Lambs on the River Ribble Bank
Its March – Spring time in full flow – Lets remind ourselves its not all doom and gloom!
In a few years time we’ll look back on this period, questioning did it really happen..? Were we really prisoners in our own homes? unable to see friends or family, schools closed, and a list of restrictions as long as your arm…
This is a short Lockdown Chronicle, or my Wuhan Project diaries…
I’m sure that you’ve got your own memories of this period and maybe your own diary…? I will keep adding to the story every few days.
Little would we know that a virus that emanated from a ‘wet’ food market in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019, would lead to the shutting down of most of the ‘developed world’ some 10 weeks later. The effects of the Coronavirus or Corvid-19 as it is also known have moved at a very fast pace, some nations being almost dismissive of it one week, are then in a state of sudden direction change and strict lockdown the following week – the UK being one of those countries. By mid-March, Europe has now become the centre of this outbreak, with Italy, Spain and France being worst affected in that order.
Before the Lockdown – The Last Escape… Go North to Big Wide Open Spaces!
As the Coronavirus was starting to get a grip of society in Europe and seeing Italy, Spain and France going into lock down, I decided to seize the opportunity of a ‘last’ big-ride before the UK was in the same state. I had hoped for a Highlands foray, all the more so because I had been planning to attempt a Winter Highland Trail 550, however the conditions over the winter months were never that favourable and an attempt would have been pretty futile, not to mention miserable and probably quite dangerous as well in the shockingly poor weather – so perhaps save that one for another year – it’ll still be there…! So for this big ride, I decided it will be from the door and basically just pedal north to the Scottish borders. My loose plan was to spend the night at the Chalk Memorial Bothy (see pictures), this would be about 250km, mostly backroads, but a few trail sections as well. I had visited this bothy before on my Southern Upland Way rides, it was just a plain hut then, with no character, unloved and pretty scruffy, however in the last couple of years it has been transformed, lovingly so and has had a Dowling stove added for warmth and some caring artwork added to the interior walls, making it feel like a little library, a haven of warmth and comfort in the forests and mountains.
As the journey progressed, my objective destination was looking like it would be a late arrival (midnight-ish), so I plugged for a deviation into the Lowther Hills and this would take me past another little bothy – Kettleton Byre, I had visited this bothy before but not stayed at it, more importantly it was 40km nearer and as it happened it turned out to be a perfect peaceful stopover. A small mixture of photos are above, unfortunately it does not capture all of the wildlife I saw – many Red Kites, a Badger, several Deer, several Hare’s, a lovely Hedgehog and a couple of Owls. The following day I would cycle another 100km or so to meet the family at Dalbeattie, for a further couple of days of walks and exploring.
The daily updates on the news were now hinting a change of track by the government, so far trying to ‘contain’ the virus by tracking known sources, instead it was to move to ‘delay’ and this would mean the introduction of far stricter measures, akin to Italy, Spain and France …i.e. A Lockdown.
Apart from nature continuing on as normal, normal life for those in the developed world (i.e. ‘us’) has changed beyond recognition. Governments are telling people to ‘Stay at Home’, this message is loud and clear. The less contact there is, the less the spread of the virus and unlike other flu virus’s (even man-flu!), Covid-19 is much more prolific in its transmission and as yet there is no vaccine available. Schools are closed and all but essential work is permitted, or to work from home if that is possible (like my good self). Strict measures are in place for leaving your home, thankfully in the UK you are permitted to leave home for exercise once a day and then being careful, keeping it local and trying to keep a distance from another people. New terms enter our daily vocabulary, such as; ‘social distancing’ and ‘furloughed’ (an arrangement for companies to send workers home and seek reimbursement from the government), oh and yes – ‘Joe Wicks’ now a household name!
Some thoughts on my mind after that last long ride…
After hearing the UK news and reading recent stories, do you not think that we are dealing with this at a ‘micro level’, perhaps it’s all we can do..? Governments of the developed world, large businesses and society in general have all been brought to their knees by Covid-19. But is Covid-19 the problem or mankind itself? We have taken from this planet like no other species – land, oceans and sky are all polluted, unsustainable population growth and consumption. Is this Mother Nature’s warning shot? Nature has no conscience, it will do what it has to do. Life comes and goes on this planet on a macro scale. Hopefully after all the bad, some good will come, not just for ourselves, but for the planet as well. Maybe easy for me to say, as I’m not a health worker, or in the ‘at risk’ category.
