Enjoy a sporty summer in Kent

PUBLISHED: 13:08 18 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:38 20 February 2013

Enjoy a sporty summer in Kent

Enjoy a sporty summer in Kent

With Olympics excitement at fever pitch, never has there been a better time to think about a new challenge when it comes to keeping yourself fit and active

Enjoy a sporty summer in Kent

With Olympics excitement at fever pitch, never has there been a better time to think about a new challenge when it comes to keeping yourself fit and active and Kent has so much to offer

Take to the skies

Charlie Brown in the cockpit of the Spitfire Locations Photography

Watching the most iconic aircraft in the history of aviation twist and turn its way through the skies overhead is one thing; flying alongside it, close enough to wave to the pilot, is quite another.

For an exciting day out its hard to think of anything that comes close to experiencing the sights and sounds of a Merlin-powered Second World War Spitfire as it barrel rolls round you.

Thats whats on offer from Fly with a Spitfire, where helicopter passengers view the mighty Spitfire or Hurricane a sight previously reserved for Luftwaffe pilots.

There are various experiences available, but all of them take in the famous White Cliffs of Dover and the National Memorial to the Few at Capel-le-Ferne, where the Battle of Britain is commemorated. Some experiences include a chance to meet Charlie Brown, the charismatic pilot who puts Mk Vb Spitfire BM597 through her paces.

● There are limited spaces available on flights scheduled for 26 to 29 July, 10 to 12 August, 13 to 15 and 19 to 21 October. For more details, call 01227 721929

Into the woods

Medical research shows that woodlands can play an important role in improving physical fitness and can also help to relieve stress and improve mental wellbeing.

At Bedgebury Pinetum, near Goudhurst, all the family can let off steam this summer. Why not try your hand at Nordic walking? Its an excellent way to burn calories, as the specially designed poles exercise both your upper and lower body muscles, and its suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

Louise Bastable, Bedgeburys fitness coach, offers regular Nordic walking sessions, whether youre a beginner or a seasoned professional.

If you prefer life on two wheels, Bedgebury has everything you need for a cycling day out, from relaxed family trails to the adrenaline rush of the single track mountain bike routes. Ollie Ireland, the Bedgebury cycle coach, runs a variety of popular cycle sessions for all ages and abilities.

For youngsters, there is also an adventure play trail and a butterfly climbing wall, as well as a Go Ape aerial assault course for ages 10 and over.

● Satnav postcode: TN17 2SJ . Entry is free. Parking is 8.50 per car. For more details, call 01580 879842

Climb every mountain

If youre looking for a challenge and a sense of achievement, rock climbing can provide both and can also lead to a lifelong hobby. Some of the best rock climbing in Kent can be found at Harrisons Rocks, near Tunbridge Wells, which is run by the British Mountaineering Council, where anyone from eight to 80 can try their hand at this addictive sport.

Instructor Sarah Cullen, who runs Nuts4 Climbing, has been climbing since she was 15 and now leads individual lessons and courses for all ages and abilities.

If you can walk, you can climb, she says. Its the sense of achievement that grabs people. Once you start you always want to get to the next level.

Private tuition takes place over half a day and includes safety instruction, low level boulder work, rope work and an easy climb.

A range of courses for adults and children is available, along with holiday and family courses and personal training.

● Satnav postcode TN3 9NJ. For more details, call 01892 860670

A birds eye view

Imagine flying in blue skies over Kent countryside, taking in the sights in total peace and quiet. Thats what you get when you go gliding. And if youre looking for a green activity what could be more environmentally-friendly?

Anyone from the age of 14 can try their hand at this most gentle of sports where the only sound is the wind rushing past you.

Kent Gliding Club, based at Challock, offers trial lessons and half-day, day and week-long courses, all of which include three-month membership at the club.

For beginners, a trial lesson includes a 15-20 minute flight with a qualified instructor, up to 2,000 ft, where you will get to handle the controls and feel what it is like to steer and fly the glider.

● Satnav postcode TN25 4DR. For more details, call 01233 740274

Surfs up

Surfing conjures up images of giant waves off the wide beaches of Australia and Hawaii, but you dont have to travel thousands of miles to experience the thrill and excitement of a big curl.

Great waves can be found along the southern coast, especially at Viking Bay, Broadstairs, where Kent Surf School is based. Would-be surfers can learn how to catch a wave under the expert eye of Andy Webb, who has run the school for the past five years.

On the beachs golden sands one of the countys top family beaches Andy offers lessons and courses for all abilities for basic beginners upwards. Pupils from aged eight learn about the equipment and sea safety, and how to recognise and ride the waves while learning how to surf at the same time.

Why try surfing? Its cool and it can change your life, says Andy. The adrenaline rush is fantastic. No wave is the same and it is a great lifestyle.

Andy also teaches balance board sessions and will be running a kids summer camp this year.

● Satnav postcode CT10 1EY. For more details, call 01843 871093.

Talk to the animals

How do you fancy going wild and having breakfast with cheetahs and elephants? Thats part of the excitement waiting for families at a glamping short break at the Elephant Lodge, situated in the 600-acre Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, near Ashford.

Elephant Lodge comprises 10 luxury tents, each sleeping up to eight people, overlooking the cheetah and elephant paddocks, with far-reaching views across the park to the coastline beyond.

The tents are furnished with two double beds, bunk beds and a sofa bed, all stylishly dressed and accompanied by the little touches one would expect from glamping accommodation.

The large living area has comfy seating in front of a wood burning heater, and during the summer months the sides of the tent can be fastened back to make way for an al fresco evening while listening to the sounds of the Serengeti.

Meals can be taken at The Laapa (meeting house) at the heart of the Elephant Lodge site where the menu includes a traditional Mongolian grill featuring exotic starters such as Asian pot stickers followed by a choice of seafood and meat, including fresh caught calamari and Romney Marsh lamb and accompanied by a variety of Asian themed sauces.

A stay at the Elephant Lodge also includes unlimited free entry to explore both Port Lympne and Howletts Wild Animal Parks.

● Satnav postcode CT21 4PD. Elephant Lodge can be booked for either three, four or seven nights. For more details, call 0844 855 0274

Target practice

As a nation, the British have had a long history with archery, dating back to 1066 and the Battle of Hastings where the longbow was first used.

Archery has been practiced ever since, and what little boy hasnt pretended to be Robin Hood at one time in his life?

Would-be bowsmen (or women) of all ages can try out their skills at have-a-go archery in the idyllic setting of 13th-century Hever Castle, near Edenbridge (see also page xxx). Aim for the target at a spot just yards from where Henry VIII courted his second wife Anne Boleyn.

Courses are led by expert bowsman Heath Pye, who played Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest and taught archery at Bodiam Castle, in Sussex, for 15 years. He offers private half-hour lessons where you will be taught the traditional style of archery, how to shoot property and then try your hand with the arrows.

And if you want to aim higher, this summer, for the first time at the castle, lessons are being offered with longbows.

● Satnav postcode TN8 7NG. For more details, call 01732 865224.

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