We want to help members of the Explorers Connect community to connect with each other to plan adventures together for free!
- Join an EC local community for free
- Find a free (or cheap) adventure below
We're always updating these lists so please send us your ideas and we'll share them with the EC community. Manchester, Cardiff and Birmingham ideas coming soon!
Adventures in and Around London
CAMPSITES NEAR LONDON WHICH ALLOW CAMPFIRES
There are some great camping opportunities within 90mins of London. Here are a few of our favourites and all can be reached easily by train from central London. If you fancy some company put up an Event on the EC London FB Group and invite others to join you. Happy Camping! Send us your favourites and we'll add them to the list so everyone can benefit from your knowledge!
- Chafford Park Situated in a quiet setting with a bluebell wood and corn fields. They have fire pits and firewood for sale. Open Easter to October. Camping £10pppn
- House Dean Farm Situated on a working farm on the South Downs. Camping £11pppn (£7 child) Train to Lewes /Brighton followed by a bus. Or a National Express bus from Victoria to Brighton University.
- North Hill Farm Set in the Chilterns overlooking the stunning Chess Valley but only 20miles from London with easy access from M25 and the Underground (Chorleywood) £10pppn Fire pits allowed.
- Manor Court Farm Informal camping in the garden amongst the old brick farm buildings, near the pond and with views of Ashdown Forest. £10pppn. Ashurst Station is 15mins walk away with hourly trains taking 55mins from London Bridge.
Wild Camping is camping outside of designated campsites. These areas in and around London are gaining popularity for wild camping:
- Epping Forest, Box Hill, Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill are all popular wild camping spots within London. However you are unlikely to get permission so be discreet
- St Peter's Chapel, Bradwell-on-Sea. Atmospheric campsite next to a 7th Century chapel. Nearest station is Southminster
- Leigh on Sea (Essex). Look for a quiet spot with a view just below Hadleigh Castle. Less than an hour from London by train
- White Horse Hill (Uffington) Iconic hikes and unique place to camp out. Small groups and discretion recommended. Swindon train station 12miles away
- Remenham Woods (Henley)
- TELL US MORE SITES! We will add them here so that everyone can use them
- Also see SECRET SITES and HIKES adjacent and make up your own wild camping spots
Strictly, all land in England and Wales is owned so you should gain permission before camping. These are guidelines that help you protect the wilderness:
- Leave no trace - remove all litter, bury your poo etc
- Be respectful to others by keeping groups small and camping as unobtrusively as possible
- Do not have fires unless expressly permitted. Fire rings can scar the ground for years or worse can spread through root systems or peaty soil
HIKES IN AND AROUND LONDON
There are so many hikes within 90mins of London that can be done within a day and by public transport. Here are a few of our favourites and all can be reached easily by train from central London. If you want to go for a hike and fancy some company put up a Post or an Event on the EC London FB Group and invite others to join you. Happy Hiking! Send us your favourites and we'll add them to the list.
- Woodberry Wetlands - London's newest nature reserve, opened on 1st May 2016 by Sir David Attenborough. All this in Zone 2, only 5mins walk from Manor House. You can also kayak and sail in the reservoir next door. (Thanks to Will Philips for sharing this)
- Old Ford Island This reserve is an open grassland and woods, surrounded by scrub on the River Lee. It is found in the heart of the new Olympic Park.
- London Outer Orbital Path - The 'Loop' is nearly 152 miles and almost encircles London. The 'M25 for walkers' is split into 24 bite sized stages.
- Jubiliee Walkway - a classic collection of London's most iconic landmarks on a 15mile route
- Green Chain - A 50 mile walk in south east London that takes in dozens of woods, parks, Crystal Palace and the Thames Barrier.
- Seaford to Eastbourne (21km / 7 hours walking) - A dramatic cliff walk passing Cuckemere Haven, the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head, as the South Downs meets the sea. This is one of the best and most scenic coastal walks in England, a truly amazing walk! Ends with Eastbourne's promenade and pier. Two trains go every hour from London Victoria to Seaford, just change at Lewe (journey time: 80mins). If by car, its best to park at Seaford or Exceat and catch the bus back there from Eastbourne.
- Richmond Park and King Henry's Mound (2-5 hours) - As the largest enclosed space in London, Richmond Park is a major draw for tourists and Londoners alike. This 3.69 mile national nature reserve is home to the Isabella Plantation, Pembroke Lodge, and 630 red and fallow deer. It is great for short or long walks, at any season. Watching deer frolic in the winter snow during sunset is priceless. Be sure to check out the stunning view from King Henry's Mound also.
