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SEVEN DAYS OF ONE HOUR OUTSIDE IN LOCKDOWN

With lockdown starting to come to an end on 8 March (slowly, very slowly), I thought I would mark (what we hope will be) the final week of the strictest restrictions with seven days of One Hour Outside mini adventures from my own front door.

On Cleeve Hill (Saturday)

I’ve been talking about the benefits of getting One Hour Outside every day for several years now and, with that, have tried to make sure I get a little bit of time outside every day, regardless of what else is going on around me. This desire to share the benefits of spending time outdoors is the reason I’m an Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champion, and it’s definitely become part of who I am here online.

Even with talking about it on a near-daily basis, doing my best to encourage you to make spending time outside your own regular habit, sometimes I have to consciously make One Hour Outside an intention in order to remember why I talk about it so much.

I thought this mini challenge would help motivate me to do just that, to intentionally spend an hour outside each day this week, help make my 10,000 steps a day challenge for Lent a little less walking-on-the-spot-while-the-kettle-boils, as well as be a good way to celebrate the start of meteorological Spring.

I also saw this as a way to motivate myself to vary things up a bit within the restrictions that we currently live with. Having spent what feels like months rotating the same three or four routes around my village on my lunchtime walks, I wanted to take my own One Hour Outside project and do something a little different with it for a change.

And maybe, through sharing my own attempt to get out for a bit of fresh air and natural light each day, I might encourage you to get One Hour Outside every day this coming week?

In a bit of a diary style post, here are seven days of One Hour Outside in lockdown, which I hope will give you seven ideas for how to spent time outside this month. 

Monday 1 March | A Local March

I thought that given this is a week-long challenge and I wanted to do something a bit different each day, I’d start with the obvious – a fast paced walk from my own front door.

So, on Monday I headed out on what has become one of three normal walking routes around my village. The village is large, and I am fortunate that there are options for lunchtime friendly walks, both on tarmac and across fields. This was one of my pavement-based routes.

My not-quite-four-mile walk saw me marching along quickly for my One Hour Outside, which warmed me up (I’d been cold all morning), and did all the good things for my body and mind. I don’t know about you, but I always find that a brisk walk at lunchtime means my lunch tastes even better than it would otherwise (roast ham, cream cheese and salad sandwich with a drop of sweet chilli sauce, if you’re interested), and can better cope with another few hours sitting at my computer.

This is the kind of One Hour Outside I’ve been relying on this lockdown. And while it does the trick a lot of the time, it has become quite monotonous in a lot of ways. With the fields out of bounds thanks to flooding the paved footpaths have been my only option, and I admit to getting a little bored. With Spring firmly on the way, my walk on Monday felt different somehow, it was uplifting and happy. 

Tuesday 2 March | With My Husband

I had planned a fun little game for today’s One Hour Outside mini adventure, but instead I chose to head out for a walk with my husband.

Prior to moving to Gloucestershire, we worked for the same organisation and would meet for a lunchtime walk most days, generally marching up Steep Hill in Lincoln to help with the old health and fitness. Now we work for different employers we just don’t get that opportunity anymore. Enter the pandemic and the resulting working from home – one of us in the study, and the other set up on the dining table – means we have that happy opportunity once again.

I don’t know if you consider a brisk walk around the streets of where you live with your other half a mini adventure, but whatever you might think, I rather like it. It’s certainly one of the positive things to come from this weird time in our lives, a chance to walk and chat more than we’ve been used to for the last couple of years. A lunchtime One Hour Outside very well spent.

Wednesday 3 March | Left or Right?

With my “normal” One Hour Outsides out of the way, on Wednesday I wanted to play a bit of a game (the game I’d planned for Tuesday but chose my husband over some silliness). This was based on one of the suggestions a fellow GetOutside Champion made last year when I wrote this piece about spending time outside in lockdown.

The idea is that you don’t plan a route before you leave, but call out left or right at each at each junction you reach, making up your route as you go along.

Left Right Game (Wednesday)

The left/right game is good for keeping kids interested, but a bit weird to play on your own. To make it work for me, I wrote a random sequence of L and R on a post-it note and took that with me. I decided to just keep following the letters I wrote until it felt like I needed to turn around and come home.

It worked a treat. I ended up in a rabbit warren of an estate I’ve never walked though before, which is exactly the reason a game like this is a good idea. It did feel like I was following the DHL van around, though, I wonder if he noticed?! If you’re looking for a way to change up your One Hour Outside lunchtime walking routes, give the left/right game a go. And let me know where you end up!

Thursday 4 March | Gloucester Docks

Today was a gift to this mini challenge because I happened to be heading somewhere different for an appointment. My normal blood donor centre cancelled my appointment in February, and so I booked this one instead, and thought it would be the ideal opportunity for a change of scenery for my One Hour Outside.

Give Blood (Thursday)

After bleeding on purpose and giving my body the required time and a bag of crisps to recover, I wandered to Gloucester Docks for the simple reason that I haven’t been there in so long – well over a year. You’ll be pleased it’s still there, it was super quiet (maybe even eerie), and it was as lovely as ever. I don’t know if you’ve explored the docks in Gloucester, but I rather like them, and somehow they were even nicer without crowds of people milling around.

