THIS week's community column comes from Kenny Auld, head of visitor services at the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority.

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WE often associate our fantastic green spaces with long summer days, when being outside feels like the most natural thing in the world.

Yet the benefits of spending time outdoors are often felt even more during these shorter, colder days.

There is real beauty to be found in places such as the National Park during the winter months and you can enjoy a quieter experience, away from the summer crowds.

Walking is an easy, accessible way to boost your mood and connect with nature.

Be it a loch, coastline, riverside, forest, glen, hill or mountain – there are plenty of options for a winter walk in the National Park, with inspiring backdrops pretty much guaranteed at this time of the year.

Suggestions for walks within the National Park can be found in the Things to Do section of the National Park Authority’s website (

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Hillwalking remains popular all year round, but it is important that you are well prepared if you do decide to take to the hills during the winter months.

The right kit is essential - warm clothing, hats, gloves, ice axes and crampons.

Weather and conditions can be changeable and you should always be mindful of timing - winter days are short, and the conditions mean you will be walking at a much slower pace than you would in summer.

Your ability to navigate is also crucial, as many hill paths are likely to be covered by snow during the colder months.

The increasing popularity of open water swimming, and water sports such as kayaking, sees people taking to the lochs within the National Park in all seasons.

Following water safety advice is just as essential during the winter months, when areas are quieter and temperatures are lower.

You should never go into the water alone, and entering the water slowly is important to allow your body to get used to the cold.

Cold water shock can set in quickly and rapidly lead to hypothermia. As always, remember that the depth of the water in our lochs can change suddenly and unexpectedly, and there are sometimes steep drops very close to the shore.

But by being prepared and staying aware of advice on how to keep yourself safe, there’s no reason why you can’t continue to enjoy the benefits of the outdoors in our national park all year round.