But it does make one think… We are all just ‘specks’ on this planet…
Alex Pilkington 23/03/20
Our world has paused for Covid-19, the roads are empty, the tourist hotspots in the towns and cities are empty, the skies are empty, the shops are empty of loo roll… and the list goes on…Lockdown Day 3 – Emptiness abounds.
Living out in the ‘sticks’ in the Yorkshire Dales seems to have its advantages in these strange times. Our local patch for our daily exercise is a wilderness playground for which I am thankful and the enforced restrictions just mean that we will have to explore and discover new things on ‘our patch’.
Since the UK lock down, which was enforced on March 23rd, following a very ‘Churchill-esque ‘ type speech from Boris, life seems to have slowed down for us here in the Dale and it gives us time to appreciate the ‘little things’ in life. Also an upside for us, is seeing the weather improve, timed as the spring equinox passes. This is very uplifting, following what has been the dullest and wettest winter for a long time and possibly on record, with upper Ribblesdale seeing flood after flood and damage to walls, footbridges and animal habitats.
The 30m footbridge swept off its parapet by the flooding of Storm Ciara.
Going through the photos and writing is a great way to relive and reflect on your adventures, it really is quite therapeutic, especially doing it when the weather is poor and getting outside is not a priority option.
Lock down – Day 4 – Thieves Moss, a short distance from home. Very grateful to be able to go where you feel most alive!
Lockdown Day – 6
What to do at the weekend…? It was so strange to see our village deserted on a Saturday morning. Come April time and the longer days sees the return of the ‘dreaded’ Three Peakers! They come in there 1000’s to do the route. It is a ‘cash-cow’ for all the charities and while we are supportive of people doing things for good causes and people experiencing the great outdoors; it is the sheer volume that causes problems for the community and the environment. So seeing the village quiet and peaceful is an unusual and welcome sight.
[add Horton Picture here …but can’t find it!!!]
Lockdown Day – 8 – Thoughts while out on my daily exercise ride…
Wildlife flourishes unaware of Hooman’s predicament.
Enjoying the deserted roads on my daily ride.
What do the Swedes know that the rest of us don’t..?
Is there going to be an end to this way of life anytime in the near future..?
But I am curious of the Swedish Covid-19 approach…
I believe it will ‘win out’ in the long run. They have opted for no strict lockdown, some guidance measures are in place and the older and ‘at risk’ community are advised to isolate. Meanwhile the remaining populous carefully carries on day-to-day life and over-time it is thought that a ‘herd immunity’ may build, with more people developing the antibodies to protect themselves and the population. Another factor to help the Swedes, is that they are known to be a ‘Social Responsible’ nation – they live life by a good code, doing good by themselves, their neighbours and their nation, perhaps not quite the same can be said for the UK and other countries…? Also ‘we’ are all still learning about this new virus… I personally don’t think that one can hide from the virus, no better than one can hide from a tsunami, earthquake or other act from Mother Nature..! …and then one has to come out of hiding at some point, surely..? …the ‘flat curve’ scenario can not go on indefinitely… (i.e. months and months).
Time will tell…
Lockdown Day – 10 Keeping Occupied, Happy and Productive…
Things to do and keep us busy… Tee-shirt making, lots of reading (Bothy Journal, Bike-Packing Journal), Spoon making, Going on a camp trip to our backfield.
We also find out that some family who live close by have the virus, our cousin is admitted to hospital. Worrying times.
I don’t know who wrote this, but the words are so true.. ♥️
We fell asleep in one world, and woke up in another.
Suddenly Disney is out of magic,
Paris is no longer romantic,
New York doesn’t stand up anymore,
the Chinese wall is no longer a fortress, and Mecca is empty.
Hugs & kisses suddenly become weapons, and not visiting parents & friends becomes an act of love.
Suddenly you realise that power, beauty & money are worthless, and can’t get you the oxygen you’re fighting for.
