Free activities to get you outdoors this 2020

After all that over indulgence over the festive period, we often find ourselves starting the New Year full of good intentions. Some of us succeed and some of us fail in our new year resolutions, whether we plan to give something up or change our behaviour patterns in some way. Well here’s a positive resolution that we can ALL make and keep: Instead of giving something up – get outdoors and take up enjoying the open air! After all, fresh air doesn’t cost a thing! 

We have also put together a compilation of free activities you can do with the whole family.

Parks and open spaces

Parks and open spaces are places to play, get close to nature and make memories that last a lifetime. With interactive play trails and plenty of open space, they are perfect for creating a magical escape for the whole family. Build a den in the woodlands, climb trees, roll down hills, fly a kite or see what you can find hiding in the undergrowth.

Download our  Winter Activity Chart promoting 20 things which children, with the help of adults, can do outdoors throughout the cold season.

Visit Explore Essex’s website to see all the parks in our region. Here are some of our favourite places:

  • Hyland Parks in Chelmsford– The Grade II listed public park covers 574 acres of historic parkland on the outskirts of Chelmsford and is home to the stunning Hylands House. You can also find a café, visitor centre and resident artist studio within the grounds, and there are numerous paths and open areas to explore. Opening hours: Gates open at 7.30am.
  • Weald Country Park in Brentwood– Famous for its deer park and Stick Man trail, Weald boasts spectacular views and space, covering over 520 acres of woodland, wildflower meadows and open grassland. Opening hours: 8am to dusk. Parking charges apply.
  • Aberton Reservoir in Colchester -Take a walk at Essex Wildlife Trust’s Nature reserve and enjoy some of the most stunning panoramic views around. There are various routes that can take you around the reserve; it’s 900-metre circular footpath takes you through a variety of habitats including grassland and shrub areas. Keep an eye out for the array of birds, butterflies and other wildlife that roam the reserve. Opening hours: Visitor centre and nature reserve: 9am to 5pm.
  • Sky Ropes at Great Notley Country Park– Get your heart racing and explore high in the sky in a quest to conquer Sky Ropes at Great Notley Country Park. With high ropes adventure courses to suit the whole family from tiny tots of two years to big kids and adults, Sky Ropes offers great, safe family fun. Opening hours: 10.30am to 4pm. Charges apply.
  • Dedham Vale-Located on the Essex/Suffolk border, the Dedham Vale provides some of the most spectacular views not only in Essex, but across the country. The area received the ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ status back in 1970 for its stunning landscape, farmland, ancient woodlands, rivers and meadows. Covering around 90 square kilometres and with a population of just 10,000, Dedham Vale is an essential visit for those with a love for the countryside. Opening hours: 24/7

What’s on :

Charges may apply- see details in the links  


There are lots of exciting wildlife themed events and activities across Essex . The reserves are open (You can visit for free but there is a suggested donation)  for general rambling, but you can also check out the family fun trails, which include:

What’s on:

Charges may apply- see details in the links  

The coast

If you haven’t explored the 350 miles of Essex coastline what are you waiting for? Not only is it one of the longest shoreline of any county in England, it’s also one of the most diverse, a place of surprising wild beauty, and rich in wildlife. Here are a couple we wanted to highlight:

  • Maldon Promenade-With popular attractions and incredible scenery all year round, Maldon’s Promenade Park is a great place for all the family to enjoy a day out. Take the children to the playgrounds, try your luck at adventure golf or just enjoy an afternoon stroll by the waterside. Opening hours: 24/7
  • Walton on the Naze– The pier is the second longest in England, offering fairground rides, ten pin bowling and sea angling. Just to the north is The Naze, an unspoilt headland of heath, saltmarshes and sandy beaches -oh, and a prime spot for young fossil hunters who can find sharp teeth. Opening hours: 24/7
  • More coastal destinations on the Visit Essex website

Why not take your volunteering out and about? Search for opportunities now on the Volunteer Essex website and the Essex Wildlife Trust website. There are gardening roles as well as outdoor roles for people who care about wildlife and conservation. You could help others get out and about too by volunteering as a community minibus or social car driver. If your time is short consider one-off volunteering and offer your services at charity special event days throughout the year.

What’s on


If you are looking to get out and about in Essex on foot, why not join a local walking group near you? They are free to join and a great way to get outside, make new friends and discover how walking boosts your health and happiness.

What’s on

  • Family country walks in Saffron Walden – meet once a month- more details on their Facebook page

parkrun and junior parkrun offers an opportunity for everyone, male or female, young or old, to come together on a regular basis to enjoy this beautiful park and get physically active into the bargain. It encourages you to jog or run together irrespective of your ability – this event is truly open to all and best of all it really is free!


Cycling is a great activity that can help you get active and improve your overall health. Cycling is a low impact activity so it can be enjoyed by absolutely everyone. See cycling activities and groups in Essex.

Outdoor gyms

Outdoor gyms are very similar to normal indoor gyms except it’s free, the equipment is much simpler to use and you gain the added benefit of exercising in the fresh air! Visit an outdoor gym near you.

Maybe you’re up for a challenge?

Put your running shoes on and challenge yourself to a 10k, half or full marathon this year and raise money for your favourite charity:


Livewell Partners