Month in Review: January 2021

It was inevitable, wasn’t it, that ‘Lockdown 3.0’ would soon follow the dawn of 2021. While many of us were pleased to see the tail-end of 2020, this pandemic was not about to disappear or take a year off. This time of year and in these colder months, can present enough of a challenge for people without the intervention of a virus and a government that fails to act in good time.

Being active is probably more important now than it ever has been. With all these rules about staying local, I knew that I’d at least be able to walk.

02/01 – 8.5 miles – Sand Point (Weston-super-Walkers)
04/01 – 4.5 mile run – Wick St. Lawrence, North Somerset
06/01 – 2 mile run – St. Georges, Weston-super-Mare
10/01 – 9.75 miles – Sand Point (Doorstep Walk)
12/01 – 2 mile run – St. Georges, Weston-super-Mare
14/01 – 2 mile run – St. Georges, Weston-super-Mare
15/01 – 2 mile run – St. Georges, Weston-super-Mare
16/01 – 2 mile run – St. Georges, Weston-super-Mare
17/01 – 7.5 miles – Monk’s Steps (Doorstep Walk)
18/01 – 3.5 mile run- St. Georges, Weston-super-Mare
20/01 – 2 mile run – St. Georges, Weston-super-Mare
21/01 – 2 mile run – St. Georges, Weston-super-Mare
22/01 – 2 mile run – St. Georges, Weston-super-Mare
24/01 – 9.5 miles – Sand Bay and Sand Point (Doorstep Walk)
25/01 – 4.5 mile run – Wick St. Lawrence, North Somerset
27/01 – 2 mile run – St. Georges, Weston-super-Mare
28/01 – 2 mile run – St. Georges, Weston-super-Mare
29/01 – 2 mile run – St. Georges, Weston-super-Mare
30/01 – 2 mile run – St. Georges, Weston-super-Mare
31/01 – 9.25 miles – Weston Woods (Doorstep Walk)

Total for January 2021 = 81 miles
(This includes 36.5 miles of running)

Middle Hope near Sand Point.

At a quick glance, you can look at the list above and see that I was active for twenty days in January. Meanwhile, I’ve been working (and travelling to my workplace) on a full-time basis. I’m impressed by how high my mileage has been for this past month, while following the ethos to ‘Stay Local’.

Merrell BareAccess XTR barefoot-style running shoes.

Much of this is attributed to the regular habit of running. This is something I started in the daylight and May last year and, with the latter onslaught of winter, it took me until November to really get in to evening runs… Which has been a challenge. Physically, pounding on roads, cycle paths and pavement is not good for my joints. I minimise my time and distances for that reason. But my activity has remained very regular.

Distant view of the Mendip Hills from my local fields.

Staying local, then. Some will tell me that “there are no laws” to prevent one from travelling. Others might believe that we’re restricted to ‘one hour’s exercise per day’… Which isn’t true. To me, the rules are quite clear and I did follow them through January. Believe me, I was keen to travel slightly further up to the Mendip Hills – where I might encounter fewer people… But I’ve also read, several times, of how the Police are “cracking down” on people travelling ‘without an acceptable reason’.

Car parks and being monitored; fines being issued. I don’t like all the scaremongering, given the government did sweet f**k all to control things during the first and most strict lockdown, almost a year ago now. But I can’t justify paying £100-200 for the privilege of walking somewhere a few miles up the road.

Sand Bay, the morning after snow fell (everywhere else but here).

Sand Point and Sand Bay have been regular haunts for my self-titled ‘Doorstep Walks’ of late. It was the feature of my first walk after moving to the area, almost two years ago. Then, at the start of Lockdown 1.0, I did a similar ‘doorstep walk’ out there and back.

Brewing a cup of tea halfway around on my walk.

Strictly speaking, “picnics” are not allowed during this lockdown and I presume this to mean ‘group gatherings outdoors’, as opposed to lone walkers or couples pausing along the way and provided they remain distanced from others. Neither is there any firm limit on how far we can travel while exercising or for how long we may remain outside (sensibility suggests that we should be crossing counties, for example).

I’ve taken it upon myself to make a habit of stopping for a cup of tea around halfway. Sometimes, when I can suitably distance myself from others; I’ll even make time to get the stove out. Otherwise, I’ll just carry a flask. But I do not stop for lunch. Others may disagree but I feel that’s perhaps taking things a bit too far. I leave early, with the intention of returning home in time for an isolated lunch.

Worlebury Camp Iron Age Hillfort, to the western end of Weston Woods.

Along with those Sand-y areas to the north, I recently paid my first proper visit to Weston Woods for several years. I know it as a hotspot for local dog walkers and runners (not to mention dogging and dog poo!). I felt it was inevitable that I’d have to revisit it at some point and I’ll write about this shortly. I passed over Worlebury Camp – a forgotten Iron Age Hillfort – en route down to Birnbeck Pier.

Birnbeck Pier.

This pier’s saga runs on, having recently changed ownership between two companies… Both of which are headed by the same businessman! I’ve read this week that North Somerset Council remain determined for force through a Compulsory Purchase Order, so that they can then hand it over to the RNLI and then, work can begin on restoring the Victorian structure and giving them a proper lifeboat station.

To cut a long story short… Birnbeck Pier has been closed to the public since 1994, due to safety concerns and, for the past decade, the owner has been as effective in maintaining it as Boris Johnson was in responding to everything ‘Coronavirus’ last year!

“Snow” in Weston-super-Mare… January 2021.

We haven’t seen any real snow in this part of the world for two-years, now. I can remember February 2019 and in a time just before I moved to this town. Certainly, there has been an amount of snow up on higher ground but, of course, that’s been out-of-reach for many of us. These sub-zero temperatures we’re all enduring this week have been quite torturous, in the sense that, for all of our suffering, we’re not even being rewarded with the white stuff.

Mud remains prevalent, as ever at this time of year. Some have recently claimed that “Lockdown Walkers” are to blame… Yet, for those of us who have often ventured out during the British winter, we know too well that the mud is always wet and sometimes deeper than we might anticipate!

In a way, I’m pleased to see that many are continuing to ‘get outside’ during these dismal months. It’s all we can do. As much I also yearn for that time, space and freedom away from life and its many others! I have noticed a couple of growing issues… One is where cyclists (unaware or not) are choosing to cycle along public footpaths and not only bridleways (we’re talking about climbing over stiles and squeezing through kissing gates). Additionally, as “less experienced” walkers take to muddy paths, those ways are widening, as the majority try to find the ‘safest’ way through, clear of the bog and yet, create more of a mess for other walkers and runners to follow. Some landowners will not be best pleased.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently, pounding on manufactured ground. Not only in my runs but on weekend walks; heading to and from those green spaces. This has led me to feel less inclined to done my waterproof but heavy leather boots too often… I’m reaching for the trail shoes more often; albeit, with the risk of my feet getting wet and cold. Again, leaving early is the key in order to minimise my exposure to and risk of contact with others.

I’ve found it interesting, though. All of these alleyways and cycle paths that I wouldn’t otherwise acquaint myself with, given the time and freedom to explore places like the Quantock Hills or Brecon Beacons. There’s been something ‘new’ to me on every walk so far. I do feel that I am running out of fresh options (if things haven’t dried up already). But I appreciate the contrast between what’s green and grey, as much as I like walking to escape the latter!

I do live on the edge of a somewhat dismal seaside town… But, when it comes to it, I do have some decent walks available from my doorstep.

Current total for 2021 = 81 miles

Thanks for reading.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

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