The world continues its life and it is beautiful. It only puts humans in cages. I think it’s sending us a message:
“You are not necessary. The air, earth, water and sky without you are fine. When you come back, remember that you are my guests. Not my masters.”
Lockdown – Day 11 – BBC News Reads:
Levels of air pollutants and warming gases over some cities and regions are showing significant drops as coronavirus impacts work and travel.
Researchers in New York told the BBC their early results showed carbon monoxide mainly from cars had been reduced by nearly 50% compared with last year.
Emissions of the planet-heating gas CO2 have also fallen sharply.
But there are warnings levels could rise rapidly after the pandemic.
Lockdown – Day 14 – Two weeks in…
97% Full moon – taken from the summit of Penyghent with a 40 x zoom.
There is a super moon this month, 15% bigger than normal and the forecast is for clear skies – so this may mean my daily exercise shifting into the evening..! Other big news is the Prime Minister’s virus condition has worsened and he is now in Intensive Care – poor old Boris! and not a good time while the country struggles, hopefully he’ll pull through quickly …most do, but some don’t… The rate of infections and C-19 is about 1% and the death rate is now nearing its likely peak of 500-800 a day (similar to the numbers in Italy, Spain and France), hopefully the lockdown measures are now going to show results and this figure hopefully dropping. Italy is showing signs of being over the worst of it.
Also its haircut time, as I’m starting to get overgrown, not sure wether to go for the Covid Shave… or the Covid Cut – I elect for the cut first, if that goes wrong then the shave! Fortunately it seemed to go okay, however I was never shown a mirror for the back!
Lockdown – Day 17 – The Long Good Friday!
…And the start of the Easter Weekend.
..And it would have also been the start of the Dales Divide Race! – Starting on Easter Friday at Arnside pier, the ride goes on a mixed off-road route to Scarborough town and back, 600km all in! There was going to be a good show of riders this year, with as many as 100, from across the country and of all abilities and experiences. Something that we were all looking forward to, after what had seemed like a ‘lockdown’ winter, many of us hungry for an adventure ride… As it happens the conditions and forecast were looking perfect again – last year it was dry, dusty and warm.
No Dales Divide this year though, does not really fit within the guidelines of your daily exercise and the ‘stay at home’ ethos that we now live our lives by…
Lockdown – Day 20 – Easter Bunny Time
Happy Lockdown Easter Everyone! (Bunny photo taken by Mrs P.)
The bank holiday is now in full swing, except that no one is off holidaying; everywhere that would normally be busy on a sunny Easter weekend remains deserted, silent, its almost unimaginable to see. People are having Easter ‘staycations’, some people have transformed their gardens and have created their own little haven holiday spot. We have also been busy getting to grips with the grass cutting and other outdoor tidying jobs. In the ‘top field’ we have made a camping spot and have enjoyed some damper breads, sausage sizzles and a couple of nights under the starry skies.
Top Field – Ponty-Pandy Camp Spot.
Now with the Dales being much less visited and much less disturbed, the wildlife seems to be flourishing and we have enjoyed seeing the Lapwings, Oystercatchers, Barn Owls, Toads, Hedgehogs, Deer and much other wildlife on our doorstep. This is probably the same across much of rural Britain as the Hooman’s ‘Stay Home’. This is good for nature.
The other good news is, our cousin is now out of the Intensive Care Unit, he was on a ventilator and it was describe as ‘touch and go’ at times. The hospital have said that he is getting stronger.
Some of the wildlife we have come across on our daily exercises.
Lockdown – Day 21 – Three Weeks In – Time to Reflect Some More…
Its something that you don’t always write about in a ‘ride log’, but quite often when you are out there alone in the mountains and particularly at night time and when you are most tired, you realise just how ‘small’ you are. With mountains and stars watching over you, one’s thoughts often drift and how ‘we’ mankind can continue our lives and protect the planet from further, or irreversible damage. It seems that all nations, especially those that command most power have little regard for these aspects, all the thinking is short-term and ‘what’s in it for me’ approach.
