April is normally the time of year that we hit the road with our 9-seater vans and start out on the first treks of our season. April is normally the month we stretch our legs, meet new customers, and greet returning friends. Not this April. For so many people around the world restrictions are in place due to Covid-19 which mean our freedoms have been curtailed to ensure our health.
The guidelines here in the Scotland are to exercise once a day from home, not to drive to the location of your exercise, and to stay off the hills and mountains so as not to put strain on the emergency services in the event of a remote accident – all fair and reasonable restrictions given the circumstances.
So, the obvious question arose. Where can I walk to from my back door? I had my usual 2 or 3 routes I had done for years from the house. However, I like variety and set out to find it on my Wednesday wanders.
Each Wednesday in April I took time out from the office with the aim of walking a new route from my back door. In doing so I not only found byways, bridleways and old drove roads that I never knew existed, but I also found myself looking more closely at what was around me; taking my time to make the most of being outdoors and the time away from the house.
The first step was to scour the local 1:25000 scale map and try to link marked paths into some sort of circular route. I accepted that I would need to walk on the roads as well, something I usually try to avoid, but they were significantly quieter than usual. I often jump in my car at the first opportunity and head to the Highlands for my outdoor fix. But, I found myself enjoying these wanders in the gentle Borders countryside and appreciating a little more what I have right here.
Through the month I noticed the changes of spring. From the Gorse showing its first flowers at the beginning of the month, to swathes of yellow at the end, and that sweet coconut smell in the warm air. The tree buds turned to leaves, with the first Beech leaves arriving late in the month. The weather was incredible, and each walk was dry, sunny and the views stretched through clear air. The lambs on the farms were thriving in the sunshine. The more I walked the luckier I felt.
Wildlife became more noticeable. I met many Hare and Roe Deer, both bounding off when alerted to my presence. Coots, Moor Hens and Mallards also disturbed by my footsteps made noisy efforts to enforce social distancing. It was on the second of my Wednesday wanders, as the Coots shouted their displeasure at my appearance near the water, that I noted how noisily I must move through the outdoors; snapping twigs with my feet, the constant rustle of clothing or rucksack, even my breathing seemed to be amplified once I paid attention to it. As humans our presence in nature is not a subtle one.
I tried recording on my phone the echoing hammering of a woodpecker in the trees above the Riddell Estate, but of course it had finished its search for insects the moment I pressed record. It was a peaceful 5 minutes of listening nonetheless, and I would stop and just listen more frequently on my walks thereafter.
I would also stop to note the roadside and woodland flowers; Forget-me-not, wood anenome, wild primrose and viola; and I paid even more attention to the stuff I could not identify. The bird life was abundant, and I particularly enjoyed spotting the Lapwings, both on the ground with their distinctive crest and in flight with their paddle-like wings flashing black and white. Buzzards were always present and Yellowhammers darted among the hedgerows.
On the 4 Wednesdays of April I took 4 different and new-to-me routes, each time wondering why I hadn’t been that way before. New views of familiar landmarks and local hills were rewarding, and I enjoyed seeing my locality from fresh perspective. As long as I am forced to stay local, I will continue these Wednesday wanderings, but beyond any “lockdown” or restricted travel I’ll think twice before jumping in the car to go for a walk, when there is so much to see right here.
Obviously, we are keeping a keen eye on developments around the current travel restrictions, when these might be lifted and what that means for our treks. We will update you by email if anything changes which affects your trek or booking as soon as any decision is made. Keep an eye out for those emails and if you have any questions just drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. For now, we hope you are managing to enjoy a walk or two from home. Stay safe.