Usually at this time of year, I'm busy planning, signing up for trail running and open water swimming events in Wales or the Lake District and organising camping trips around them. But the current situation we find ourselves in has put a temporary stop to all that for now. So, I have found myself having to think of other ways to fill my time and get my exercise fix.
The reason I do all these things is not just for exercise, although that is important to me! Being active helped me to overcome post-natal depression as a young mum and I still find it grounds me, helps me to relax, unwind and clear my head. It’s like my therapy - there is something special about running and swimming outdoors, being surrounded by nature, I find it so much more invigorating than going to the gym.
My love of nature began when I was a child - although I would never have admitted it! Our family holidays and days out were very different to my friends. I was a reluctant participant of walking holidays in Scotland and Wales. While my friends went on lovely seaside holidays, we were being attacked by midges in Scotland and I can’t even look at an earwig without revolting memories flooding back of the infestation we had in the caravan we stayed in once!!
Growing up, I was embarrassed that our Friday night family entertainment consisted of looking at photos and slides of plants and fungi that my Stepdad Tom took as an amateur photographer. Clearly, looking back now some of my family’s enthusiasm and passion for walking and spending time outdoors seeped into me because I am now an enthusiastic advocate for spending as much time as possible outdoors and inflicted the same (what I would have described as) pain I experienced as child on my own children in their younger days.
I am so thankful now to have had such opportunities as a child because I am finding that now more than ever, I crave that connection with nature and getting my daily outdoor fix to help me through each day. I am fortunate enough to be working from home and to live in the countryside, so this is relatively easy for me to do. Over the last few weeks, I have discovered that I am a creature of habit and like routine, I think it makes me feel safe. I start my day with an early walk with my dogs- my preparation for my working day and end the day with a run usually, this helps me to expel any worries.
I thought I was quite an observant person, but I think when you have beauty on your doorstep, you perhaps become blind to it and stop noticing as much. So, I have made a conscious effort to be more aware and appreciative of my local surroundings while I am out walking or running. I have noticed the smells, the beauty and the sounds of nature. One of my routes is elevated and during this spell of nice weather the views have been stunning. On Sunday it was particularly clear, and I was blown away by the spectacular views across to Winter Hill, and Chorley nestled below it. To the West I could see Blackpool Tower and Southport and then towards the North the Trough of Bowland and in the far distance the outline of the Lake District. It made me think about my two sons- all grown up and living away from home and my colleagues, who I am missing, but I know are safe at this time.
I have also used this time to explore new local walks and research new birds and wildlife I have spotted. I have been brushing up on my photography skills as well, snapping away, just on my phone, but it is amazing what good images you can capture. I like the challenge of snapping a good shot that I can be proud of with basic equipment. I share the successful photos on social media to help stay connected, support and bring a bit of enjoyment to other people, friends and family who maybe aren’t fortunate to be able to get out as much or at all. I am planning to take my SLR camera out with me in the coming weeks (whilst adhering to govt guidelines) and step the photography up a bit!
Nature gives me so much pleasure and happiness, so I wanted to give something back. While I have been at home, I have dedicated an area in my garden to growing wildflowers and bought more bird feeders to encourage different species in my garden for me to watch and keep me motivated while working.
I have learnt a few lessons over the last few weeks and when this is all over, I am going to carry on running locally for free! And perhaps sign up to some more local runs to support the Lancashire community-there is something so special about running in an organised event- and continue making time to do things I enjoy, slow the pace of life down to savour everything it has to offer.