I’m sure I’m not the only one finding life since the COVID-19 outbreak an emotional rollercoaster. On a professional level alone, the restrictions on both travel and group gatherings — as someone who makes a living based around both of those things — has made the past few months disorientating. Repeatedly, I’ve found it important to focus on what I can do (as limited as it might be!) instead of lamenting the things I can’t.
Enter the mini UK adventure! Feeling somehow both weary and restless, I felt like I needed to recalibrate. Even if only for a few days, it felt important to switch off and to literally broaden my horizons — away from screens, away from headlines, away from all the noise. Anyone already familiar with my adventures, will know that I’m a huge fan of coastal routes. I therefore decided that a few days of walking along the infamously beautiful South West Coast Path was exactly what I needed.
My adventures are usually solo so it was especially fun to have my friend Jules with me for this one. Having recently returned from Malta, Jules would be fresh out of her 14 day quarantine when we set off. Similarly, I hadn’t seen anyone outside of my household for weeks either.
The plan: to hike from Falmouth to Par, a total distance of 36 miles, in 3 days. I’d originally planned to explore this section of the SWCP route because it was easily accessible by public transport but we ended up driving in the end. Incidentally, Falmouth holds 2 very happy adventurous memories for me already: I first came to Falmouth by boat, having sailed there from Sweden in 2014. A few months later, I came back to Falmouth for my first ever public talk. Returning to Falmouth in 2020 was a well-timed reminder that even with all the instability and frustrations along the way, I’d come a long way and I was still glad that I’d decided to carve out a new life/career path for myself a few years ago.
The kit list: I’d trimmed things right down to allow room for camping stuff and extra food. That meant clothing was kept nice and simple:
Travel days – 1 x BAM Jeans , 1 x Bam shirt.
Sleeping – 1 x BAM joggers, 1 x additional BAM baselayer (this particular baselayer has in fact been coming with me on adventures of all sizes since 2015 — still as soft as ever!)
(Naturally, we also had face masks and hand sanitiser with us for the rare times we did come into contact with other people — although this was kept to a minimum.)
One of the many reasons I love BAM gear is the antibacterial properties — something that comes in very useful during multi-day adventures. Even after 3 days of sweating up and over the formidable Cornish hills with a loaded backpack, my hiking clothes *still* didn’t smell — magic!
About those views…
I’d heard a lot of praise for the South West Coast Path and I can safely say it really does live up to all of the hype – and then some! Those views are good for the soul! Even though our trip coincided with Storm Alex and we spent 3 days getting intermittently pummelled by 30–50mph winds and torrential rain, we were in awe of our surroundings throughout.
Lots is rightly said about the many benefits of spending time outside but it’s still so easily neglected. Especially this year, I think it’s more important than ever to prioritise time in nature — for physical and (especially) mental wellbeing. Our 3 day hike reminded me of everything I love about bigger adventures: the appreciation for the simple things that so easily get lost in the chaos of everyday life— a hot chocolate and a warm shower after a day outside in the unforgiving elements, food to eat (nothing like working up an appetite to really appreciate this!), shelter from the storm (literally!) and the body I live in. Our heavy packs made for strenuous walking at times and we definitely felt it at the end of the day but, as always, I marvelled at how impressive human bodies are for adapting. I finished every night feeling grateful for the legs that carried me over the many hills and I felt thankful for being contentedly tired from physical exertion – a feeling I’d really missed. Each night, as I reflected on how much I appreciated my self-propelled progress of a few more miles, I felt acutely aware of how — perhaps more than ever — health is not something to be taken for granted.
Enforced isolation and distance from loved ones has been tough on all of us. I know that depending on living situations and financial security, the past few months have been tougher still on others. A 3 day hike obviously doesn’t fix everything but it did refresh my perspective and give me a much needed chance to recharge. Above all, this is what moving my body and spending time in nature does for me — it gives me a chance to reboot and rebalance.
Time outside, regardless of weather, is always time well spent. I hope you find a chance to reconnect to the simple things, too. Even if only in small doses.
Laura Kennington is a British adventure athlete, author and speaker with a passion for the endurance capability of the human body. Previous adventures include solo cycling all 1600 miles of the world’s longest coastal route in Ireland, solo cycling Scotland’s North Coast 500 route, running the length of Fuerteventura (100 miles) in 4 days and circumnavigating three of the Channel Islands using three different sporting disciplines as part of a rather extreme triathlon! She has most recently returned from solo cycling 3700 miles along the North Sea-facing coasts of 8 countries, from Scotland to Norway!
A strong believer in the positive impact that adventure and sport can have on children and adults alike, Laura uses her human powered journeys as a platform to inspire and encourage others to get outside. She has been a proud BAMbassador since 2015.