Gloucester Docks (Thursday)

I was even happier when I found my very favourite place for a sandwich was open, On Toast is a little café serving nothing but toasties, and so I just had to treat myself. Of course, I wouldn’t drive to the next town just for a walk or even a toasted sandwich at the moment, and so combining this appointment with a different place for my walk was absolute gold.

Friday 5 March | Muddy Fields

I’ve done an awful lot of walking on tarmac for my One Hour Outsides so far this week… no real complaints about that, but today did seem like it was time for some mud.

Last weekend I wandered around the local fields and found them to be very much still a swampy mess from all the flooding and snow we’ve had over winter (read Weekly Blog Episode 59). At lunchtime today, given that we’ve not had much rain this week at all, I wanted to see how much it had dried out.

And while it is a bit drier in places, generally it’s not much better. Still a quagmire. A very sticky quagmire. It’s going to take a lot more sunshine to dry out all that.

I love being able to get into the countryside on weekday lunchtime walks, I feel very fortunate that I have that option open to me and always feel better for having taken a few steps on grassy and dirty footpaths. It almost feels a bit naughty, lacing up my hiking boots in the middle of the working day, like I’ve actually been on an adventure, not just a quick couple of miles from my own front door to move my body and clear my mind.

Blossom (Friday)

Oh, and I should definitely mention how much the blossom appearing on the soon-to-be woodland areas around the new housing developments here made me smile. Spring really is here.

Saturday 6 March | Cleeve Hill

Ah Saturday, and a sunny (ish) one at that. We’re still in lockdown so there was no traveling to another area for a proper day hike or day out on the motorbikes, no stop at a nice café in the middle of the day, and no meeting up with anyone else. But even with the restrictions, my One Hour Outside on Saturday became two or three hours outside, some spent walking in the part of the Cotswolds I can see from home, and some doing a few bits in the garden.

I guess my “main” One Hour Outside was a short walk up on Cleeve Hill. We are continuing to explore this part of the Cotswolds AONB, choosing always to wander away from the main parking areas and therefore other people when possible. I like seeing others enjoy that area, the outdoors is for everyone, it’s popular for a reason and there is plenty of space for everyone even in a pandemic. But it is nice to find paths and routes that take you away from others and provide some peace and quiet.

From Cleeve Hill (Saturday)

The highlight was that the usual haze that softens the horizon was missing, which meant we could see the Black Mountains over in Wales very clearly indeed (it’s not illegal to look… only to visit!). And of course that meant we had a defined view of the Malvern Hills and May Hill, too. In the other direction we could see details on Winchcombe Church standing proud in the village. A bit of Spring sunshine really can do wonders.

Unfortunately, we did not find any rock from the recent fireball Meteor that was supposed to have landed here earlier in the week. Scientists are pretty sure it will have landed in a five-ish-mile bottle shape between Bishops Cleeve and Winchcombe, and Cleeve Hill sits right in the middle of that. I imagine it’s like finding a needle in a haystack, that the rocks are the size of pieces of gravel, and they are hard to spot in amongst the mud. Ah well!

Sunday 7 March | Deerhurst and Apperley

When I got up on Sunday morning to discover another beautiful sunny Spring day, my first thought was “where shall I walk today?”. That’s better, my week of being intentional about getting that all important time outside seems to have worked, it was the first thing on my mind. And so, over a couple of cups of tea, I studied my local area using OS Maps and its built-in route finder, and added a whole bunch of walks to my to-hike list, both for now when we’re obliged to stay local, and for when the rules start to relax a bit.

Deerhurst (Sunday)

The one I decided on was a short 10-minute drive away, which I consider to be within the spirit of the current guidance, to a little village called Deerhurst. Plotted by AA Walks, the 3-mile circular took us along part of the Severn Way, up through farmland and through woodland, with some Saxon history thrown in for good measure.

Odda’s Chapel, an English Heritage site, is of the most complete surviving Saxon churches in England. It was built in 1056 by Earl Odda, a relation of Edward the Confessor, and it’s free to go in and take a look around.

It really was a lovely walk, the sun was warm, the ground was firm, and it was quiet. Deerhurst floods regularly and has a couple of rather impressive looking flood gates (which I hope work!), but thankfully things seem to be reasonably okay at the moment. It’s one we’ll return to again in the summer, I’m sure.

View from Appeley (Sunday)

There we have it. A week of One Hour Outside in lockdown. No big adventures, all walking based, but all enjoyable and ultimately very much needed.

This wasn’t a challenge o demonstrate a whole bunch of different outdoors activities (read about my GetOutside Activity Challenge if you’re looking for ideas), but rather to enjoy a purposeful week of getting outside; a certain reminder that I am quite simply a better and happier person when I make time for the outdoors, for walking, for intentional living.

And for the record, being intentional about getting One Hour Outside each day definitely made hitting my 10,000 steps a day for Lent personal goal (read Weekly Blog Episode 58) much easier.

If you’d like to know more about One Hour Outside, you need this page. And if you fancy making it your habit, for a week, a month, or all time, do let me know what you get up to using #OneHourOutside.

I’d love to know how you spent time outdoors this week. Did you walk? Cycle? Run? What did you see? What did you learn? Let me know in the comments below.

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