Sunday, 10 January 2021

Keeping things on the lowdown...

Another year, another lockdown, and we're as fed up and frustrated about it as everyone else, but it is what it is.  As someone who walks, writes and shares photos about our Cumbrian adventures I feel it's important that everything I do and share is in line with... well, I was going to say 'government guidelines' but the reality is those guidelines should be common sense by now.

I'll be honest, I'm running out of patience with the endless debates amongst some of the outdoors community who are quoting and re-quoting their interpretation of government guidelines as if to find a loophole that allows them to race to the top of Scafell Pike.  The way I see it is this: we all know what's going on, by now we all probably know someone who has been affected by the virus, so we all know that even though it's a pain in the ass, the best thing we can do is stay low, stay local and stay safe.

And it's not just me saying that - Mountain Rescue are also facing enormous challenges.  They are all volunteers and many of their members are fronline NHS workers - the last thing they need is to be called out for fully avoidable incidents.  None of us set out with the express aim of having an accident and calling Mountian Rescue, we all think it will never be us, but the reality is that accidents can happen even to the best prepared of folks, but by staying on low, safer, local routes, we can vastly reduce the chances of that happening.

Interesting fact:  Hardknott Pass is technically a national speed limit road.  That means that, if I wanted to, I could tear along it at 60mph - but we all know that's a bad idea.  I should imagine that "But, your Honour, the sign said I could do 60mph!" will carry little merit as a defence after I've embedded my car deep in the Roman fort...  I don't need a sign on every bend telling me precisely what speed I should be doing, instead I will revert to the guidance in the Highway Code that tells me something like I need to be in control of my vehicle at all times and be able to anticpate hazards.  For me, it's the same with this guidance, just because, on a technicality, I could justify a hike up the nearest snowy peak, doesn't mean I should.

I fully appreciate that we are supremely blessed at being locked down in Grange-over-Sands with stunning Morecambe Bay on our doorstep and Hampsfell just across the road, and I never, even for one second, take that for granted but, wherever you are, every walk can be made more interesting and beneficial (I grew up as an urban kid on a council estate so I absolutley know what it's like to live with limited greenery).  To try and help a little, here are my top tips for making every walk more interesting, plus some ideas for those with kids (or those of us who refuse to grow up!)

  • Walk with all 5 senses - take the time to see, hear, smell and touch (where safe) your environment.   Run your hands over a tree  trunk, a wall or a rock.  Take some deep breaths to truly smell the air, listen to your feet and the different noise they make on different surfaces.  Look for the small details on houses, street signs etc.  Taste is tricky at the moment, especially since they reclassified a cup of coffee as a picnic, but take a chocolate with you, pop it in your mouth halfway around, and let it dissolve slowly on your tongue as you take in your surroundings.
  • Spot something different on each walk - make it your mission to find smething new every time you go out - doesn't matter how big or small it is.  We've spotted fossils in the prom wall that we'd never seen before, and noticed dates and initials on different houses. We've also watched closely as the seasons have changed around us and spotted lots of tiny details that we would otherwise have missed.
  • Tool up and do a litter pick.  Obviously we have to be a lot more careful now, but a pair of Marigolds and a bag should see you in good stead; there's still plenty of litter that needs clearing, including far too many face masks blowing around...
  • Make up stories as you go!  I honestly thought that everyone did this, but turns out they don't.  Invent stories about people you pass - maybe they're spies, or brilliant scientists, or a world famous opera singer that you just don't recognise because they have their mask on.  Is that just a tree or is there a door around the other side leading to another world?  Perhaps there's a spaceship inside?  And that hut at the back of the park - just the workman's hut or is it covering the top of a stairway that leads to a secret subterranean hidden world?  Yes, I know it's all a bit bonkers, but it takes your mind off the here and now.
  • Build up a photo story - take a picture in the same place, of the same feature, each time you go out.  Watch how it changes over the months.  It will be great to look back on when you put them all together.
  • If you can get off the beaten track with your kids a little,  collect leaves, twigs, or other bits and pieces to make a collage when you get home.  Or, if you feel more comfortable, photograph them then draw, paint to model them when you get home - and then make up stories about it.
  • Learn about your local history - there are loads of fantstic online local history resources  so have a dig around and learn about your neighbourhood.  Find old photos online and match them up to today's view, find out who built where you live and what was there before.
Please join me in staying low and staying local - I'll only be walking from the door until things change and I'll only share posts on social media where people have done the same.  It feels like forever right now, but I can guarantee that during the summer of 2025, we'll be sat around in a pub garden, enjoying a glass of wine in the sunshine with our friends and family, and someone will say "The pandemic?  Wow, I can't believe that was 5 years ago."

And if you have any other ideas and tips for making local walks more interesting, please feel free to share them below!