Limited to one exercise outing a day, from the doorstep, we are all spending a lot more time in our local neighbourhood. While any keen hillwalker imprisoned far from the hills will suffer the occasional spasm of separation angst, the lockdown also offers opportunities. Most of us will be enjoying the chance to get to know our home patch in new depth and detail, seeking beauty and interest in unexpected places. Some are even taking lockdown as a prompt to clean up their area.
It's amazing what you can see if you stop and look. Just take a bit of time and suddenly places which you have walked past and taken for granted become things of wonder and curiosity
Mucking in - Lucy Wallace
"I try to get out every day, rain or shine, for a walk or bike-ride in my local area. I love to feel the wind on my face, hear the birds, and even just wave hello at any neighbours who are also out" writes Lucy Wallace, President of Ramblers Scotland, in her Lockdown Diaries, part of the Ramblers #RoamSweetHome campaign.
"It is the high point of my day and is helping me to adjust to the changes that are taking place in my life."
Look more closely, and more critically, at the place you live, and you're likely to notice how much rubbish has accumulated in all the neglected corners. Even the most rural places are blighted, with drinks bottles thrown from cars along the verges, and stray plastic bags snagged among the undergrowth. Why not do something about it?
We are often urged to act local, and there can't be many better examples than litter picking. After all, it is something we can actually do, right now, at a time when most people are feeling disempowered and discombobulated.
As Lucy Wallace writes:
"Walking the same routes every day has brought the finer details of my neighbourhood to my attention. One of the things that I've noticed is that I am walking past the same pieces of litter over and over again. Shiny sweetie wrappers and beer cans taunt me from the verges and gutters."
"I've always made a point of picking up rubbish that I find in the mountains, but not really thought about it in my village before. Now the village is my wild place, where I find comfort in nature, and suddenly the litter I see is even more jarring and out of place.
"I've started taking a bag and gloves with me when I head out on my walks. If I see something glinting at me from the undergrowth while I'm out, I put my gloves on and pop it in my bag.
"Picking up litter while I'm out has definitely added something to my walks. It's hard not to feel anxious about the world right now, and for many of us, myself included, not being able to do our normal things can really affect how we feel. By helping to clear up my neighbourhood, I'm doing something useful, and that helps me to feel better too."
Sometimes called plogging (a combination of litter picking and jogging), the idea of combining your walk or run with a bit of a tidy up was already gaining traction before the Coronavirus. Mountaineering Scotland are currently promoting a litter picking message through their campaign Tak it Hame, which aims to encourage the mountaineering community to remove litter and plastic from hills and crags. With the arrival of the Coronavirus restrictions things haven't gone quite to plan, so Tak it Hame has been repurposed as an activity to do on your daily exercise around the local area. It's actually more fun than it may sound!
Getting under the skin of the place you're in - Mark Reeves
On a similar theme, instructor, UKHillwalking Route Cards contributor, and Rockfax author Mark Reeves has found himself separated from his natural environment, the hills of Wales. To deal with temporary life on the suburban South Coast he has cultivated a newfound appreciation for the small details of place, as a way to find beauty in an ugly time.
"I was at my Mum's when the hammer fell" recalls Mark.
"I, like many half intelligent people, knew the lockdown was coming; I was in fact almost begging for it. Not because I wanted to stay locked in a house looking out, but underneath everything I could see the impending human tragedy unfolding across the world and coming our way."
"Being stuck in Bournemouth is like living in the upside-down for me. My home is a quarryman's cottage on the edge of Snowdonia. I can walk 500m from my house to one of the most celebrated views in Wales. A 7km run round Llyn Padarn is both wild and picturesque despite being almost roadside. In Bournemouth I have been at a bit of a loss.
"However, like one of those magic eye images, you have to look slightly off the to the side and you can find hidden beauty almost anywhere. It's about helping you look elsewhere, in places you wouldn't expect to find the some of that beauty you get from the hills and mountains. It's there in almost any urban setting, just waiting for your one government-allotted exercise slot a day."
Make the best of the green spaces you have
"Even having grown up in the area, I really don't know everywhere in the vicinity of my Mum's house - especially not for the nature walks. But with a combination of Open Street Maps for footpaths, google maps and OS mapping (top tip: you can click on a UKHillwalking Route Card route map and then toggle the map to an OS map layer and just scroll it to the area you want)."
Look for linear paths down streams, rivers or canals, suggests Mark. Once the lifeblood of commerce, these waterways are often neglected areas in and around modern towns and cities.
"Try imaginative walks in and around park spaces or golf courses (can you do a figure of 8 route that loops back on itself?)" he says. "Most cities have some form of green belt, even if it's pinned between main roads or motorways. Pop in some headphones and let some uplifting music drown out the traffic (which is in any case much reduced)."
"In the hills I'm used to casting my gaze at the ground ahead, but in towns there is not much to see with your eyes on the ground. Look up, look around! One of my favourite things to see in the town has been the old adverts that were painted on the side of buildings. Faded but still visible, these are just as much a piece of history as a drystone wall or a disused quarry.
"I remember doing an A-level in general studies, which was as painfully pointless as it sounds. Part of that was to look at 'local architecture'. I do not go about looking at buildings for fun in my day to day life, but recently while out for walks and runs I have come across a few great examples of Art Deco and Victorian architecture, and churches of various vintages. I guess like bird watching, the more you know the more you can appreciate. Try to look out for Victorian, Edwardian, Georgian, Gothic, Art Deco, Post Modern, Brutalist or any other form of architecture you can think of. Perhaps you could plan a walk around the architecture you'd hope to see.
Of course there's more to the urban landscape than the architecture. Check out the art installations or the graffiti, the shopfronts and window displays.
"I even found myself admiring an old set of cast iron railings the other day" says Mark.
Even in the grittiest of cities there is plant life in the suburbs and parks, or growing in the cracks of the paving.
"I have had a good 'nosey' into people's gardens as I've been out and about" says Mark. "The old monkey puzzles, palm trees, and all manner of garden styles from the perfect lawn that on closer inspection is high class astroturf through to ornate rockeries. In a way it is like the whole suburb is participating in an open gardens project."
Lockdown is like early morning, all day long - Hannah James-Louwerse
The selection of photos here was not taken during Corona lockdown; in fact it was put together a good few years ago - but the circumstances that Hannah James-Louwerse experienced then now resonate today.
"I had to get up early and walk across town to catch a train. There was no-one about, just the slow cleanup operation of the night before. Seeing the deserted city was a unique experience but probably similar to the way it is now for much of the day. "
"We started the 'Early Morning Project' which involved taking photos of deserted streets in the early morning light."
"I had a terrible phone camera but the photos now seem to be improved by the fact that they are a bit grainy and low resolution."
"It's amazing what you can see if you stop and look. Just take a bit of time and suddenly places which you have walked past and taken for granted become things of wonder and curiosity."
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