How to explore whilst practising social distancing13 min read

Coronavirus has rocked everyone’s lives and its effects will be present for a long time. Whilst the lockdown in England is slowly relaxing, this and social distancing is having an impact on everyone’s mental health.

Note: The things that follow are just our opinions and interpretations of the law, government guidance and what we feel is safe. Please use your own judgement before heading out on an adventure.

To beat Coronavirus, it is so important that we follow current government guidance and also look after our physical and mental health. That’s why we were pleased by the announcement that we could exercise outside for longer and travel to do it.

Whilst the world’s scientists and doctors are focusing on finding a cure for Coronavirus, we have to accept the fact that the virus, and its effects, are going to be around for the long term. That means social distancing.

What is social distancing?

For those of you who don’t know, social distancing is a preventative measure, aimed at limiting the spread of Coronavirus. The government suggests that to social distance, you should stand no closer than 2 metres to somebody (usually not from your household) where possible.

That’s about the distance of two adults holding their arms are full length towards each other and the fingers touching.

Unlimited outdoor exercise

Since Wednesday 13 May, in England, we have been allowed to exercise outdoors for an “unlimited” time and travel as far as we want to do so. For us, that means we can head out to some of the beautiful places outside of a 30-minute walk from our home.

Just because we’ve been allowed this extra time to exercise, doesn’t mean that we can all let our guard down. It’s still really important that we take steps to ensure we keep ourselves and others safe whilst we’re out.

We’ve been thinking about how we can do that and we wanted to share with you some of the ideas we’ve had.

Choosing where to go

This one is a big one. No doubt most of you have seen some of the news articles and pictures showing packed beaches and beauty spots with an overflowing car park and no hope of social distancing. That’s why our first suggestion is to think carefully about where you go.

The most popular beauty spots and stunning beaches, especially those that were often busy before lockdown, are likely to still be very busy. Although you might think that being outdoors means plenty of space, when it comes to some of these trails, social distancing might be very difficult.

Choose somewhere that is a little bit less well known and ideally, stick to somewhere close by your own home. We’ve set ourselves the limit of driving no longer than one hour to find somewhere. If we all did that, some of these places wouldn’t get as dangeroulsy busy.

Research before you go. Start by searching for local walks that appeal to you. It could be a forest, a track beside a river or simply a stroll through a meadow. Make sure you can walk, cycle or drive there without any hassle. 

Choosing when to go

Equally as important as where to go, is when to go. We’ve been blessed with some gorgeous weather recently and because of that, we’ve known that a lot of the places we’d love to go will be very busy. Keeping a safe social distance, even on a beach, isn’t going to be easy if the suns out.

We have come up with a solution though. Most beauty spots have a peak time of between 11:00 and 15:00. Try going outside of these times to avoid the majority of the crowds.

We’ve been waking up early to visit woodland areas, nature reserves and even beaches without catching the crowds. It’s made it extra special for us because we’ve not had the worry hanging over our head about how we’re going to keep 2 metres from people.

Plus, there’s something about breathing in the fresh morning air that makes all the difference to the rest of your day.

Prepare for where you’re going

Usually when we visit somewhere, we’d love to stop and get a hot chocolate or grab some lunch from a local cafe. Unfortunately, these times mean that isn’t possible in some cases.

Know that when you get there, local shops, cafes and public toilets might be closed. Ensure you have enough food and water to keep you going for the amount of time you plan to be there. Also, without sounding like your parents, make sure you go to the toilet before setting off!

Although some places will have a shop or cafe doing takeaways, we have made a decision, that whilst the government has restrictions placed, we won’t use any of the local amenities. Every single one of us is a potential carrier, so we don’t want to risk bringing the virus with us to another community just because we forgot to bring a snack.

You don’t necessarily have to be as strict as that, but it’s wise to avoid contact with people where it can be avoided.

Don’t take unneccesary risks

That leads nicely on to our next topic. You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you might need to call for help and further stretch the NHS or needlessly put other’s at risk of transmitting or catching Coronavirus by helping you.

Avoid activities that involve a risk of injury such as rock climbing or mountain biking over rough terrain. Go somewhere that isn’t too out of the way and keep a track of where you are using a map or even your mobile phone so you don’t get lost.

Wear comfortable clothing and footwear that’s suitable for the weather and where you’re going. Take a first aid kit, a fully charged mobile phone and a torch if you plan on walking later in the evening, plus don’t forget snacks and water.

Respect other people

Be aware of other people. You will likely pass others on your walk. Make sure you keep your distance, but also smile and say hello. Social distancing can be extremely lonely for most people, so interacting with strangers will do you some good.

I know this is a hard one (especially for Megan), but resist the urge to stroke dogs. When walking near or with children, be extra mindful. They can easily forget the 2 metre rule or not see others walking. If there is someone coming with children, be sure to give them extra space.

We’re not encouraged to meet with others outside of our household, but we have been given permission to meet with one to one with someone outside of our household, as long as social distancing is maintained. If you don’t live with some who likes to walk, plan to meet a friend and, keeping 2 metres apart, explore yours or their neighbourhood.

Enjoy the outdoors

It’s not secret that we love walking. We recommend you go walking as much as you can because it’s wonderful for improving your mental health.

For some, the idea of exercising in the form of running or jogging doesn’t appeal to them in any way, which is completely understandable, but even going walking for a few hours will do wonders for the body and mind.

It can be difficult to build up the motivation to leave the house. You may find that you keep telling yourself to go for a walk, but then lose interest or find an excuse to stay in. This is common for those feeling stressed, anxious or tired. We understand the challenges the current situation brings.

Megan started to value our walks as achievements. Something as simple as getting dressed and leaving the house would thoroughly improve her mood. So we started to go out as much as we can, to ensure our mental health was growing stronger.

Going outside will instantly improve your mood. It will get your blood flowing and will wake your muscles up. If just walking doesn’t do it for you, then try some of the following.

Take something with you. Whether it’s a book, a camera or a sketchbook. Try to stay off your mobile phone. It can be tempting to check it, but we spend enough of the day scrolling through social media and soaking up negative news reports. It’s nice to take a breather and escape reality for a while. 

If you’re a beginner to getting outdoors, we wrote a handy checklist for how to prepare for a hike.

At the start of the year, we set a goal for our travel to be carbon neutral. To do that we were donating money to the Woodland Trust for each trip we made. We might not have travelled as much because of Coronavirus, but we're committed to keeping our pledge. Every £5 helps the Woodland Trust plant and nurture one tree. You can help plant more trees, too, by donating to our JustGiving page to support or visit the Woodland Trust website.

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