New Year resolutions we can inspire

Hugh Armytage Moore

What is your New Year’s resolution? Have you even begun to reflect on 2019 and consider what you would like to change in 2020? Lose some weight and get fit perhaps? Sort out your finances maybe? Or is it give something back and become more charitable? Whatever your New Year’s resolution is, we are here to help you achieve your goals.

Embrace the outdoors

You could join the gym in the New Year. It is very common in January.

Before you do.

Ask yourself.

Are you really going to use it?

For a fraction of the price, you could become a National Trust member and begin to embrace the outdoors. No treadmills, no weights; just fresh air and endless possibilities to keep you fit and healthy.

Heading out into the great outdoors has been a widely accepted cure for all kinds of problems, from stress and anxiety, to feeling sluggish after an extra-large roast dinner.

Exercising outside means that you can simply step outside and go! Choose one of our places and get active. It’s cheaper, you will feel better and it is easier to add variety to your workout which means you are more likely to keep consistent once January ends.


We can often overindulge during the festive season. We are all guilty. Take a mince pie for example. Yes, they are delicious, but the average mince pie boasts a whopping 289 calories!  A brisk 15-minute walk around our woodland walk at Rowallane Garden can help you burn off two mince pies. After admission, the garden is free to roam and so there is no limit to the number of calories you could burn. Pick up our Winter Wanders trail to keep your mind occupied while your legs do the work. Visit us and see how far your legs can take you.

Oak leaves
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Oak leaves

Scale a Mountain

Divis and the Black Mountain towers over Belfast. It is home to the highest peak in the Belfast Hills. The rich, varied archaeological landscape is home to a host of wildlife. There are walking trails along a variety of terrain: through heath, on stone tracks, along boardwalks and road surface.

With 360 degree panoramic views of Northern Ireland and beyond there is no better place to go for a hike. Divis and the Black Mountain is also free entry so you will need to work harder for an excuse to get outdoors.

The muscle groups used during hiking include the quadriceps, hamstrings, and our lower leg and hip muscles – and hiking with a backpack is a great boost to core strength. Plus, walking is a weight-bearing exercise, so it helps to build bone density.

It’s not just our core fitness levels and muscles that receive a vital boost during a good walk. One of the other great health benefits of hiking is that it helps us to lose weight. Hiking can burn between 440 and 550 calories per hour.

Views of Belfast city beyond Trigonometry point on the Ridge Trail
Trigonometry point at Divis and the Black Mountain
Views of Belfast city beyond Trigonometry point on the Ridge Trail

Go for a swim

Islandmagee offers plenty of places to try open water swimming. It can be very cold but there are many health benefits. Be careful when you choose to do it though. The following guidance should help keep you safe if you decide to take the plunge.

Think about the tide times and the currents - some beaches aren't suitable for swimming because currents like rip tides can easily catch out swimmers and drag them out to sea. It also helps to choose a flat, shallow beach, rather than one that slopes away very steeply to the sea. You wouldn't want to suddenly get out of your depth.

The sea tends to be fairly cold all year round in the UK, but you'll find the waves warmer between July and September. If you are going to swim in the UK, then it's wise to have a wetsuit, especially in the colder months.

When we become cold, blood rushes to our organs, making our hearts work a little bit harder. Every time you swim outdoors, the cold water helps to boost your circulation by pumping blood through your capillaries, arteries and veins.

Swimming in cold water makes your body work harder to keep warm, which increases the number of calories you burn. The colder the water, the more energy your body will convert from fat to fire up your metabolism and keep your core temperature stable.

On top of all these benefits, open water swimming is great for your skin. Cold water exfoliates the skin, flushing out impurities and making it smoother. This all adds up to you feeling better inside and out every time you swim outdoors.

Oak leaves
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Oak leaves

Connect the kids with nature

Climbing trees and getting muddy knees are memories from childhood we all treasure. But they are memories many children are missing out on.

According to new research by the RSPB, only 1 in 5 children have a ‘connection to nature’. Time spent playing outdoors has halved in just one generation. Published last year, our Natural Childhood report highlighted the problems around children’s disconnection from nature.

Now, we’re working to help a new generation of children discover the outdoors.

Get your kids closer to nature with ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’. There’s plenty of outdoor activities to do all year round, from watching the sunset to creating some wild art. Plan your next adventure with us.

Find a new hobby

Bird Watching

Bird watching can be done anywhere. You don’t need any specialist equipment and it is accessible to anyone.

Nearly 600 different types of birds have been seen in the UK, so you're pretty much guaranteed to spot something, from a robin to a magpie, a long-tailed tit to a jackdaw or a duck, pheasant or swan.

With so many different birds, you'll probably need a book or website to help you work out what you're seeing.

If the birds are a long way from you, then a pair of binoculars will help you to see them close-up without getting too close. You could also take photos of the birds you see or draw a picture to remind you what you've seen.


Bridge on the Ridge at Divis and the Black Mountain
Divis and the Black Mountain Ridge Trail
Bridge on the Ridge at Divis and the Black Mountain

Most of us will have a camera on us at all times. They are built into our phones afterall. This makes photography a very affordable hobby. You don’t need any specialist equipment and you certainly don’t need to break the bank. To prove it, every photograph in this article has been shot using a mobile phone.

Keep it simple. Don’t make the image too busy with lots of different subjects that will be competing for attention. Instead, just pick one and make it your focus. Make use of the patterns found in nature. Leaves in the background give a sense of the season, while frost and raindrops add texture. 

Find a good spot where you can capture shots that have a foreground point of interest. By adding detail in the foreground, you add depth to the image and give the shot a sense of scale which gives the composition more impact.

Use roads and footpaths to lead the eye into the frame and create depth. The classic ‘rule of thirds’ is useful to remember here. Break up the frame into nine parts with two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines. Then place important compositional elements along these lines and at their intersections.

Take photographs that interest or excite you. Photographing nature offers you complete creative freedom because the subject matter is endless.

Grab your camera and get outdoors. Taking similar photographs throughout the year provides an excellent record of the changing seasons.

Explore the riverside at Minnowburn
The Riverside Trail at Minnowburn
Explore the riverside at Minnowburn


Foraging has grown in popularity over the last few years. It has become a trendy activity for some and a complete lifestyle for others. People have been foraging since the dawn of time and it’s time for you to dip your hand into the hedgerows, trees and bushes to see what yummy treats you can discover.

Eat sustainably. That means, just taking some of what you find and leaving enough for animals, insects and for the plant to seed. It also means only collecting what is plentiful.

Only eat what you recognise. If you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it.

Find blackberries while foraging
Find blackberries at Minnowburn
Find blackberries while foraging

Introduce a friend to the outdoors

We all have friends, family members or perhaps even a partner who isn’t into exploring outdoors. Everyone can benefit from time spent in nature. It improves health and mental wellbeing. Walking with a friend can strengthen the bonds between you. Being in the outdoors is great for socialising. Choose the activity and the day wisely – a smallish hill or glen paired with a dry day is a good place to start. You may find a new walking partner.


For those of us who intend to give something back in 2020, volunteer with us and help us look after our places.

We can offer outdoor activities such as gardening, woodland management or countryside maintenance work, while there is also potential for some wildlife and environmental studies or even historical research. If you'd like to build up experience, or even if you just fancy some outdoor work and have skills that you think might be useful around our property, let us know.

Oak leaves
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Oak leaves

So if the January blues has hit you this year, come visit us, feel inspired to walk, explore, learn new things and help us look after our places.