How is lock down treating your relationship with the outdoors? We’re about to end our sixth week of heavy social restrictions here in the UK, all for good reason, but it is not surprising that a lot of people are running out of ideas and motivation to get that one piece of outdoor exercise each day. Personally I feel I did really well to start with, had some time in the middle when I lacked motivation and desire to get outside much (feeling a bit sorry for myself, really), but now I’m back in “I love the outdoors” camp again.
I’m one of the first to post on twitter the rather sweeping statement that there are hundreds – thousands – of things you can do to make the most of the outdoors in this lock down period. It’s very easy to say, but perhaps not quite so easy to put into practice. In this post, I wanted to bring you a handful of ideas of things people actually do to enjoy the outdoors in this age of social distancing. You know, real life examples not just endless lists of things (although if you want an endless list, you could do worse than start with my GetOutside Activity Challenge Long List).
I’m very grateful to my fellow Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champions who answered my call for ideas and suggestions. It goes without saying that all these things should be done within the government guidelines (in your country) – you can read about the implications of the current restrictions here in the UK in my explanation post.
Lots of these ideas are aimed at kids, but I am not ashamed to admit that I’ve been using a few of to them make my outdoors time a little less samey so they’re good for us big kids, too. Be sure to let me know if you try any of these out 🙂
Watch the Night Sky
We have extended our living space into the garden by creating a fire pit. It was great to get outside and spend this time together. Being in the high-risk group and having to isolate for 12 weeks, this is a place we can spend time outdoors together. We have also been staying up a bit later and doing some star gazing. We use the Sky View app, but there are lots of apps out there to help identify constellations.
Even though staying local might sound a little uninviting, especially if you live in an urban area, there are ways to pass the time and get a mile or two without the kids moaning away at your side. Classic games such as Eye-Spy are key in distracting the child from noticing just how far they are walking and also to get you looking at the area around you. Maybe you never noticed just how many trees there are, or how pretty certain houses are.
We play a game, that currently has no name… We walk until we hit a junction. One child picks whether we go left or right. Then we walk to the next junction and the next child picks again. We cover a good few miles exploring areas we’ve never noticed before and discover a few short cuts along the way. You could always do this without kids too.
Another game is to have a list of things prepared before you head out, to find on your walk. A scavenger hunt, if you will, but without picking the things up and taking them home. You could even get the kids involved in choosing the items before you go so they are more eager to head on out.
Garden Treasure and Trail Maps
As a family who loves exploring the outdoors, our garden is often overlooked. So, I’m keen to use this time to rediscover joy in our garden. My 4-year-old is learning to write letters at the moment, so I put together a garden treasure hunt where he had to follow clues and collect letters to spell out his prize. He enjoyed it so much that the following day he wanted to draw his own garden trail map, which we followed and collected cool things we found along the way, including some leaves for leaf-rubbing. Today we are planning on a fire and toasting marshmallows, and tomorrow we’re going to make a bug hotel. Ours will be a simple affair using a plastic bottle, twigs, moss and leaves but I’ve seen some extraordinary efforts which would be fab for older children.
Prior to the corona virus crisis, I was most definitely one of those people who would usually be in the hills or on expeditions travelling abroad. So I understand completely how hard it’s been and also the disappointment that has been faced by many adventurers who are not able to enjoy the outdoors as they’ve always known it; be that for physical or mental health reasons. It is really important however that at this time we are adhering to the government advice so that we can get through this together much quicker.
But there are sometimes good things that can come of not being able to do the things we’ve always been used to. It encourages us to consider more carefully what we’ve always done and to think more creatively on what we can do instead to get our daily dose of exercise or fresh air.
I’m pretty lucky during this time that I have a dog, so a lot of my daily exercise revolves around the her, heading to local greenspaces that are just 5-10 minutes’ walk or run away from my apartment. It’s not the Peak District but there’s more than enough grass to sniff and enough sticks to eat. to get both of your short daily fixes of fresh air! And it doesn’t just have to be just dog owners who benefits either; Millie has been on walks with a number of my neighbours (all discussions and handovers done at the 2m distancing length and who are feeling well of course) providing them with a bit of an escape and cabin fever relief. Plus your dog is never going to complain about being taken out on more walks! So perhaps you can ask someone who you know to offer some dog walking duties or volunteer to take the dogs out for people who have to self-isolate. Happy walkies!!
Public Rights of Way Research
My time filling activity during lock down is to research rights of way that may be missing from the definitive map ready for the 2026 deadline.
In short, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 set a deadline of 1st January 2026 for any routes not recorded on the definitive map. This means that any historic rights will be lost after the deadline and cannot longer be added to the definitive map, this means that they could be lost forever. Any regular walking routes used should be checked that they are recorded as a right of way. Start by comparing your local Ordnance Survey Explorer Map to the route that you know and love, is it marked correctly? If it is, then you don’t need to do anything. But if it is not marked or not as you would have expected, then the next step is to check against the Local Highway Authorities definitive map (available online or by contacting your local Rights of Way team). If it is right there then all is fine, but if not then you need to let people know so it can be corrected. There’s more information via the Ramblers, British Horse Society, and Open Spaces Society.
Which one of these ideas are you going to try out this weekend?
What activities have you been doing in your home, in your garden, or on your daily outdoor exercise that we can add into the mix?
For more information about the GetOutside campaign, and lots more inspiration for things you can do outside or inside during these restricted times, head over to GetOutside.uk.