It's a worrying time for any business or individual working in outdoor activities, says Kate Worthington. "But each new day is another opportunity to create a little win..."
'Keep safe and well' – we hear that a lot, don't we. I am very thankful that I am indeed keeping safe and well. I want this for the world. Are you fraying around the edges a little, though? I am trying to ignore my edges, to be honest, by keeping thoughts focused and centred.
To my family and friends; the message swaps, Zoom calls and humorous social media posts keep my spirits up. The Things With Faces Facebook group is a saviour in our house – check it out. I may also forget how to drive, soon. And I have never walked or run so many times up and down the 300m accessible stretch of Afon Nant Peris before. But it's a wonderful section of river to launch the legs by, walk the dog, watch for sunrise birds and glance up at the surrounding high peaks – sometimes even shrouded in cloud, in this amazing spell of spring weather. And I'm imagining the wind on their backs and the quiet they hide.
My family and I live in a very unique and humbling location, inside the boundary of Snowdonia National Park, and nestled in the small village of Nant Peris, at the foot of the looming Llanberis Pass. Its upper reaches were filled with hail clouds recently, after a month of wall to wall sunshine, and there was even snow again on the tops at the beginning of May. And then the cuckoos calling, spring flowers and lush new leaves burst into life.
It's a worrying time for any business or individual relying on income from instructing outdoor activities, or outdoor events
In Nant Peris, the mountains around us are still alive and breathing, with all their rocks and streams, heathers and mosses, hawthorn and slate, ravens and stonechats. I felt strangely comforted by a brief turn in the weather a while back. It felt like it had been bone-dry and sunny for too long (for North Wales), which added to my befuddlement in our current Covid-19 situation. I was actually excited to be running in hail again that morning; feeling the thwack of sharp grains in my eyes and wind against my cheeks. Mountain-weather drama; I miss it.
Very recent amendments in Welsh Government legislation have now 'allowed' people in Wales to exercise more than once a day from their home – my heart skipped – and the type of exercise isn't as rigidly defined. Although some would argue the definition of exercise that does not 'involve a significant degree of risk' is very open to interpretation, the obvious questions being whose risk, and whose perception of risk? The debate continues...
On 26 March, Welsh Government put in place legislation that prohibited access to certain National Park amenities and areas of open access land and public rights of way, in order to further quell the movement of people towards 'busy, beauty hot spots', and help to protect local communities and NHS Wales. It was a strong message to send to the rest of the UK.
It just so happens that we live surrounded mostly by land that is currently inaccessible in this context. But we've stayed gloriously local and completed some litter picks near the house and up the Llanberis Pass road, including clearing out a stream bed full of storm-washed litter and debris near our house. And, with tolerance and patience, this specific set of circumstances will end, we'll go further again soon, little by little – and maybe with someone else from outside our household.
Don't get me wrong, I love the slow-time walks with just my family – I've cherished this extra space together, but I'm also sorely missing my intrepid, beautiful, kooky, lively, supportive, funny and much-loved friends and wider family. But myself and my team at home are by no means disadvantaged in the bigger scheme of life. We are but a tiny part of the world working hard against this virus and we are safe and well for now. I do worry for the immediate future, though, as Wales and the rest of the UK try to navigate a safe way out of lockdown.
Day to day, home-school frolics take precedence during the week – and we try to keep to a daily routine and weekday/weekend household schedule to avoid too much languishing. I think the routine is for me more than anyone else! If we let ourselves flail too much, that's when we realise the enormity of it all, and it's not always pretty to face. Our daughter sorely misses her school friends in person, but we have our dog, Nonny, and their sister-like relationship is about as good as it gets. As a family, we've all had our tears, frustrations and the need to hide in a separate room. But we are also enjoying being thrown together more and catching up on quality family time that is usually becoming sparse at this time of year, when our mountain activities business is starting to boom operationally and Ross and I are usually needing to be in five places at once. The high-pressure cooking pot is letting off some steam and slowing to a simmer. And our 'Gin Shelf' collection is rapidly depleting. We can't simmer for too long…
Keeping on top of general business administration, jiggling finances and lack of cash flow, loan applications, grant applications, phone calls to the bank, contact with clients, emails with the accountant, sifting through application papers, completing long overdue tasks on the to-do list brings us back down to the earth with a massive bump each day, as we take turns on managing the business and managing the house (also known as everything else in life).
It's a worryingly uncertain time for any business or individual relying on income generated from instructing traditional outdoor activities, organising outdoor events, or linked to any form of traditional or adventure tourism. When or how will this sector be able to begin treading lightly into operation, in different UK countries? Will the public want to engage and take advantage of what the UK has to offer for outside exercise and adventure, in an organised and 'professionally facilitated' way? Or will we fear travel and engaging formally with activities, groups and associated instructors and equipment etc? The outdoor sector community is worried for its longer-term activity and economic health. There will be a way through, though, albeit with more questions than answers currently. And, more importantly and as far as I know, there has been little illness amongst those we know within our local community. We feel fortunate for this every day.
As a Mountain Leader, I received training to uphold the ethic of looking after oneself, as a group leader, before trying to manage the group. I take this concept into my life generally, and especially now. As per my usual life routine, I'm still up before 0500 every day, either to run outside, to exercise at home, to tick off work tasks or to create some me-space in the house. The recent amendment in Wales to be able to exercise more than once a day has enabled me to increase my running training again, without continual negotiation with the family and the dog. I don't have to negotiate as hard for wine-time, thank goodness!
If I can't look after myself at this time, I am no good to my family, for their support and emotional and practical needs. If I can't keep (mostly) strong and positive, I'm not able to give thoughts and time to my friends. I feel like I'm working hard at this every day – it keeps me motivated and focused. Many days I gain little wins (hint: make objectives small). Some days are complete bloopers and it's good to start again tomorrow. And maybe that's why I fall asleep on the sofa each evening, pretty exhausted – mentally pooped more than anything. Ten tear olds don't want to go to bed too early… but I do! Because each new day is another opportunity to create a little win.