facebook if you have it. There are organised groups such as Norfolk Nordic Walking but also groups for people who want to meet up casually for dog walks or just wanders with another person.

  • Running groups: Run Norwich lists many local running groups you could join, for all ages and abilities. You could also check to see if there's a local Parkrun near you - not only is it free and lets you run at your own pace, but it's a great way to meet like minded people. If you don't feel comfortable meeting another in person just yet, you could always join a virtual team on Facebook where you can encourage one another virtually whilst running alone.

  • Paddleboarding and kayaking: There are plenty of companies around who offer paddleboard hires, which you could do with an instructor or a friend in the Norfolk broads or local rivers.

  • Sports teams: Norfolk has hundreds of sports teams across the county, welcoming all ages, abilities and genders. If they're listed on our Activity Finder, you'll be able to find details of their training sessions and how to get involved once permitted to do so.