- Box Hill Circular (15km / 4.5 hours) - This more strenuous hike goes through a very beautiful part of the North Downs. The views are famous. Hourly trains from London Victoria to Box Hill (journey time 50mins).
- Henley via Stonor Circular in Oxfordshire (22km / 7 hours) - Many consider Henley a riverside town but it is also on the southern edge of the Chiltern Hills. This offers a pretty area of hidden valleys, woodland and farmland. Finish the walk going past hidden farms and ancient woodland into Henley. Hourly trains between Paddington and Henley, changing at Twyford (journey time: 1hr). If by car, there is a railway station with a car park that charges £2.20 per day or you can park in Henley town centre.
Google the walks above and you'll find plenty of information and maps online. If you fancy finding more inspiration for walks in and around London here are some useful links below, so no excuse not to get planning and find some likeminded people to join you on the EC London FB group.
Hampstead Ponds There are three ponds set aside for swimmers: a men's, women's and mixed pond. Beautiful setting and quirky dedicated regulars. The late night opening at the mixed pond on Wednesdays in July is very popular. Get there by Tube to Golders Green, Hampstead or Kentish Town. Check website for opening times and prices
Shepperton Open Water Swim All swimmers welcome to this clean, clear water lake with a relaxed atmosphere, changing facilities and toilets. Just for swimmers, no other lake users. £5 entry and they also do guided swims and a resident coach. Note that there is excellent swimming in the river alongside - for free! (Thanks to Rod Newing for the tip off)
Serpentine Swimming Club Open every day of the year from 0600hrs to 0930hrs for an early morning swim
Hythe End Gravel Pits These former gravel pits near Heathrow are gorgeous, and lots of people visit when the weather gets nice. They’re also in the middle of a huge park, so there are plenty of places to have a picnic after your swim.
Frensham Great Pond is a huge pond with a sandy beach in the middle of a park of woodland and heathland. It’s gorgeous, and the perfect place to visit at the weekend.
Shadwell Basin is a disused dock that is surrounded by luxury flats. There’s a canoe centre at one end of it, and lots of people swim in it when the weather gets nice
Serpentine Lido Open in the summer only. 110yrds of open water swimming. Located in Hyde Park, the Serpentine Lido has been a Londoner's escape for over 100 years. Come and experience the outdoors in a unique atmosphere and enjoy a relaxing swim in the Serpentine. Or pull up a deckchair and sunbath while children play gleefully in the background. It's all right here in the middle of London.
London Royal Docks is open to swimmers on Wednesdays and Fridays from 5-8pm, on Thursdays from 6-9am, and Sundays from 8-10am. It’s £8 per swim, and they offer coached sessions for £20. Nearest station: Royal Victoria DLR
Stoke Newington Reservoir Centre is open for swimming from May. You’ll be able to swim there on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. It costs £15 for an induction (which you have to do), and after that it’s £5 for Better Gym members and £10 for non-members.
Charlton Lido Recently had a £2million refurbishment. 50m outdoor pool and the water is heated! Get the 89 and 178 buses
Hurst Park in Molesey is a popular swimming spot. Park in the car park and stroll across the grass to the left. There's even a tree with a hanging tyre to swing on! The cricket club near the car park has a cafe for afterwards. (Thanks to Rod Newing for the tip off)
King’s Cross Pond Club is an artificial natural bathing pond that’s part of an art installation. It’s open from 8am during the week and 10am at the weekend, and session prices range from £3.50 to £6.50.
Ham Lake swim sessions open in May. You’ll be able to swim from 6am on Tuesdays and 7am on Sundays. It costs £5 for a 90-minute session.
Even in London there are some secret wild corners. Here are a few of our favourites. If you want to go for an explore and fancy some company put up an Event on the EC London FB Group and invite others to join you. Happy Exploring! Send us your favourites and we'll add them to the list.
St Dunstan-in-the-East (Tower Hill)
A secret garden in the shell of the former Church of St Dunstan. It was built around 1100 and is Grade 1 listed. Severely damaged in the Blitz, its very atmospheric. Now a public but very secluded garden in the heart of the city.
