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Updated 15/05/2020

The hills may seem like the ideal place to self-isolate and escape the Covid-19 virus, but are they? I think we should think carefully before setting off on our intended hikes during this unprecedented time.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have been planning and training for a 2-month walk through Scotland during April and May. Dehydrated food purchased, resupply boxes packed, and I always wild camp. However, I decided to cancel the trip. I thought you may be interested in the reasons why and my plans now we have been allowed to travel as far as we like to exercise.

Reasons for cancelling my April & May hike

Firstly, I could already be carrying the virus and may then spread it to remote communities that do not already have it.

I may become ill on the trek and it could be difficult for my family to pick me up.

I had planned to use trains and buses to get to the start of the walk in Kirk Yetholm, and I do not feel safe using this at the moment. Even if I drive up to Scotland, I may have an accident (increasing pressure on an already struggling NHS) or break down (increasing social contact and reliance on other people to help me out).

If I become ill or injured during the walk, I may have to call out the over-stretched rescue services. This is unfair. They may not even be there to come out if they’re self-isolating.

Many of the usual services I use along the way like shops, cafes, accommodation and transport may be closed due to lack of stock or lack of staff.

So with all this in mind, I am not undertaking this hike at the moment.

My views on hiking and Covid-19

If you planning a relatively short hike – a few days or less – and can carry everything you’ll need for the hike, then there shouldn’t be a problem. Consider planning a hike that is within walking distance of home. This is easier for some than others, but these are challenging times. You may discover a local route you didn’t know existed!

We did this as a family and found some fantastic walks in our local county of Norfolk: the Weavers’ Way and the Boudicca Way, for example.

It is also really important that your planned route is well within your capabilities so you can stay safe.

At the current time (12th May 2020), government advice is that if you are self-isolating, you can leave the house for exercise as often as you like as long as you keep away from other people as much as possible. You can now travel as far as you like to exercise, but remember Scotland and Wales is still closed to hikers.

However, if there’s a chance you may need other people’s help or services, then I would probably stay home and plan a different walk. This is not just for yourself but also thinking of others.

If nothing else is possible, read about others people’s hikes and plan walks for next year. Stay safe everybody.

My plans for the next few months

I am planning to start another walk in June 2020, walking from Dover to Cape Wrath. This will include the previously planned Scottish National Trail, which I cannot start now because Scotland is still closed to walkers travelling in. I hope it will be when I arrive there in July and I can continue my walk or I’ll be heading home.

To meet some of my concerns mentioned above, I will be as self sufficient as possible. My wife will be driving me to the start and resupplying me as often as she can. I will also be wild camping every night. You can read more here.

13th May 2020 update: 2 days after writing this the government updated their plans again, there’s now a question mark over the start of this walk. They now say we cannot stay overnight in another home, so there may be an issue with wild camping/staying away from home overnight. It depends on how you interoperate the rules.

15th May 2020 update. Many National Park websites say no camping overnight. This is a good example https://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/about-us/how-we-work/coronavirus-update

20th May 2020 update. The government has made it clear that you should return home at the end of the day after exercise. Also many National parks and popular tourist destinations are extremely busy, so social distancing is difficult.

12th June 2020 update. Or you could just go by the Dominic Cummings example: If you can get away with it, it’s fine to do as you like. (in protest of him getting away with breaking the rules, I went straight out and finished the last 5 days of my around Norfolk walk. I had no issues at all, but did socially distance at all times, wild camping etc. I came into contact with less people than if I had stayed at home and feel much better for it) Good luck and Stay safe every one…

Further Reading

Ramblers advice on Covid-19

2 Replies to “Hiking and Covid-19”

  1. Hi Mark, Appreciate your thoughts here on Covid19, the great outdoors & the TGO link too. It’s still a tough judgement call to make, after the months of planning & preparation. But I’m sure, letting this go, is right action in these circumstances. I’m certainly postponing my 2 week backpacking trip around S. Wales in May. Hopefully the situation will have improved by the autumn, we’ll have to see. In the meantime I’ll limit my walkabout urges to my local hills. Stay well, journey well.

    1. Hi Mark.
      Sorry to hear this. A difficult decision for you to take but I think the wisest one.
      I too was planning a long one, from the Mull of Galloway back to Shetland, but have had to make the same decision. I have been upping my training since December so am pretty fit at the moment. I will do a few 2 or 3 day overnighters here in Shetland (Home) where I still have some unfinished Business.
      All the best to you.
      Cheers,
      Neil

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