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  • Writer's pictureGrant Edwards

The Lock Down and Climbing Again.

I have been at home with my family unit (my wife, son aged 9 and daughter aged 6) since Wednesday 11th March, on that day I came home from my work (as a teacher) early due to the cough I had developed. My daughter had the cough previously. A week or so later my son had developed the cough and had a night of very high fever that, with the aid of paracetamol, he recovered from overnight. The coughs lingered on for a few weeks, lots of thick phlegm was purged from our bodies but we felt better and became well again as schools were closed and the official 'Lock Down' began.

My wife has a medical condition known as Charcott-Marie-Tooth disease that makes her vulnerable to chest infections, last winter she was very unwell with 'the flu' and having breathing difficulties. Fortunately, on this occasion the rest of us had 'the cough' but she managed to avoid any similar symptoms despite living with us..

We don't know what illness we had and perhaps we will never know, we certainly weren't being offered testing. The message was stay at home and if you become very ill go to hospital.

Since mid March we haven't gone out to do the shopping (everything is delivered) and I am working from home in order to reduce the chances of passing the virus to my wife. It is 10 weeks now that we will have lived this life.

None of the above is a complaint and we will do all we can to protect our family and to protect everyone else from the COVID-19 virus. Everyone's circumstance and situation is different. I am lucky to continue to receive my teacher's salary, I am lucky to be able to do my work and support my pupils from home, I am lucky to have a wife and children to be with, the weather has been glorious for the most part and there is a bottle of gin on the worktop. Sure at times we get stressed out with each other but we are together, supporting each other and we have what we need.

I know for other people things aren't like this. Many people are living in solitude and dealing with the phantom of loneliness, disconnected from their communities. Some people don't have families or loved ones to rely upon. Some people have lost their livelihoods or taken a significant hit to their incomes. Some are being forced into unsafe work environments in order to maintain their livelihoods. Some go into unsafe work environments to look after the unwell, look after those that need care, look after other key worker's children and keep our communities safe. These people must be looked after, do what you can to help out those you know in need of help and support.

As of yesterday (13/05/2020) the government of the United Kingdom allows non-essential travel, to go for exercise in the outdoors, visit beauty spots and to meet with one other person from outside your household (maintaining social distance). We are to be encouraged to go back to work if we can't work from home. Young children will be 'allowed' to return to school. This is in England only, as apparently the rest of United Kingdom doesn't agree with the government! At least, it would seem that following good hygiene/ maintaining social distance in the outdoors keeps the risk of transmitting or contracting this virus very, very low. The same can't be said of spending time with others in enclosed spaces, without some way of mitigating the 'droplets' being expelled through breath, talking, coughing and sneezing. Time will tell us the outcome of these decisions and the impact on the spread of the virus.

So of course an interpretation of these changes is that we can go bouldering outdoors! Certainly a relief to me as this activity has been a large part of my life for a long time. North Devon doesn't boast a large population of boulderers, so some of the concerns expressed by our counterparts from 'fleshpots' such as the Peak District are not as relevant here. I very rarely bump into other boulderers, let alone other people on the Exmoor Coast, unless I have arranged to meet someone, so social distancing is not really going to be an issue. It is unlikely that holds will have had a fettle from a thousand hands and much of the bouldering gets rinsed twice a day by the ocean, still hands can be sanitized. Some of the locations we boulder at are very isolated. Transmission of the virus in these conditions is highly unlikely.

For me the risk factors in this area are much more to do with remoteness and inaccessibility of some of our bouldering spots combined with the very large tidal movement of the ocean. So we must do all we can to avoid call outs of the Coast Guard and emergency services. Stay local (this isn't an invitation to travel from across the country to Devon), keep it low ball or within your capabilities, avoid loose rock and be very aware of the tides.

I am very happy to be able to get out on the rock and looking forwards to favourable tides for me (evening lows) and conditions this weekend. Work on projects, new topos and guides can recommence, so hopefully there'll be more climbing related content up on the site over the coming months.

Take care out there people.

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