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Page last updated at 11:52 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 12:52 UK
Hampshire and the Isle of Wight's ultimate thrills

Steve Harris
BBC Radio Solent presenter

Making fire
With the right techniques you can set a campfire using traditional methods

Whether it is high-adrenaline action or exploring the great outdoors, there are loads of places around the south where you can have an adventure on your doorstep.

First stop for me was a private estate near Ringwood where James White of Sunrise Bushcraft would challenge me to learn some techniques to survive in the great outdoors.

James demonstrated how "caveman technology" can still be used to provide one of the survival essentials - fire. However modern firesteels, steel wool and a nine volt battery can all help.

Anyone out walking around the New Forest cannot miss the gorse bushes - but did you know the yellow flowers are edible? As long as you avoid the spikes, there is a sweet taste reminiscent of coconut or pineapple. James explained:"They get sweeter later in the year as they fill with pollen."

BBC Thrill Seeker

Another unexpected natural food supply was sap from birch trees.

James simply stuck his knife into a tree, upwards at a 45 degree angle, and moments later sap was dripping out of the hole.

I drank it straight from the tree, and was surprised by how cool and refreshing the liquid was. It had a mild dry taste, like a very weak elderflower squash.

Several litres can come out of a single tapping overnight.

James said: "It doesn't hurt the tree, we seal it with a clay stopper afterwards to stop any fungal infection.

"You can freeze it, boil it to create a syrup. It's been shown to be really good for you - with anti-cancer properties. You can make wine, cordial, or have it with a nice single malt whiskey!"

Also abundant in the forest is sphagnum moss, blankets of which lie in the wet boglands of the New Forest. These plants can be hundreds of years old and their antiseptic properties mean they can be used to dress wounds and also filter water to drink (although you should boil it first.)

James explained that discovering the secrets of the forest, and techniques to surviving in the great outdoors, is a real thrill for youngsters he takes on bushcraft courses - especially those from deprived or city backgrounds.

He said: "It's important kids do get out and about and start exploring the countryside we've got around us ... they are treated as adults, get fresh air and exercise - it does wonders."

Scuba diving

Having seen how to live off the land, I headed to Andark's diving training centre in Swanick to see how to survive underwater. Instructors Lois and Trevor Maynard showed me the basic techniques of scuba diving.

Steve Harris
The diving instruction tank is 3.5m deep

The centre trains all level of scuba divers and also holds powerboat and helicopter crash survival sessions.

But it's the leisure side of diving which is the real attraction according to Lois.

She said: "It's something you can't imagine. Breathing underwater for the first time is a very special experience. You can see and do things underwater - like being weightless, seeing the marine wildlife - just the fun you have in the water can't really be experienced."

With a five litre cylinder of compressed air on my back, fins, mask and weight-belt in place I took my first underwater breath.

Breathing underwater felt surprisingly natural - like it wasn't something I was doing for the first time but like it something I was remembering.

The feeling of weightlessness was something I was not expecting either, as James and I messed around playing catch with a toy tornado, and ran up the wall to turn somersaults.

Trevor describes scuba diving as "monstrously addictive" - talking to other divers, sharing experiences could lead you to travel the world seriously affect your bank balance. But there are diving sites along the south coast for the fully trained and qualified.

Check websites like Dive Site Directory for more details.

High wires

From the underwater relaxation of scuba diving, I headed to Kingswood Activity Centre on the Isle of Wight for some real adrenaline rushes.

The 3G swing
The 3G Swing is 13m high

The 3G Swing - you drop 13 metres downwards - experiencing 3G of pressure.

As I was hoisted to the top with a waist and chest harness, I am sure I could see France - although it was probably just Sussex. Either way, there was a growing crowd of nine year old school children gathering at the bottom waiting to see if I would 'bottle it'.

A quick tug of the blue rope and I was off. I won't lie to you, it was scary being that far off the ground knowing that I had to release myself to the forces of gravity.

But the encouragement of the instructors gave me the confidence that I needed to do it and the swinging part of it was quite a rush.

The Leap of Faith Tower was equally as tough on the nerves - I did point out that it was the cold making me shiver rather than fear as I climbed the 30ft high pole with the technique of an athletic Koala Bear.

Standing at the top it was a case of literally taking a 'leap of faith' - and after a couple of '3-2-1' counts I did just that.

The most exciting part of both challenges for me was overcoming that fear to try something that I would not normally have had the courage to do.

Push yourself

The great thing about ThrillSeeker is that you can push yourself as far as you want to go and try something you might never have done.

I got a different buzz from drinking sap straight from a tree, from breathing underwater, and from hurling myself towards the ground experiencing three times gravitational force.

Whatever you feel comfortable trying - whether it is flying a kite, or paragliding, or one of the hundreds of other activities on offer, everyone can use a little adventure in their lives.

Listen to Steve Harris' ThrillSeeker challenges throughout Easter Week on BBC Radio Solent Drivetime - Tuesday-Friday 1600 - 1900 BST.



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