Earlier this year I decided to enter the GBDuro, a 2000km mixed off-road route from Land’s End to John ‘O’ Groats, I was successful in being rostered to ride in this years race, starting 27th June and I was quite excited about it. As much as the race and the challenge of it, it was seeing and exploring new areas and untrodden paths – this is always a big attraction for me! The guys that organise it have strong values and ethos for the protection of the planet and the ‘way we do things’ as riders and bike-packers –
Sometimes a ‘dichotomy’.
We all want the opportunity to go good places don’t we! We all see the pictures that others post! However we are lucky in the UK, as there is a very good variety of terrains, but lets face it we are all drawn to other cool places – Europe or beyond and invariably these require a flight, and flying is pretty CO2 intense. So the GBDuro organisation set out as a ‘no-fly ride’. Quite contentious maybe..? meaning many foreigners are unable to take part, but I guess someone has to start this way of thinking…? As bikers we like to think we are environmentally friendly – but are we really?
I like this quote that the GBDuro team use, it also prompted me to look at more of Rachel Carson’s work, which is pretty amazing considering the era and the country in which she lived i.e. the USA in the 50’s and 60’s, in full swing of their gas-guzzling development.
We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the road in Robert Frost’s famous poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth super-highway on which we progress with great speed, but at the end lies disaster. The other fork in the road – the one ‘less traveled by’ – offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth.”
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962
Many sporting event’s that have taken place for decades and are part of our lives perhaps now need to be re-thought – maybe in the ‘Post Corvid World’..? For example the Tour-de-France, imagine the carbon footprint of that? – a competition of one of the cleanest methods of transportation paradoxically generates an ugly footprint. A 2013 estimate put the Tour’s total carbon imprint at 341,000 tonnes! Food for thought..? it is the biggest sporting event in the world.
That’s enough reflecting for a little while, but the ‘new-normal’ world needs to re-think things and look seriously at the ‘other fork in the road’!
Here are some photo’s from today’s walk…
Surprised to see the Hare take to the wall top.
Why have I got a bucket on my head…?
Lockdown – Day 24
The big news is the Government is extending the current lockdown by a further 3 weeks. We now seem to have adapted this new-normal life quite nicely, however there are a lot of things we miss.
The dry and sunny weather continues, its hardly rained since this all started and the forecast for the foreseeable future also looks dry, dominated by high pressure and an easterly weather system. The lovely weather is making me itch for a bike-packing trip, which will have to wait, being constrained is not great, but being constrained in the Dales is not all that bad. With the trails and terrain all in a super-dry state I am taking the opportunity to do some ‘cheeky-trail’ exploration, also no walkers around at the moment. The hills are in fact empty of people, except for the odd farmer…
Whernside Summit and Ribblehead Viaduct.
Lockdown – 4 Weeks in – Enjoying the different pace of life and the super weather…
Where has the last four weeks gone? With the lack of routine the days seem to merge and how life as changed for us, I mentioned before about noticing the wildlife flourishing. There are other ‘silver linings’ to this situation, for us being out in the countryside it has allowed us to connect to nature more, both with frequent local walks and garden camp outs, enjoying the night skies and observing the Lyrids (meteor shower). It feels that life has been ‘striped back’ to us just doing the essentials to satisfy our daily needs. The longest car journey that I have been on in the last month, is a 20 mile round trip to take food to relatives who are isolating, we have not had to fuel the car in weeks.
Also since the start of all this the weather has been consistently dry and sunny, amplifying the spring time has flourish, we notice the trees are in bud, the daffodils are dying, but other flowers are appearing, the hawthorn hedgerows, the bluebells are a favourite, but also the orchids and primrose that grow wild in the limestone soil.
I couldn’t help myself by noticing that Scotland is experiencing the same good weather as the rest of the UK, I have to say that I am feeling a little ‘constrained’ – not grumbling about it all, but as a ‘free spirit’ the draw of a Highland bike-pack adventure is taunting! …to visit some new bothies and explore new places. However that is still not possible and will not be so for the foreseeable future, so instead we are making do with some painting – ‘bothy pebbles’, it is very therapeutic!
If I can’t go and visit a bothy, then why not paint one..?
