Posted inTravel

Freedom in the familiar: how to appreciate your hometown during lockdown

Last year, I wrote an article exploring the concept of the “staycation” and local travel amidst lockdown restrictions.[1]  At the time, it seemed as if we were nearing the end of the pandemic, and even if we weren’t allowed abroad, travel over the expanse of the United Kingdom via train or car was very much allowed and being encouraged by the government in a bid to boost the economy.

Now, with the recent announcement of a second full lockdown, this is no longer feasible. Bearing this in mind, how can we still find a sense of adventure and exploration amongst the toughest of Covid-19 restrictions?  Can we still have fun in the great outdoors, with the looming threat of the new Covid strain?

I propose that we very much can.

Coming back from Oxford, I always find that my hometown seems boring in comparison to the hustle and bustle of busy, college-lined streets.  Without the looming presence of Christ Church’s Tom Tower, I feel almost lost amongst the grey of the streets near my childhood home.

To remedy this, I’ve started cycling or walking out to the countryside.  Sometimes it can be a way to get away from my desk, and the suffocating company of essay deadlines.  Sometimes it can be how I take my daily, government-allowed form of exercise.  Other times, it’s just an excuse to binge-listen to my favourite podcasts.  But every time I go, regardless of where I go and for how long, I always find something new.

One time, I walked out of Basingstoke for two hours or so, towards the church that Jane Austen used to visit. On the way, my dog and I disturbed the peace and quiet of a whole flock of sheep, I found a beautiful secluded wood with a pond for my dog to swim in, and a field full of crops which were as almost as tall as me. 

Another time, I walked through my local graveyard and discovered that a Victorian woman had been buried alive there not once, but twice, scaring the local school boys who would play in the graveyard during their break.[2]  

The UK is full of little gems like this; remnants of folklore like the grave of 18th century farmgirl Kitty Jay in Dartmoor, where visitors today still leave flowers,[3] or just beautiful scenery.  There is always something nearby to explore, and you may surprise yourself in how much you find, or how far you can cycle in a day.

And if planned walks aren’t your thing, the last lockdown saw the rise of apps like ‘Randonautica’, which gives you a random set of coordinates to walk to, encouraging users to explore the nooks and crannies of their local area.[4]  Other apps, like Routeshuffle, give you a random route to follow on a run, walk, or cycle, with you providing where you want to start and how far you want to go.[5]  Whether or not you stumble upon a hidden historic gem, or just see some pretty wildlife, varying up your walks and cycles will be one of the few ways to get some adventure into your life in the coming months, and it can be really, really worth it.