It’s been quite novel, these last few weeks, exploring a quieter-than-usual Devon. Truth is, I’ve quite enjoyed being able to go to places without getting stuck in traffic and, when you get there, seeing fewer people.
As the restrictions out of lockdown ease, that will change and with Devon being such a gorgeous place and so full of variety it is hard to not want more people to see it and share in everything it has to offer.
But when we do all start moving about again, how can we still experience stillness and discovery in the world around us?
Here’s some tips.
Go early – reckon getting somewhere at 9am is early enough? Think again! Think earlier the better. OK, the alarm going off physically hurts your head but it’ll be worth it when you’re enjoying a yomp across a landscape almost on your own, save for one or two other hardy souls. It’s like being in an exclusive club for early-risers.
Go late – it is still the case that you can have a place to yourself late in the day when the moochers have disappeared. Pack a hot drink, warm layers and you can truly have a mindful moment as the sun goes down.
Go around the back – some places are busy because they have good public facilities and are easy to get to. You can still visit them, just avoid the most popular ‘way in’. Be cunning, be crafty – be creative! Get your map out, look at what’s nearby and change your approach.
I had a couple ideas for visiting Fingle Bridge and neither involved the obvious routes. Instead, I parked a couple miles downriver and enjoyed a lovely but longer riverside walk with a few steep climbs that offered incredible views. It was a lovely bonus seeing dippers on the river and buzzards wheeling in the sky which I would not have seen had I taken the popular paths.
Go for it, even in the rain – Devon is blessed with one of the highest year-round temperatures in Britain. Yay for that, right? But it is also at the mercy of the Atlantic depressions. One minute the sun is showing its yellow face and the next, it’s raining stair-rods.
Getting outside in the rain might not be your cup of tea but the truth is, there are fewer people about. I’m going to admit: I enjoy hiking/running when the weather is mixed. There’s something liberating and exhilarating about it. With the right rainproof gear, you can deal with whatever the weather throws at you.
Go low-key – you know those listicle articles you see? You know ‘secret places in Devon’ or ‘best hidden beaches’ and the like? Well, ignore them. Most of them are not hidden, nor are they secret: it’s content designed to encourage clicks. Find your own hidden gems by asking locals or by exploring with your own senses. In my opinion, you’ll have a much better experience and truly see some of Devon’s lesser-explored places.
Most of all, be safe and enjoy!