With summer on its way, now is the perfect time to head outside and enjoy some openair activities.  Spending time outdoors is not only relaxing and enjoyable – it can also work wonders for your physical and mental wellbeing. 

By Louise Carey

Blossoms are appearing on the trees, the birds are singing, and the temperature  is starting to rise.  We’re even getting some sun – always a welcome sight in the grey and rainy UK.  Yep, summer is almost here, and everyone is thinking about heading outside to make the most of it.  Whatever your interests – whether you want to get in touch with nature, socialise with friends, or just take advantage of the health benefits of fresh air and open spaces – the great outdoors has something to suit all tastes and abilities.

Fresh Air and Exercise

Outdoor activities are varied, fun, and interesting.  Even better, they can also benefit your physical and mental health.  Spending time outside in the sun from late March to the end of September allows our skin to produce vitamin D, which is vital for keeping our bones, teeth and muscles healthy.  During these sunnier months, we can get almost all of the vitamin D we need in this way, making time spent outside an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Open spaces can improve our mental wellbeing, too. Visiting open spaces with lots of greenery, like parks and gardens, reduces stress and increases feelings of happiness.  If you need another excuse to head outside, there’s even evidence that it can help to keep us healthy in old age: research published in the Journal of Ageing Health found that 70-year-olds who went outside every day were less likely than those who did not go out each day to experience joint aches and pains, sleep problems, and incontinence by the age of 77.

Something for everyone

For those of you looking to soak up some sun, there’s a huge variety of open-air activities available, especially during the summer months.  Going outside doesn’t have to be all about park runs and football matches, either, there’s something to suit all tastes, fitness levels and abilities, including many accessible events and activities.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Have a picnic in the park

This is a classic way to enjoy your local park or green space.  All you need to do is pick your favourite spot, grab some food and a picnic blanket, and get going.

What you’ll need: Food, picnic blanket, transport to local park (there may well be one within strolling distance), plates, cups, and cutlery.

Accessibility: Many parks have green spaces or picnic areas that are wheelchair accessible, and you can plan your picnic to suit your requirements.

Top tips: Use paper plates and plastic cutlery to save on the hassle of washing up after your picnic and to reduce the number of things you have to carry home.

Go for a stroll

If you prefer burning calories to eating them, an invigorating stroll might be more your style.

What you’ll need: A map, a bottle of water (it’s important to stay hydrated), a guidebook or nature guide.

Accessibility: Planning ahead will help you to decide on duration and location that suits your needs

Top tips: The Disabled Ramblers run countryside walks across England and Wales for mobility-impaired ramblers, and have a number of large, off-road mobility scooters available on loan for £15 per ramble.

Soak up some culture

As the weather gets warmer, many parks, green spaces and town squares host open-air plays and concerts.  These are a great way to spend time outdoors without the need to do any exercise.

What you’ll need: A blanket or chair, if seats aren’t provided, a warm coat (many performances go on into the evening), and it can get chilly, a bottle or thermos of your favourite drink and some snacks

Accessibility: Many open-air performances are wheelchair accessible, though most probably won’t have a hearing loop for audience members with hearing impairments.

Top tip: Several Oxford colleges and theatre groups host annual outdoor performances between May and July.  They’re open to everyone, with tickets from around £8-10, and are often hosted in easily accessible college gardens with fl at, well-maintained pathways.  Sipping wine in the immaculate grounds of an historic college is a very civilized way to spend an evening.

Make a day of it 

If you’re planning a longer trip or day out, there are many accessible outdoor activities available across the UK.  Sandemans tours, for example, run a range of free city tours at several UK locations, including Oxford, Liverpool, Edinburgh and London.  Their knowledgeable tour guides will take you across a city showing you hidden gems, telling fascinating stories, and giving you an insight into centuries of local history.  Many Sandemans tours, including all of their London tours, are fully wheelchair accessible, though they do recommend that disabled guests are accompanied by an able-bodied friend or carer.  Full details of the accessibility of the tours in each city can be found on their website.

For those who’d like to try something a bit more unusual, Treasure Trails offer over 1,000 self-guided, sightseeing treasure hunts at locations throughout the UK, the majority of which are wheelchair accessible. It costs £6.99 plus postage and packaging for a Treasure Trail guidebook, which will assign you a task – either a treasure hunt, spy mission, or murder mystery, and then guide you through a scenic walk on which you solve puzzles and hunt for clues as you explore. Treasure Trails have received positive feedback from parents of autistic children and carers of people with dementia. Because their tours are self-guided, they can be completed at your own pace, without the pressure of having to keep up with the tour group, and are easily adapted to suit the needs of participants with learning difficulties and other impairments. You can even work with the company to create your own, customised Treasure Trail for an extra £3.

Even if you’re staying home you can still have an exciting day outside in your own back garden.  The Sensory Trust, a charity which works to make open spaces accessible to disabled people, has developed a range of creative outdoor activities and games which are available to download for free from the ‘resources’ section of their website.  The activities, which are designed to be suitable for a wide range of ages and abilities, include drying and pressing your own flowers, and making feeders for birds and butterflies. They’re perfect for a day of fun with the family, and are especially well-suited to children with sensory impairments.  In the spin-a-smell game, for example, children are asked to explore the natural world through smells rather than by sight and sound, encouraging them to engage with the great outdoors in different and interesting ways.


• Any activity that gets you out into the fresh air is a good idea.

• There are more organisations than you might know that organise accessible activities.

Action points:

• Look out for local events or groups.

• Go prepared for the weather.


Get Out There!

The list of potential activities is long, but sunny days are in short supply. Do yourself and your health a favour and plan an outdoor experience soon.


The Disabled Ramblers www.disabledramblers.co.uk

The Sensory Trust www.sensorytrust.org.uk

Treasure Trails www.treasuretrails.co.uk

Sandemans UK Tours www.neweuropetours.eu