The UK Lockdown as a reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic included the immediate concession to take exercise by one episode of walking, running or cycling each day. This later became refined through a combination of journalists’ persistence with pinning down the details so that they could catch out rule breakers; and those who were supposed to be setting the example making interpretations that suited what they wanted to do personally. Confusion evolved on how far, how long and whether driving to the exercise was an essential journey. We (the better half and me) decided it was important for several reasons to make best use of this concession. Firstly we thought that the best chance of seeing the disease off, when it came to our turn to roll the dice, lay in maintaining a degree of fitness, but also we liked going outside and sitting indoors all day would definitely test our sanity.
Despite the passing years we retain sufficient fondness for each other that it appeared obvious we should undergo this daily exercise together. This preference, and the fact we live near the top of a hill, immediately ruled out running and cycling. We are not strangers to walking, in all terrains and in all conditions, but of late the age deterioration of my lower limbs means walking involves a degree of pain. The pain varies from background, “just get on with it” to an excruciating level with conviction that the next downward step will result in the irreparable collapse of the bone structure in my legs. This hasn’t stopped the adventures, it’s just that covering distances has become something I like to do by bike.
Initially I struggled to see an attraction in walking from home along routes I had covered many times and felt this would be something that needed doing rather than something enjoyable. I’m pleased to say that as with many things I was proved completely wrong.
We looked to innovate on route choice using maps to keep things fresh and managed to achieve a number of “I didn’t know that was here” events which included a hidden valley (to us – actually it incorporates an extensive signed path network) and a route leading across fields to finish along the River Medway that has gained the accolade of our favourite local walk. The Covid Walks took place during a spring of sunny weather in Kent and even repeating the same routes became an opportunity to observe the emergence of the natural world from winter. The bluebells came and went, and we started to notice new wildflowers and spent time absorbed in identifying them on the return from the walks.
I’d like to say that the resumption of regular walking had a miracle effect in easing the pain, but that would be a stretch of the truth. It is true that the reawakening has led to a conclusion that the reward outweighs the hardship, and now I’m straining at the leash for the situation with the virus to be safe enough to permit travels further afield to recommence. I also appreciate that for many people their encounter with this disease has not been so positive an outcome.