We were not created to be inside. Our bodies (and minds) need all the things the outside provide – fresh air, natural light, nature, and space. And while having walls and a roof is amazing and wonderful and hugely important in life, we should be getting outside as much as we possibly can. Ideally, if we can be outside, when work, the weather and commitments allow, we should be outside.
Over the last few weeks that has been more difficult that normal, thanks to the restrictions put in place in response to the current coronavirus pandemic. And while those in some places are still being asked to stay at home, the message here in England has changed this week, and we can now legitimately spend much more time outside than we have been able to for a good while.
Whereas before we could have one period of outdoor exercise per day, which was limited to things such as walking, running and cycling, we can now spend as much time outside as we like, and we don’t have to keep moving… We can sit and enjoy the view, have a picnic, take a break, and generally just be outside. Which is wonderful.
We can also do more activities, including making use of outdoor facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, skate parks, and the like (although not playgrounds or outdoor gyms). We can swim in a river or lake, go paddle boarding, play golf (but you can’t touch the flag), and other similar things. I’m a walker at heart and getting my daily lunchtime walk at home has been a real blessing in this otherwise hugely difficult time, but the idea of a swim in a lake is calling me, there is no doubt about that.
We can even do those activities with someone (one other person) not in our household, as long as you stay two metres apart, which means you can meat someone for a cycle ride, or have a coffee and a chat with a friend in a park. This will be especially important to those who live alone, and to those who might need a bit of extra motivation to run or cycle.
The other bit of news is that we are now allowed to drive much further afield to spend time in nature. That means we can travel to a forest, hill or beach for exercise or just to visit and take in the view. We can even drive or ride for pleasure, you know, just for the road. This is the bit that seems to have attracted the most negativity online, and I nearly didn’t address this topic here for fear of being accused of joining in; I’m not posting this on Splodz Blogz to take on the commentators, but I figured I should continue my series of posts on how we should continue to get One Hour Outside even in these strange times. For those living in built up areas, driving to a local National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be hugely welcome, I am sure. Even for those living in the countryside, the opportunity to explore somewhere else is also likely very welcome. I am fortunate that I can get into open countryside within a mile or two of my front door, although as with many people I admit I am personally glad I can now jump in my car to enjoy walks a little further away and with slightly different views.
Personally speaking, I don’t think I’ll be heading to the National Parks any time soon. Sadly. I’m not getting that Lake District hiking weekend just yet, and my Coast to Coast hike is definitely still a virtual one (read about it here – 19 miles to go!). But I will stop limiting myself to walks from my own front door now the options have opened up. I have genuinely loved finding new routes and views on foot from home (all the photos in this post were taken on a lovely local walk I did last weekend, read about it in my weekly blog), I’ve found some real gems and I’m sure I’m not done with new-to-me footpaths yet. I can’t deny it, I am honestly and simply looking forward to something a bit different. While my weekday jaunts will be very local indeed, as they always have been, I will be using the car or motorbike to head to places a little further afield for walks, picnics and views when I have time. Day trips are absolutely on the cards – I haven’t checked the sea is still there since February. I won’t be going too far away, certainly not to my nearest mountains (which are in Wales, and so still out of bounds), and will avoid popular places and peak travel times as is my tendency and preference anyway.
The key message from my point of view is that wherever we choose to spend our outdoors time from this point forward, we must do so with love and care – for other people and for our environment. This means adhering to social distancing guidelines, keeping our hands and faces clean, keeping ourselves and members of our household safe, practising leave no trace at all times, and most importantly, using every ounce of common sense we can muster.
These aren’t the end of the restrictions. The media would have us believe that lock down has ended the way they are going on at the moment, but we know that things are still far from normal. We can still only meet one other person (unless in your own household), we can’t stay overnight anywhere other than our own home, we can’t visit people in our or their homes, and most shops and all restaurants remain closed. Many tourist attractions and facilities are also staying closed for the time being (so check before you travel…). It is going to be a long old slog to get things back to any kind of normal, as the virus dissipates and we are told it is safe and sensible to do so. At least being permitted to spend lots more time outdoors, where the fresh air itself helps keep us safe, is one step in that direction.
I encourage you, urge you, to spend as much time as you can outdoors. Make the relaxation in the rules work for you. A lot of people have found themselves falling in love with nature and the outdoors over the last eight weeks, and I truly hope that all of you continue to make the most of the great outdoors in the weeks and months to come. Whether you choose to continue to only explore the area from your own front door, if you decide to jump in your car to return to some of your favourite local forests and hills, or if you intend on travelling to one of our National Parks for a day hike, please enjoy the outdoors happily and safely.