So the weekend previous, I was sat on the rocks atop Chapel Carn Brea here in West Cornwall and I began to really think about this new phenomena of social distancing, and the appreciation of being outdoors whilst it lasts, and I really hope it does. Listening to the media, work place chatter, social media and general rumblings, last weekend was my last serious ride for sometime, especially the type of trail riding that pushes my boundaries a little, and I hope like many, our normal riding or activity is on hold out of respect, if anything should happen, for the emergency services. For many countries, as we already know, Lockdown is in place, friends abroad are not able to ride bikes or surf; imagine that, but that reality might not be too far away for us too.
Anyway, as I sat on the hill I became quite mindful; wanting to really take in everything that surrounded me at this beautiful place I come to so often; and breathe in the sights and sounds, knowing that I never taken this place, or the ability to ride and walk here for granted, and yet a few years ago I might have.
In July 2016, only six months after breaking my foot racing BMX, I went down with serious dose double pneumonia and plurosey. At 8.30am I was at the physio having my shoulder worked on, by 9.15am I was shivering with flu like symptoms in my car, by 2.30pm I was coughing up blood, and by 3pm strapped in an ambulance with medical tubes coming out of me, blues and twos going, and racing to hospital. I was hospitalised for 10 days, of which six were in the High Dependency Ward at Treliske in Truro. I was on overnight watch, my vitals were critical and in the words of my Doctor, "it was a close call". An experience that has had a lasting impact on my outlook to where and how I presently live my life, and now four years later, helped me develop a very different mindset.
This isn't about whether I feel vulnerable to this Virus, I think we all do. This is not about being financially anxious, yes we are; and this is about not wasting time. This is about waking up to the fact that very easily, and very quickly, life can change. It can transform for the worst if you let it, or become an overwhelming opportunity and catalyst for positive change. But this is up to you.
In 2016, when I walked out of hospital, I could think of nothing else but my family and getting my health back on track. I began to walk, ride and surf more. I changed my job to eleviate the wasteful amount of time I was stressed, and the impact this was having on my family life, again. Since 2016, my life has become rich in so many ways, thanks to the right choices, and especially the Great Outdoors. Put it simply, If appreciation for where we live had a monetary value, then I am a billionaire, seriously, I am that grateful for where we live. To gain my health and fitness back from serious illness was hard work, but the process was exciting. To learn how to manage my heart rate, my breathing and set goals that I only was accountable for; this gave me such a boost of positivity and sense of achievement. Cycling became a massive part of my life, probably more so than Surfing and to this day riding my road bike or mountain bike gives me just as much pleasure as sliding down a glassy wave and compliment each so well. I even returned to BMX racing to complete the late season and did OK, but the fear factor of racing had set in, so Gravel , Road and MTB riding really took over. I'd always loved being outdoors but now something felt very different.
Today, I am happy to spend time walking the dog on the hill, or doing bushcraft with my son and friends in the woodlands, and in light of the Corona Virus almost seem like another wise choice. To wander through woodland in awe of how beautiful the tress are, in a part of the county where trees are sparse, is a gift. To sit with friends and cook up Bannock Cakes on a camping stove, build a shelter or whittle a spoon is a perfect day.
But how many people take life and being outdoors for granted? So to add a positive outcome to these strange times....Will this virus be the same catalyst for change for others? I truly hope. Will people take the great outdoors for exactly what is is...Great. The Great Outdoors is the best medicine for life, it's the best healer for stress, the combination for physical and mental health, a knock out punch and heavyweight champion of all round well being. Look at the park Run phenomena, the global rise in people running 5k, once a week, in country parks or urban streets, watching and waiting for their results and setting new goals for the next week. Park Runs are so good, I have done two this year already and the sense of community is alive and well at 9am Saturday morning or where ever your nearest one is held. There are more people of all ages cycling, and touring: living in West Cornwall, bike packing is alive and booming. Mountain Bike parks are booming, and trail centres are thriving. Micro-adventures are the new escape, just check out Alistair Humphreys. If anyone feels they have not got the confidence to get out there and try stuff, the world is changing, coaches and guides are trained to be super inclusive so dig deep and find that little bit of self belief to get outside when all this is over.
