If the new year has you hankering to start something new, Gloucestershire is bursting with inspiration for aspiring hobbyists — where you can try everything from padel, the world's fastest-growing racket sport, to beekeeping.
Discover something to get passionate about with SoGlos's pick of 17 new hobbies to enrich your spare time this year.
Try racket sports
A fantastic way to get fit and make new friends, racket sports like tennis, squash, padel and racketball are fun, sociable and great for your physical and mental health — and you can play all four with a single rackets membership at Cheltenham's East Glos Club.
From newcomers to rusty returners, the club gives players all the guidance they need to swing with confidence, with opportunities to learn in a group setting or hone your skills with one-on-one coaching sessions.
Unsure where to start? Tennis is a brilliant aerobic exercise, while squash provides a great workout in 40 minutes for the slightly more energetic — and padel is the perfect combination of the two, played in doubles on a smaller court. Meanwhile, racketball is a bit slower than squash, making it a great starting point and top choice for older players.
Learn a language
Broaden your horizons for global travel and put your brain to work by learning to speak a new language.
Whether you want to be able to hold a conversation on your next holiday or practice to fluency, local places like inlingua Cheltenham and South Gloucestershire and Stroud College offer expert tuition for aspiring linguists.
Globetrotters might want to become proficient in Spanish, one of the world's most widely spoken languages, while there's also the chance to learn Greek, Italian or a politically-relevant language like Russian right here in Gloucestershire.
Take up golf
A great hobby for good weather, golf is a skilled game that will get you out in the fresh air. Sociable sorts are sure to meet like-minded individuals to bond with at their local club, while those who prefer to enjoy their hobbies solo will have lots of fun taking themselves round the course to focus on hitting hole-in-ones.
Perfect for anyone interested in giving golf a go, Brickhampton Court Golf Complex in Churchdown features a TrackMan Range where golfers can practice their skills on virtual courses, receiving insightful reports on how to improve their swing and technique.
For more putting inspo, check out SoGlos's list of glorious golf courses in Gloucestershire.
Get into crafting
Seize the opportunity to embrace your creativity this year, by trying everything from painting with watercolours to forging your own silver jewellery at New Brewery Arts in Cirencester — where artistic types can get crafty at one of its weekend workshops.
Fully immersive and led by expert tutors, upcoming workshops include life drawing, stone carving, stained glass making and even bookbinding.
There's also plenty of options to take up pottery, whether you want to learn to throw it or paint it, check out Bird's Pottery in Littledean, Paint it Yourself Pottery Co. in Cheltenham or Stroud Pottery near Lansdown.
A wonderful way to connect with nature — which is said to have huge mental health-boosting benefits, too — birdwatching is an observational hobby which involves identifying all kinds of birdlife by sight and song, and studying how they interact with their environment.
Slimbridge Wetland Centre invites keen twitchers into its hides to lookout for avian activity and offers guided birding sessions; while elsewhere in the county the RSPB nature reserves at Highnam Woods near Gloucester and Nagshead near Lydney are brilliant for spotting birdlife all year round.
You can even catch a glimpse of the fastest animal in the world (no, there are no cheetahs in Gloucestershire) the peregrine falcon, at Symonds Yat near the Forest of Dean — a global hot spot for the birds of prey.
Have a go at rock climbing
If heights don't faze you, hop into a harness and try rock climbing — an adrenaline-pumping pastime which not only provides an excellent workout, but a real rush of endorphins when you reach the summit.
Practice on the climbing walls at The Warehouse in Gloucester and Far Peak near Northleach, or visit the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley to scale the area's limestone cliffs — with Symonds Yat being one of the best places in the whole country for rock climbing, boasting a wide range of graded routes to suit all abilities.
Budding beekeepers will get a real buzz learning how to look after some of the planet's most important creatures at Cotswold Farm Park, where Cotswold Bees regularly runs one-day and two-day introductory sessions to beekeeping.
If you're considering a hive of your own, the Gloucestershire Beekeepers Association offers a hands-on training scheme for beginners, where you'll get a starter hive to tend to for two whole beekeeping seasons — experiencing the whole lifecycle of a honeybee colony with expert help on hand.
New dates for the 2024 season of courses at Cotswold Farm Park start from Saturday 13 April 2024.
Learn how to ski or snowboard
The distinct lack of snow in Gloucestershire doesn't need to be a barrier for those wanting to master the slopes, with Gloucester Ski and Snowboard Centre offering a variety of traditionally alpine activities — ranging from skiing and snowboarding coaching to recreational practice and even tubing.
With the longest dry slope in England, plus dedicated freestyle, nursery and tubing slopes, the adventure centre gives riders the chance to enjoy snow sports all year round, without ever needing to step foot outside the county.
Plus, the whole family can get involved, with snowcub lessons available from the age of just four-years-old!
Whether you've got all the gear or you have no idea where to start, Gloucestershire is a fantastic destination to set off on a bracing hike — with long-distance, waymarked routes, like the famous 102-mile Cotswold Way, and plenty of Cotswold hills to conquer.