Mid-April – Local walks and more back field camps. (Night photo credit R. Moore)
Lockdown – Day 30 – John Muir Day
Tuesday 21st April is John Muir day. John Muir is a Scottish/American naturalist and now has a Trust that helps manage parts of our wonderful landscape. I became a member of the trust last year, after the organiser of the Highland Trail 550, asked riders to join, as a good gesture, since we pass through land and use trails managed by the trust.
Hawthorn edged lane – With every walk in nature one receives far more than one seeks…
Lockdown – Day 35 – Five Weeks In
Lots of days starting to feel like ‘Groundhog Day’, it’s important to try to keep to our usual routine, albeit in a slightly more relaxed way. During the week its nice not to have to get up at 05:20 and do the 80min drive to work, but I usually rise an hour later and get up to let the chickens out, make ourselves a cup of tea and get set-up for work, starting that a 07:00. Working from home is a routine that I have been used to before, but usually only for 1 day a week, doing it 4-5 days a week is vastly different. I work as an Aerospace Safety Engineer working on development projects, the current work is particularly interesting as it is a solar powered aircraft – testing the bounds of technology, with every day a learning day. Moulding this work into a home environment is not easy, I am easily distracted, especially when its sunny…
Bothy 18 – Greensykes (I help the MO to look after this one) …and one day I hope to be a bothy MO – Maintenance Officer!
Lockdown – Day 37 – Lets talk Bike-Packing…
I take a lot of inspiration and information from the Bikepacking.com website, I have also signed-up and receive their lovely Journal, its my only magazine, not just a little ‘nice-to-have’, but also a way of giving a little back to the cause. At the moment Bike-packing is still quite ‘grass-routes’, its interesting that as I have transitioned through sports, almost all have been similar ‘grass routes’ stuff, or at least started out that way – Fell Running, Mountain Marathon, Mountain Bike Orienteering, Ultra-Running, Adventure Racing and now Bike-Packing. Some of the sports in that list are now no longer niche, the best example is probably Ultra-running – back in 2007, there were only a handful of races, the pinnacle of them being the Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc, now there are hundreds – its over commercialised – with everyone wanting a part of it and offering a service – no matter how obscure or bizarre – we would never of expected companies to offer a bespoke Guided Bob Graham service would we..?
This is the current issue under discussion in the bike-packing community:
Isn’t bikepacking getting too commercialized? Why do you publicize routes? Don’t we want fewer people on trails? And what exactly is bikepacking? Isn’t that just a new word for touring?” Those are just a few of the questions we’re asked regularly. To answer such queries into our motives, here’s our mission statement, and why we think the growth of bikepacking is one of the best things to happen to both riders and the bike industry…
Worth a read yourself:- https://bikepacking.com/plog/manifesto/
Lots of other good-stuff to while-away a spare ‘lock-down’ hour or two….
Lockdown – Day 40 – Its the weekend!
An ever so slight routine shift differentiates the weekend from the week. We (well me) still gets up pretty early, especially if the sun shines – like it is doing again, the main thing is no work and no 8am team dial-in to get ready for – yippeeee! Apart from a few walks I had not done much in the way of exercise during the week, so I was itching to get a reasonable ride in. The government guidance on the permitted exercise is not that prescriptive and I have decided to get a 3 hour ride in and head north to the small lake of Semer Water. It is always quiet up here, but for a sunny Saturday it seemed like it was just me. Not a single sign of human life at Ribblehead either, normally buzzing on a Saturday morning. I was please to ride a new trail around Wether Fell, which was a little section of single track, leading to this spot…
Slightly out of this Dale – Wensleydale
Sundays Ride with George
Lockdown – 6 Weeks In
The usual C-19 stuff is in the news, key points are that the UK now has the second highest death toll, passing that of France, Spain and Italy. Lots of criticism of the government going on in the media and social media, citing both short term issues in dealing with the outbreak in its early stages and the longer term issues associated with the under-funding of the NHS.
I do feel strongly that the UK has another big problem developing, a lot of emerging issues are linked to the wealth gap that is forming – inequality is very detrimental to a healthy well-balanced and content society. Take for example Northern Europe, like the Scandinavia countries and also countries like Australia and New Zealand, which have a much better balance of wealth and ‘people power’ and as a result a much more contented and happy society. Did you know that about half the ‘UK’ is owned by the ‘landed gentry’ and foreign oligarchs etc.