Personally, we are lucky to live in a rural and coastal destination here in the Wild West of Cornwall, and right now, at this moment, as a family, we are so thankful for this. But I wonder after we get through this strange time, and it is a strange time, will others realise how much they take for granted. We should never take for granted our freedom to roam, (within reason and boundries of land), to just put on some shoes and walk out the door, and go to our favourite place, to walk the dog, to play in a park, to ride a bike, surf a wave, climb a hill or even a tree. Maybe tree climbing, and the joy it brings to kids is not such a bad thing. A past time that seems to have held a taboo for years thanks to a 'where there blame there's a claim' culture. This should be a fun activity that should not be feared, and if a child falls out, don't look immediately who's to blame and sue the park or forestry commissions, encourage them to get back up and try again before the fear of trees and adventure sets in.
I would be amazing and a huge benefit to our health service if this virus also has the power to change the mentality of those who haven't quite realised that their inactive lives are killing them. In fact, my froiend just posted on social media how all of a sudden, everyones a runner or cyclist. When Boris Johnson tells a nation to get outside once a day and exercise it seemed everyone has taken his advise. But why not before this virus ripped through the world. But as I write that, I'm concious of how insensitive that sounds, and I do not mean those incapable of activity through illness both physical and mental, but I sincerely hope that this virus is a wake up call for many who are simply watching life pass them by, young and old. I wonder if this period could be the kickstarter for a future plan based on sustained health and fitness, and I really wish this will be a right hook that slams in some respect for our freedom and the Great Outdoors and how very precious it is. Again, whilst I say all this from my non-scientific rambling, I have the deepest sympathies for to those who have lost loved ones.
So If you know of anyone who might need this change, lets use this time to encourage them to plan for healthy futures, lets encourage others we know to get outside, to enjoy, and respect what surrounds us and how lucky we are to have access to these amazing resources. Lets inspire change in others by boosting positive messages, by staying connected to the great outdoors. Its already happening too with online exercises, people encouraging isolation based. This is a time to look to the future whilst taking care of the present.
Getting back to me sitting on a rock last weekend.....I made a mental list of everything I saw and heard as an exercise to focus my mind on the absolute present. After observing what I saw, I then closed my eyes, deepened my breathing and just used my hearing. The following list was what I could remember from this experience. I wrote these as soon as I returned from my ride and thought I would share the List in no particular order. I suppose this is just an exercise to share with people where ever they may be living. If its just sitting outside in an urban area, a garden, a park or riverbank; try this and just record all the things you can hear and see.
Again, we are very lucky where we live right now so before anyone says 'its alright for you!' ....we know.
Sound of birds e.g. buzzards, crows, seagulls and smaller birds that nest in the gauze.
The Short Eared Owls hunting over the fields of Bartinney Hill a nature reserve which is just a gem of a place.
I watched the distant swell lines marching in from a deep atlantic storm and then hearing the swell crashing two miles away along the coast from Sennen to Cape Cornwall..
The Longships Lighthouse breaking the swell lines on its reef below.
The beautiful late afternoon sunlight, something we often take for granted, so I've decided to savor each one I have the opportunity to witness.
Wild ponies just peacefully grazing, but actually managing the growth on this amazing hill.
The swell driven mist over the ocean.
Green fields for miles and the shapes of each boundry, the stone hedges and the beauty of the land.
A runner on a fitness mission on the trail below, I momentarily wonder her purpose or reasons, but whatever, she is outside.
Cattle grazing peacefully in a number of fields from the bottom of the hill to Boscarven Hill below St Just.
The sound of a donkey making that Eore noise, a sound I hear this most evenings when I visit this hill.
The Brisons Rock formation standing tall off the coastline of Cape Cornwall. Battered by the swell but remaining stubborn and steadfast.
I heard the voices of distant walkers, chattering away as they enjoy their walk.
I witness, the bird watchers lined up along the roadside.
But most of all I observed and listened to the beauty of what surrounded me on this Hill, a space I hold very dear to my heart. Its a place where this Chunky Brother can gather my thoughts, walk the dog, have fun riding my bike and imagine that I'm much faster going downhill than I really am!
Stay safe everyone. Please drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts. be great to hear from anyone!!