Start off by making your way through SoGlos's pick of 11 beautiful Gloucestershire walks and, if you get a real appetite for it, consider taking on Cheltenham's Three Peak Challenge, reaching the summits of Cleeve, Crickley and Leckhampton Hills all in one day. Dates for the 2024 challenge are still to be revealed.
Take your furry friends along for the journey with our list of the best places to walk your dog in Gloucestershire, too!
Get into astronomy
Gloucestershire's rolling countryside is nothing short of a playground for stargazers, with dark skies in the remote Cotswolds and Forest of Dean offering unobstructed views of the galaxy, where there's minimal light pollution.
Anyone interested in exploring astronomy can learn more from groups like the Cotswold Astronomical Society, which hosts monthly meetings and telescope workshops.
Or for a real treat, book a stargazing safari and join a star storyteller within the grounds of the hilltop Tudor Farmhouse Hotel in Clearwell to observe constellations and planets and to discover the science and stories of how they came to be.
Join a choir
Great for releasing tension, boosting your confidence and making new friends, coming together with members of the community for a good old sing-along is a fun and sociable way to lift your spirits.
Best of all, you don't need to be pitch perfect to join a Gloucestershire choir, taking your pick from the Everyman Theatre's EveryVoice network of community choirs in Cheltenham; Some Voices in Stroud; or the choir at Tewkesbury's Roses Theatre, which also hosts sociable group singing for wellbeing sessions.
There are also Rock Choir sessions available to take part in at venues in Cheltenham, Tewkesbury, Stroud and Evesham — all with the option to try before you buy, with taster sessions available to book onto for free.
Take up pole fitness or aerial hoop
Whether you're already a fitness fanatic or looking for a new way to workout, pole fitness will put your core strength to test and teach you how to move your body in a completely different way. Or why not challenge yourself to try one of the oldest circus disciplines and learn how to perform killer choreography on a suspended aerial hoop?
Find a whole range of classes at Momentum Pole and Aerial, running from three locations in Gloucestershire — a main studio at Gloucester's Morelands Trading Estate, as well as a dedicated aerial arts studio at Bournside Sports Centre and pole studio above The Urban Meadow café in Cheltenham.
Artspace in Cinderford also offer aerial classes as part of Engage Circus for adults, as well as beginner sessions for those aged eight and over, for just £6 a go!
Try flower arranging
Hobby-seekers with a keen eye for detail might enjoy flower arranging, where anthophiles can turn their love of all things floral into beautiful bouquets and displays of colourful blooms.
Learn the basics with a floristry class at Gloucestershire College or South Gloucestershire and Stroud College; or dabble in the floral arts with a workshop at Daylesford Organic Farm or Tudor Farmhouse.
Learn how to bake
From nurturing sourdough starters to presenting perfectly-laminated pastry and intricately-iced cakes, take up baking to whip up some tasty treats for your family — and have fun doing it!
With baking classes to sign up for all over Gloucestershire, total beginners can don an apron and learn the basics while novice bakers can brush up their baking skills at one of SoGlos's favourite baking classes.
There's also options available at Harts Barn Cookery School to learn to make your own pasta, ferment your own condiments and even experience cooking over open flames.
Check out photography
Learn how to take amazing portraits, capture unforgettable memories and get snap happy this year by taking a class in photography in Gloucestershire.
Explore the incredible ancient trees and woodland of Batsford Arboretum through the lens with classes with award-winning photographer Alan Ranger; take a deep dive into the techniques with a course at Gloucestershire College; or enjoy a one-to-one workshop with Cheltenham-based Matt Davis Photography, for hands-on teaching whether your at a beginner or intermediate level.
Before your class, why not get inspiration from some of the many exhibitions in Gloucestershire, including the display of winning images from the Bird Photographer of the Year contest, being showcased at Nature in Art in Twigworth until Sunday 21 January 2024.
Hang out with some horses
Horses can present an incredibly calming energy, whether you're up for getting into the saddle or you just enjoy being around them.
Tack up and try some lessons this year at Stonelea Riding Centre in Minsterworth, Barton End Equestrian Centre in Stroud and Tumpy Green Equestrian Centre in Dursley.
Or experience the picturesque countryside on horseback by enjoying a hack through the Cotswolds at Cotswold Trail Riding, through the Forest of Dean at Severnwye Equestrian or through the 300-year-old Cirencester Park in association with Bathurst Estate at Greenhill Equitation Centre.
Improve your zen with yoga
Gloucestershire is full of peaceful and tranquil yoga studios — from hot yoga pods to powerful ashtanga sessions.
Find your zen this year and kick start your practice with classes at Ella & Fleur Hot Yoga and OrangeYoga in Cheltenham; Barefoot Nomad in Stow-on-the-Wold; or Wildwood Yoga in the Forest of Dean. Check out more with SoGlos's list of peaceful places to do yoga in Gloucestershire.
For experienced yogi's, Bobble Yoga offers organised yoga retreats in the Cotswolds, featuring mindfulness practice, daily asana sessions and healthy meals to detox before returning to the normal stresses of daily life.