April was our first full month in Lockdown and, for the UK, it may prove to be our only month, if the speculation is to be believed right now. I’ve been ‘furloughed’ (off work and in receipt of 80% of my basic wage) all throughout but have managed to keep myself relatively active. Flat walks and short distances from my doorstep, where the hills are hard to find.
01/04 – 3.25 miles – Wick St. Lawrence, North Somerset
03/04 – 3.25 miles – Wick St. Lawrence
05/04 – 4.75 miles – Wick St. Lawrence
07/04 – 3.25 miles – Wick St. Lawrence
10/04 – 11 miles – Sand Bay and Sand Point
12/04 – 3.25 miles – Wick St. Lawrence
14/04 – 3.75 miles – Wick St. Lawrence
16/04 – 3 miles – Wick St. Lawrence
23/04 – 3.75 miles – Wick St. Lawrence
24/04 – 6 miles – Crook Peak, Mendip Hills
29/04 – 3.25 miles – Wick St. Lawrence
Total for April 2020 = 48.5 miles
Living on the outer fringe of Weston-super-Mare, many of my ‘Lockdown Walks’ have been set around Wick St. Lawrence; a small village and parish not a great distant from where I’ve been the past year. Since moving here, it has been the main habitat of my evening outings.
There’s been a lot of familiarity to my routine over the past… Six weeks? That must be a feeling that’s been hard for many to avoid. I did manage to explore a couple of footpaths that were new to me – perhaps I’ll write about them in another post.
It was a shock, on that first Sunday in April, to head out towards the A370 on foot and cross a rather baren-looking M5 motorway.
Lockdown was in full effect. In some corners of social media, there’s been a lot of negative energy and hate drawn up and unleashed towards individuals and sometimes small groups. Those who are deemed to be “Covidiots” but the few who have appointed themselves as the curtain-twitching shit-stirring Secret Police of the Coranavirus pandemic.
Some landowners have illegally locked gates and obstructed public rights of way through fear of contamination. Others have left notices on gates, fences, sometimes even roads – incidents like this have existed across the whole of the UK.
I’ve tried to hold on to a personal mantra:
‘Stay Safe, Keep Active, Stay Local’.
My most ambitious walk of the month would take my mileage up in to double figures for the day.
Sand Point is a well-known peninsular of the local area and I can walk to it from my doorstep in less than two-hours. It’s not a walk I’ve done often since moving here and that’s largely because there’s only one main bridleway between there and home. So, it’s either a case of retreading familiar footsteps or following the roads.
No more than a dozen others were about and the majority were mountain bikers (some who’d driven to the only available car park). Down on the beach of Sand Bay, I recall seeing only two dog walkers… At this time of year and on a sunny day, you could otherwise expect to find ten times as many people about the local area.
I welcomed this. Where I live, I can go out for an hour-long walk at any time of day and find myself unable to avoid no fewer that a dozen others; walkers, runners, cyclists… In Lockdown, we’ve become a nation of keen exercisers, it seems!
Which leads me on to a confession…
Shortly before the end of April, I drove for approximately twenty-five minutes from home and for the purpose of exercise. At the time, it was very much a ‘grey area’ over whether or not this was allowed. Some would say it still is! It’s not a topic I am keen to discuss because opinions remain divided and many people remain frightened of everything they read.
From a psychological point of view, I was struggling – as I sure many others have been through this experience. I was missing the space, time and freedom that I’d otherwise found through walking. I was incredibly tired and bored with the local routes that I could almost walk blindfolded. I wanted to be out and away from people. If I could plan a walk that would last even a couple of hours and expose myself to the minimum of humans, I felt that I could justify a relatively short drive.
I climbed Crook Peak in the reverse of what was otherwise quite a familiar walk. I saw one person (at a distance) before reaching the top; another two perhaps, crossing Wavering Down and then in to King’s Wood. Being up on that high ground with great weather, wide views and the freedom of the land before me… This was what I had been craving!
I’ll often forgo an opportunity to walk here because I’ve done it so many times before and it does get busy on a good day. But when rules and restrictions prevent you from travelling too far, you can find a way to appreciate what is close to home.
I was so sure that I was going to miss bluebell season this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But I was so grateful to find garlic carpeting the floor of King’s Wood, along with those desirable flowers.
Before sitting down to write this, I was certain that I’d already written about my Sand Point walk… But I must’ve been thinking of the video I released on YouTube. Perhaps I’ll write about it soon, while I feel I have little else to share.
Whatever is or isn’t announced by the government on Sunday, I hope you all remain safe, find the time to stay active and try to be kind to each other, as well as yourselves.