As England moves into lockdown once again, here are our tips to beat the blues and keeping getting outdoors – despite the gloomy weather.

Once more into lockdown, dear friends, once more… Yes, those of us who live in England are facing at least a month of staying close to home – but you don’t have to spend the next few weeks binging Netflix series and baking inedible sourdough. The outdoors might look a little soggier and gloomier than it did in lockdown mark I, but the good news is that there’s no hour-long exercise restriction and the government is taking a more lenient approach to travel. Small mercies, hey?

What’s allowed and what isn’t?

Exercising outdoors in England is still very much on the menu – the regulations state that people can enjoy time outdoors alone, with members of their household or support bubble, or even (gasp) with one person from another household. Travelling to exercise is also permitted. “This should be done locally wherever possible,” say the government advice, “but you can travel to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)”.

On the other hand, you’re not allowed to travel from England into Wales or Scotland (other than in very specific circumstances). Overnight stays away from home – including camping – are also off limits. There’s more information available from the BMC here.

Explore locally

So, road trips to the mountains are probably out – but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan some local adventuring. Make it your mission to walk in at least one place you’ve never explored before. Take a look at our mapped routes to see if there’s anything close to you. Ask a friend to recommend their favourite walk. Or turn your local bimble into something a bit special by taking out a plant or wildlife guide and seeing what you can spot.


Image credit: Dougie Cunningham

Embrace the dark

You might not be allowed to wild camp, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the thrill of being outside after dark. This might just be the perfect time to try night walking.  “Night walking is all about anticipation, watching the colours and landscape change as you rise,” says ‘Moonwalker’ Alan Rowan. “It’s like unwrapping a birthday present – far better than seeing it just sitting there. The surprise is the best part.”

Be mindful

Mindfulness isn’t all yoga and chai lattes. It’s really just about enjoying the moment and letting your worries blow away in the breeze…and where better to do that than outside? A recent research review concluded that practicing mindfulness outdoors can have beneficial effects on mental, physical and social health. Check out this Forestry England guide to forest bathing for more information.

There’s no such thing as bad weather…

…only unsuitable clothing. If only you had a quid for every time you’ve heard that phrase, right? It might be clichéd, but that doesn’t make it less true. Even if you don’t have any hills in your immediate vicinity, dressing for bad weather is crucial if you want to take on long walks as we move into winter.

To stay warm, it’s vital to stay dry, making head-to-toe waterproof kit essential see more: best waterproof jackets – but it must also be breathable enough that condensation doesn’t become trapped inside your clothing and make you feel drenched anyway. An insulated jacket made from down or a synthetic insulating material which you can slip on to stop your body cooling down at rest and food stops is a must.

While wet weather is an obvious enemy when it comes to staying warm and comfortable, the real difficulties come when wind is part of the mix, particularly in winter. In windy weather it’s particularly important to take care of your extremities.

Eat lots of cake

Not something we’d advise if you’re slobbing about on the couch the whole day – but if you’re burning off the calories with plenty of outdoor adventure then…well, why not? Particularly if the weather is foul, it’s only sensible – indeed necessary – to liberally stuff your face with cake at every possible opportunity: before a walk (because you’re pre-loading), during it (because it’s necessary fuel) and afterwards (because you deserve a reward). As this is lockdown, you could even bake your own sweet treats….

Image credit: Dougie Cunningham

Set yourself a challenge

Remember the whole ‘Everest staircase challenge’ thing that became our lives during lockdown mark I? With no time restrictions on getting outdoors, you won’t be compelled to spend November wearing out the hall rug. Instead, how about taking on a challenge outdoors? It could be anything from the NHS ‘Couch to 5k’ to training for an ultramarathon. We’d love to hear about your lockdown challenge plans – keep us up to date on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Header image by Dougie Cunningham

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The Great Outdoors is the UK’s original hiking magazine. We have been inspiring people to explore wild places for more than 40 years.

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