Never mind all that…
The Full Moon is forming nicely this month – Full on May 8th
One thing I do know is that I am liking the ‘simple life’ we are now living! But some days do feel odd because of the massive routine change.
Oxenber Wood – Is looking very rich, with an Ocean of Flowers – Like a big ol’ hug from mother nature is this!
A pair of Meadow Pipits on high ground on Moughton Moor.
Lockdown – Day 45 – A very warm day and VE Day preparations…
Well a day off work today to extend the bank holiday weekend… A bit of an extended excursion on the Mtb today, feel like I’m going down with ‘lockdown fatigue’ and need to stretch the local patch into the next Dale a little… So with it I planned a route to explore some shooting huts to the north side of Wensleydale, stunning moors, but with a feeling that one was definitely on a Grouse Shooting Estate – love them or hate them..? I’m not biased, but I don’t like the idea of toffs paying to shoot, some say it helps the local economy and has other benefits maybe..? Here are some pictures and a couple of the huts are unlocked and would make for good ‘overnighters’
Gravel, its better than bog I suppose!
My mouth felt very similar to this!
…So to VE Day preparations, we have planned a bit of fun for kids of the hamlet:-
VE Day Paper Aircraft Fly Past Competition…
Hope that you are all designing a serious flyer!
Here are the rules:
1. It has to be paper only.
2. No kerosene.
3. No engines.
4. Just a paper plane folded from a sheet of A4 paper and the skills to throw it further than anyone else.
5. You get four attempts (12:00 midday and then 18:00) and your best flight will count. Practice flights at other times are permitted, however ATC permission, maybe required if more than one aircraft is in the air at any one time.
6. The distance shall be recorded in metric metres and shall be the final resting place.
7. A judge may be brought in to resolve any disputes.
8. Winning prizes will be award for
– Flight Aerobatics
Good luck flyers and get to it!
Please brief this on to your squadron teams – Roger Wilco Over and Out!
Lockdown – Day 46 – VE Day
Legs tired, which is good and I can settle into an ‘easy’ day of relaxing, and poignant to remember the World Wars and those who suffered and gave their lives, to enable us to have ours. A life they had was totally different to the safe and cosseted lives that we all generally now live, in the developed world; though not necessarily a better one! Life is far busier, interconnected and complex.
The hamlet in which we lived enjoyed an ‘over-the-wall’ type party, so nice to chat and catch up and enjoy the warm weather together, but not-together!
Lockdown – Day 47 – Up very early to Capture the Moment…
Lone Tree on Sulber Limestone Pavements (Photo credit R. Pilkington)
Bikes resting, Penyghent on fire. (Photo credit R. Pilkington)
Lock down – Day 50 – Easement on Restrictions…
Boris addresses the nation and introduces some incremental lifting of the restrictions. Different advice is in place for Wales and Scotland – stricter, as usual it is not all clear at first and it will take a few days for the guidance to be clarified, it does mean that ‘exercise’ and where you do it, is now relaxed. Places like the Lake District will have to brace themselves for a ‘mass-influx’…
So rolling back to day 1 of this Lockdown, my thought was you can’t hide from this virus. This is nature in action, nature has no conscience. The lockdown has been massively difficult for people and we are not through it yet by any stretch, however we are now beginning to see what the signs of the ‘new normal’ will be like. For the foreseeable future and until a vaccine is widely available, the pre-covid times will not be back with us, many aspects of our lives will be affected and will be new and different, everything from our work and school to the way we travel and the way we interact with others.
I will wrap up the Wuhan Project Lockdown Archive here and maybe just add some ‘key snippets’ to this, as we continue along the Covid journey (which won’t be short one). I have enjoyed living and writing it, I never used to be massively ‘into’ writing about my activities, but I now find it quite satisfying and fun and it allows a second chance to remember ‘the moment’.
I hope that all who have glimpsed through this, have found it an okay read, I think I will enjoy going back to it in ten, twenty years time, thinking did this period really happen..?
So yep – take care, be sensible, kind and respectful to all and keep adventuring and pushing yourself. Take a look back every so often and just feel grateful to be able to do this sort of thing..!