Hampstead Hill Garden (Hampstead Heath)
You'll know Hampstead Heath but have you missed the eerie splendour of West Heath? Think lines of Edwardian columns tangled in roots and climbing plants.
Kyoto Garden (Holland Park)
An unmissable Japanese oasis filled with colourful plants, shrubs, water features. Breathtaking all year round.
Isabella Plantation (Richmond Park)
40 acre woodland of rare and unusual trees and shrubs and linked by ornate bridges and hidden paths. Colourful in the autumn!
Shhh, just don't tell everyone!
Adventures in and Around Bristol
Wookey Farm Campsite, near Wells. Lovely low key campsite with campfires and swimming in the River Axe.
Batcombe Vale Camping Camp under the trees and among the streams and ponds with great views. Rowing boats, fishing and walks to local pubs.
Stowford Manor Farm Family-run campsite with the bonus of river swimming just down the road. Beware the campsite gets very busy in the summer so book in advance or even better go outside of peak times.
Herefordshire Beacon (Malvern Hills) Grassy mountain top which is made all the more unique - and beautiful - due to sinuous earthworks which sculpture the hill. Some of Britain's best views
Slad Valley, Gloucestershire Camping spots with great views from tops of hills or for more shelter some lovely hidden wooded valleys
Brecon Beacons Camp above the treeline. Hundreds of miles of footpath
King Arthur’s Cave in the Wye Valley. Large cave in the woodland. Unofficial camping but can be popular in summer
The Ridgeway is supposed to be Britain’s oldest road. 85miles of path. Grim’s Ditch is a wooded stretch perfect for hanging a hammock
The River Avon There are places to wild camp along the river’s tidal foreshore between the Severn Estuary and Bristol. Access along the Severn Way or the River Avon Trail.Try the Old Sea Bank or Hencliffe Wood. The Avon Gorge is National Trust land so be sure to get permission first.
Exmoor The Exmoor National Park Authority owns much of Exmoor and does not object to wild camping. The River Exe is navigable almost the entire wayfrom north of Exebridge to south of Exeter. There are 965km of path including the Two Moors Way and Exe Valley Way.
Quantocks Quantock Forest is owned by the Forestry Commission so camping is not officially allowed. Try the rocky shoreline at low tide. The River Parratt is navigable and is tidal beyond Bridgewater
Avoid National Trust and Natural England areas along these routes, there may be byelaws in place to restrict sleeping
Look at the Hikes sections for Bristol - you could camp anywhere along there
Kayaking and Wild Camping
Navigation and access to the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal is managed by the Canal and River Trust. Subject to approval from lock masters the best camping is around the North Wessex Downs, west of Brimpton Lock. The quieter parts are easier reached by kayak
There are so many hikes within 90mins of Bristol but here are a few of our favourites
If you fancy some company put up a Post or an Event on the EC Bristol Facebook Group and invite others to join you. Happy Hiking!
Please send us your favourites and we'll add them to the list.
- Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - Many different walking routes but one of the classics is starting at Chew Stoke heading south along Chew Valley Lake, then heading west over to Blagdon Lake. Chew Valley Lake is a haven for wildlife.
- Brecon Beacons - Highest mountain range in southern Britain. Most make for the famous twin summits of Pen-y-Fan (886m) and Corn Du but there's a lot more on offer in the 520 square mile Park - the Black Mountain range, the Fforest Fawr massif and the Black Mountains, all with their own distinctive character. The south of the Park famously has deep, wooded gorges, caves and waterfalls.
- Leigh Woods - On your doorstep. Some of the south-west's most beautiful and historic woodland, stunning views of the Avon Gorge, Clifton suspension bridge and Bristol itself.
- The Cider Trail - Start from Stroud train station, via Slad (made famous by the Cider With Rosie book) Expect beech woods, hidden valleys and great views from the top. The Woolpack in Slad has cider.... More information
- Bristol-Bath Railway Path (26km) - Good for walking and cycling, this lovely path takes you along the disused railway line so its pretty much flat! You will pass various station platforms converted to cafes, along the River Avon and into Bath.
- Hanham Mills - On the ourskirts of Bristol. Lovely walks along the river or through woodland nature reserves (beware very muddy in the winter months). Plenty of car parking and a couple of good pubs (The Lock and Weir Inn is very accepting of muddy boots and has lots of seating by the river). If you don't have a car then Keynsham train station is 2.5 km away along the riverside footpath.
