How many of us puzzled over what we could or could not do regarding our ‘daily exercise’ in those early days of lockdown? There were a couple of objects in the museum when I thought about the (very important) aspect of our restricted freedoms – the bikes in the upstairs gallery, including a very early motorised bike (a 1949(ish) Norman Autocycle, go and check it out when the museum re-opens), but it had to be the rather battered pair of boots that represented the upsurge in the Cornish, if not the national, taking of a daily constitutional. Wasn’t it confusing at first though? The ‘daily’ meant that I could either go out for a run, or walk the dog, so my running miles dropped, and my gig-rowing was definitely out of the question. How long could we go out for? That too was unclear. Was it 30 minutes, an hour?
One of the restrictions in the early days of lockdown was the number of people who could be out at one time. There was a hilarious meme that captured this – a dog on top of kitchen cupboards, with a speech bubble ‘Hell no, I am not coming down. I have been walked by every person in this family today.’
Another question was – could you drive to walk? My husband and I love taking Bessie, our black Labrador, out to explore parts of Cornwall… but that was also out of the question in those early days of lockdown. Like many people I’ve spoken to, we discovered paths we didn’t know about near to our home. That was one of the ‘ups’ on the coronacoaster, taking pleasure in what really was within reach of home. There were many times out on the headland near Mylor when we would see friends and neighbours out walking and say how grateful we were to live in a beautiful part of the world. Daily exercise was certainly a lockdown highlight, particularly when the weather was so lovely.
In walking, particularly where there was almost no traffic noise, nature really put on a show. At the end of March, we were in meteorological spring, but the branches were bare. At walking pace, we could witness nature unfurl into shades of green. The gorse was already vibrant on the headland, speckled with primrose and violets. Then the hedgerows filled. The birds that perched in the trees seemed louder. There was just less man-made noise for them to complete. At three-miles-an-hour, these were the markers of lockdown.
In mid-April, around Easter, clarification came that it was lawful to drive to exercise, but it still wasn’t straightforward. You could probably drive somewhere, if your walk was longer than your drive… and you could probably stop for refreshments, but you couldn’t have refreshments if you didn’t exercise for longer than the refreshment stop.
It’s a happy coincidence that trending this week is the astonishing fact that the NHS’s Couchto5k app had a 92% increase in downloads to the same period a year ago. It seems that one of the benefits of lockdown, was that we really did take to our feet. It is up to us to keep up one of the potential upsides of life in lockdown, and maybe mend our worn-out boots.
Citizen Curator Volunteer.