Live it and learn it this Spring

Simon ParkinWant to learn something new or build on skills you already have? SIMON PARKIN suggests some self-improvement activities and new hobbies to take up for singles, couples, friends and families.Simon Parkin

Want to learn something new or build on skills you already have? SIMON PARKIN suggests some self-improvement activities for singles, couples, friends and families.

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Self-improvement is a concept that gets a bad rap - conjuring up images of stuffy evening school classrooms and dull but worthy activities.

But it need not be like that. Wanting to learn something new - or to fulfil a lifetime dream of riding a horse or throwing a pot, or whatever it may be - is nothing to fear.

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Norfolk is awash with new things to do, skills to be mastered and new people to meet. Whether you're idea of recreation is taking to the water under your own sail power or writing that long-dreamt of novel, there is the chance to get the skills and more importantly have some fun this Spring.


t Birdwatching - Savvy birdwatchers flock to the north Norfolk coast every autumn just as wintering wildfowl and waders arrive their too. Bird expert and wildlife photographer Robin Chittenden will be your guide to the region's best birding spots on a three day course based at Brancaster Millennium Activity Centre later this year. Places are �150 for non-residents (residential places available), book now for October/November. More details: 01485 210719,

t Fly Fishing - Learn to cast a fly, outsmart your piscatorial prey and indulge in fresh air in the Norfolk countryside. Narborough Trout Lakes run beginners days throughout the summer covering everything from the casts you need to make, the knots you need to tie and the flies to catch a fish. A selection of rods, lines and even a picnic lunch will be provided, just turn up with your fishing gear. Places are �60 per head based on group of four people. More details: 01553 813769,

t Survival Skills - Unleash your inner Ray Mears. Throughout the summer, Norfolk School of Wilderness Bushcraft runs a selection of courses designed to allow you to experience nature like never before; exploring the forgotten art of Bushcraft tracing back to our indigenous ancestors, utilising skills from around the world. Things covered include knife skills, shelter building, traditional fire making techniques and backcountry cooking. Two-day course are �125/�100 children, one-day courses �60/�50. More details: 01603 499177,


t Cookery - After delighting Norwich diners for many years, David Adlard has just launched a cookery school that runs 'hands-on' days where you'll be set to work, with the chef giving you personal instruction from time to time. At lunch time you will enjoy some of the food which you have prepared together with a glass of wine. After lunch chef will demonstrate and you will cook a dish to take home with you, together with all the day's recipes. Star-chef days run by David Adlard himself, Tom Kerridge, Aiden Byrne or Roger Hickman, are �165, hands-on days �125. More details: 01263 587258,

t Beekeeping - Thought about keeping honeybees yourself but don't know where to start? Easton College is running a practical beekeeping course one evening a week for eight weeks, beginning in May. The fee is yet to be confirmed. More details: 01603 731232, In addition Norfolk Beekeepers Association is holding a beginners' workshop aimed specifically at those who are interested in keeping honeybees and wish to know a little more about what's involved also at Easton College on April 25. After a morning learning the basics, you'll visit Easton College apiary to open beehives and get a close up of bees at work. Places are just �5. More details:


t Sailing - Whitlingham Outdoor Education Centre runs a host of RYA approved courses ranging from the basics to advanced subjects like race sailing and seamanship. Young beginners can become competent sailors on a RYA Stage 1 courses that run in the school holidays from April 12 to the end of October. Places are �185. Sunday courses (over six weeks) run from May and are �115. Adult RYA Stage � Combined courses begin on April 26, places �395. More details: 01603 632307,

t Archery - Have you got a steady hand? Are you confident enough to hit bold? Are you a would be Robin Hood? Learn basic archery skills and develop your technique under the guidance of a qualified archery instructor at the UEA Sportspark. Six week courses are suitable for those with little or no experience. Places are �51. More details: 01603 593403,

t Horse Riding - Pine Lodge, at Upper Stoke Holy Cross, has been an established training yard for many years and proprietor and owner, Sue Barber, says the school is motivated to give all riders, no matter what their ability, the opportunity to ride well-schooled horses. Horses are matched to riders' abilities so don't worry about being over-powered. Adult/over-14s lessons are �40, private tuition �60, the children's club lessons (under-14s) is �35. More details: 0776 5000869,

t Climbing - The UEA Sportspark has Norfolk's largest and most exciting indoor climbing wall that is challenging for beginners and experienced climbers alike. The 10m bouldering cave, slab and overhangs provide a diversity of climbing opportunities. They provide both beginners and improver courses, under expert tuition, lasting five weeks. Late-spring courses begin on April 19. More details: 01603 593403,


t Pottery - Learn how to throw a pot, make a piece by hand and decorate it. Pulham Market potter Ray Auker runs a range of ceramics courses from beginners wheel thrown pottery to more specialist subjects. An eight week taster course is �68, plus materials and firing. More details: 01379 608825, If you just want to try your hand at first, at Sutton Pottery, in Sutton, near Stalham, Malcolm Flatman offers intensive tuition in three-hour lessons. More details: 01692 580595,

t Photography - Maybe you have a digital camera and have been taking pictures but feel that there's something missing, or you are a film photographer wishing to transfer your visual skills across into the digital world? Norwich Arts Centre is running a four-week Tuesday evening course from May 4 offering photographers of all kinds the chance to learn the art of taking better photographs. Places are �75. More details: 01603 660352,

t Printmaking - Norfolk artist Nicola Slattery runs a range of arts courses, including weekend courses print making courses that provide a great introduction to a number of techniques, teaching different approaches which are direct and can easily be mastered to produce limited edition prints safely without chemicals, acids or technical know how. The next courses run on March 27/28 and June 26/27. Places are �195. More details: 01986 788853,

t Furniture Painting - Do you hanker after those decorated furniture pieces you see in homes magazines? Learn how to achieve beautiful painted finishes in French country style on a weekend course run by Painted Country. The courses, in Brockdish Village Hall, near Diss, will see you working on sample boards to experiment with colour combinations, crackle varnishes and waxes and being shown how to produce those wonderful, distressed, 'antiqued' patinas and achieve a professional result to be proud of. Places are �85, with the next available courses on May 10 and 24. More details: 01379 871888,

t Landscape Art - Brancaster Millennium Activity Centre is running a two-day watercolour course from April 7-9, led by Marion Perkins, concentrating on buildings, landscapes and flowers and suitable for beginners or those who would like to learn further techniques. Individual attention will be given, with consideration of individual style. Take along your own watercolour paints and favourite brushes. Non-residential places are �193 (including lunches and tuition). More details: 01485 210719,

t Creative Writing - Do you fancy yourself a budding author? A 10-week Monday night course at Norwich Arts Centre, starting on May 10, will help you explore practical ways to discover the writer within, and break down creative boundaries. It will look at the basics, with close reading of examples from published writers. In the last session, there will have an informal presentation of a piece of work from each student. Places are �75. More details: 01603 660352,