- Chedworth Roman Villa Trail/Cotswolds (AONB) (7k) - From Chedworth follow the Macmillan Way long distance trail to the ruins of a 4th century Romano-British villa complete with mosaics. Join a free tour of the site. Continue through Chedworth woods, returning to Chedworth on public footpaths. If you'd like to continue you could pick up the Macmillan Way or the Monarch's Way .
- Cotswold Way National Trail - Bluebell woods and sleepy villages make up The Cotswold Way. The Cheltenham Circular Foot Path (40km) is another recommended but much longer walk.
- Quantock Hills (AONB) - Heathland hilltops and valley woodlands. It's an area of outstanding natural beauty. Try two hills, Long Stone Hill for views and look out for red deer and Trendle Ring, an Iron Age hill-fort on Bicknoller Hill.
- Barrington Park Trail (7km) - Short circular walk around Barrington deer park. Start in Great Barrington and follow footpaths around the deer park and along the River Windrush. Good views of the Cotswolds hills.
More Information links below and plenty of information and maps online. Find some likeminded people to join you on the EC Bristol Facebook Group
Some of our favourite wildlife encounters close to Bristol and free to see. If you fancy some company put up an Event on the Bristol Facebook Group and invite others to join you
Please send us your favourites and we'll add them to the list.
Every year between Autumn and February, Somerset starlings flock together over the Somerset Levels & Moors to create huge starling murmurations. One of nature's most magnificent sights, the starlings form into sweeping ball like shapes in their thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands before flying down and roosting in the trees. The starlings currently use two sites: Ham Wall and Natural England Shapwick Heath. For the latest information on the starling roost, phone the Avalon Marshes Hotline on 07866 554142. There is a new car park at Ham Wall with 150 spaces and at Shapwick Heath with 25 spaces. You are more likely to see the starling murmuration on a clear and sunny day. The best time is just before dusk which varies throughout the winter and it is therefore advisable to be on site from around 3pm onwards. An equally impressive spectacle is at dawn when the starlings all take off at the same time which is around 7.30 am. (by Jim Starr)
WILD SWIMMING AND OUTDOOR SWIMMING
Farleigh & District Swimming Club Farleigh boasts the only river swimming club left in the country. The water is fresh, with a deep area above the weir for lovely swimming. There are toilets and changing rooms available. There is also a large car park with easy access to swimming. All swimmers must be members but rates are very low (£1.50). 45mins from central Bristol
Claverton Weir Long curving weir with cascade by grassy meadows for picnics. It is very popular in the summer though. There's a small carpark or cycle in from Bath. Free but swimmers are allowed here by courtesy of a local farmer - make his generosity easier by taking any visible litter with you when you go home. 40mins from central Bristol.
PLEASE NOTE: be extra careful and sensible when you are crossing the railway line to reach the swimming site. DO NOT drag dinghies or any other equipment across the railway line - please wait until you are across to inflate your gear.
Wookey Farm, near Wells. Lovely low key campsite with campfires and swimming in the River Axe.
Lido at Portishead Heated outdoor lido which has been open 50years but was given a huge makeover in 2009. 30mins from central Bristol. Opens mid April to September, all week until 7pm £5 per person
Greenbank Pool Heated outdoor pool. 1hr from Bristol. Open May to September
Henleaze Swimming Club The Lake is open to members and their guests only. Quite a few EC CLUB members are also Henleaze Swimming Club members and therefore can each can bring a maximum of two guests to the Lake. Swimming membership is currently full. Please revisit the website for details of joining the waiting list/weekday membership.
Clevedon Tidal Pool Beautifully set 200m saltwater pool by the sea. Landside is shallow and pathways unfortunately sometimes have glass smashed on them- flip flops therefore essential to get around near the water. Water quality is what you would expect from the Bristol Channel - ok. If you go to top left looking out to sea there is a little concrete area to get ready and to leave a water bottle. Usual seaside town ammenities nearby- toilets, cafe and pub. Park on road next to play park
Avon Valley Country Park, Saltford. Grassy picnic riverisde area with a wooden landing stage and rope swings to jump off.
Kensington Meadows, near Bath. Access from Morrisons Supermarket carpark or from Ringswell Gardens. Part of the River Avon, flat and pathed site. A lovely river next to the nature reserve.
Lacock Abbey Shallower areas just below the Abbey, watch out for the small rapids further down. Also a rope swing from one of the trees. Access across the meadow