Since the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve all needed to stay closer to home and for many of us that has involved exercising locally too. It has really opened my eyes up to some of the spots we have on our doorstep.
When restrictions were introduced in March 2020, I made a commitment to do either a daily run or a daily walk. To begin with I stuck to routes I knew well but as time marched on, I explored paths less trodden.
I use Ordnance Survey maps all the time; I love sitting down with a paper map, scanning it to see where paths link up and plotting routes. OS Maps have a fantastic app which includes the ability to search for walks, runs or cycle rides near you.
Devon has more than 3,000 public rights of way. Devon County Council has a useful interactive map which you can use to find ones near you or check out their Explore Devon site – it’s full of great content.
I was already familiar with a long distance footpath which passed within yards of my front door and spent some time exploring sections of it. The John Musgrave Heritage Trail was created by the namesake, himself a keen rambler. It is a 35-mile trail running through Torquay to Brixham via pretty villages, Norman castles and quiet rural lanes.
I found new woodlands – well, they had always been there but I’d just noticed them – old drove roads along which cattle were shepherded to summer pastures and looked around prehistoric settlements and field systems on hilltops with fantastic views.
I’ve visited these places throughout the seasons and have loved seeing the various colours of nature, the wildlife and the agricultural changes. There have been times when I’ve spotted a bird and hastily made a note on my phone of its markings so I could identify it later on. Never did I think I would become excited about seeing a bullfinch or goldfinch but there you go.
And so it was that last May I found myself rising at 4.30am, International Dawn Chorus Day, to sit in my garden and listen to nature’s symphony. The dawn was damp and grey clouds hung overhead but I threw on a bundle of layers, made a flask of coffee and stepped into my garden just as a bat flip-flapped through. I sat for a long time listening to all the noises: blackbirds, robins and house sparrows. Oh, and seagulls too (but they don’t count because they are always mewing).
I think being forced into a situation where you cannot move about as freely as you please does encourage you to look deeper, closer and more carefully at the world around you. During the initial lockdown there was a certain thrill about having usually busy roads to yourself, hearing the birds above anything else and seeing nature flourish.
A few days ago as the rain fell in sheets and the wind blew like a trumpet, I togged up in waterproofs and stumbled up the road, happening upon a small clump of snowdrops on a patch of grass beside the road. In previous years, I’d travelled to places to see them in abundance yet here they were. There was something joyful about them – waving, bobbing and beckoning their delicate white heads metres from my house.
If anything can entice to explore from your front door, it’s the prospect of what you might see.