At the time of creation of this page (mid-March 2020), various organisations within the UK, from Her Majesty's Government downwards, are doing their best to adapt to a fast-changing situation, in which the advice of experts seems to be changing daily.
This page is an attempt to keep our members, and any other visitors to this website, informed regarding our response to the issue, and how we have arrived at that response. We will update it when necessary, and it was last updated on Saturday 28th March.
Our current stance is to close down all activities of Newton Abbot Ramblers, from mid-March until at least the end of April, and we will now try to explain the reasoning behind this decision, and what alternatives we have to offer.
How we decided to close down Newton Abbot Ramblers
As soon as it became clear that we would need to address this issue, informal discussions began between members of our Committee, by e-mail, since our next scheduled meeting is not until 19th June. These gatherings are always difficult to arrange, given that one or more of our team of ten or so are likely to be either on holiday, or committed elsewhere. In any case, a face-to-face meeting might not have been advisable.
At this stage, opinions ranged from keep going as best we can, to a closedown of all activities. A middle way of continuing to offer walks, but discouraging indoor (pub or café) gatherings after walks, and car sharing other than with regular passengers, looked attractive, but this was later found to be contrary to government advice, for the large proportion of our members who are over 70. We might have been able to keep going for the benefit of members under this age, but the walks and other events available for these people would have been few and far between, since so many of our activities are run by those over 70.
Government Advice which led to the closedown
The Prime Minister gave a speech to a press conference on Monday 16th June, and its text is available on the government website. In it, he made clear that over 70s, even those fit and active, are strongly advised to avoid social contact.
Elsewhere on the government website, a document gives advice on social distancing, and includes a useful table. Footnotes for the table are as follows:
* if one member of your family or household has a new continuous cough or high temperature
** if you live alone and you have a new continuous cough or high temperature
*** for example cinema, theatre, pubs, bars, restaurants, clubs
**** for example via telephone or internet
1 such as anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year
Faced with the Prime Minister's strong advice to anyone over 70 to avoid social contact, our Committee could see no alternative to a temporary closedown of all activities.
Walking alternatives during the closedown
For those members who are a couple, it seems quite likely that if one of you catches coronavirus, your partner will catch it as well. Couples are therefore well placed to simply go on walks together, but not in company with other couples, as often as they please.
Those who live alone and don't fancy walking alone for several weeks, will need another solution, so perhaps you might find yourself a walking partner. This could be someone you already car-share with, or often walk alongside, much as some single people who go dancing have a partner who they meet at the ballroom each week, but may not see at other times. You will then both need to accept that if one of you goes down with coronavirus, the other one may well go down with it as well.
Don't forget that a gathering of more than two people is not permitted (unless they live in the same household) and try to keep 6 feet away from your walking partner. Don't be tempted to go into your partner's home before or after your walk for a coffee, and avoid car-sharing if you can.
Despite the fact that up to two people may legally gather, some websites suggest that exercise may only be taken alone or with members of your household. So, if you don't fancy walking on your own, you may need to choose between either discussing this issue with anyone who challenges you, or moving in with your walking partner for the next few weeks!
Once you've found your walking partner, you will next need a supply of walks to go on together, and we have a few suggestions to offer. First, you could simply try to find your own way round the walk which was advertised for any date, as if the close down hadn't happened, but this would not be a good idea if several couples turned up at the same time, which would then defeat the idea of social distancing.
Another option could be to choose walks from the Past Walks Archive page of our website. This includes a search facility, so if you have memories of a walk you enjoyed, and just need reminding where it started from and a rough idea of the route, then a visit to this page might be all you need. However, the route shown for these walks is only a few words long, and you might not be able to work out from this whereabouts on the OS map the leader took you.
Next, we offer you the Walks In South Devon website. This is run as a personal venture by one of our members, and includes not only a map showing the start point of each walk he has been on, but also its route, logged by his GPS device and superimposed as a blue line on the OS map. The site has details of over 250 walks, mostly 5 to 6 miles in length, and has a search facility. If you are technically minded, you can download any walk as a GPX file, and then copy it into either your own GPS device if you have one, or into your tablet computer (iPad or similar) or your smartphone. As you travel along the route of the walk, your device will then show you where you should be going and where you actually are on a map, so if you go wrong you will soon know, and you can then retrace your steps if necessary.
To access the Walks In South Devon website, follow the link to it, under the heading Walk Planning for Walk Leaders in the Links page of our own website, and if you need help with getting GPX files on to your own device, then let us know by e-mail, and we will get back to you.
Finally, if you know your way round an OS map and fancy some armchair walk-planning, you could either modify a walk you already know, or combine a number of routes from Walks In South Devon, to create a brand-new walk of suitable mileage for any of our walking groups. Who knows, we could emerge from the close down with a whole host of new walks, all ready for a future programme!
Walks Programme for Winter 2020-2021
As soon as the summer season of walks has started on April 1st, our walks co-ordinators start thinking about recruiting leaders for the winter season October to March. Experience tells them that leaders rarely come forward of their own accord, and usually respond best to a face-to-face request, but of course this will not be possible during the closedown. Your co-ordinator will be very pleased to hear from you if you are willing to lead a walk in the winter season, and soon after the summer season has actually started in April, you should be able to see the winter walk dates on the Help For Walk Leaders page of our website, with names alongside the dates taken, so you can see which are still free. If you've never led a walk before, your co-ordinator will be delighted to talk you through the process, and to offer you every encouragement.
Don't be lonely
The closedown doesn't mean you have to stay at home alone. Even if it happens to be pouring with rain, you can still contact walking friends by telephone or e-mail, or via our Facebook page. If you don't 'do' Facebook, you could try messaging applications such as FaceTime (only between users of Apple devices) WhatsApp (only works on a smartphone) or Viber (also works on a tablet linked to a smartphone, and therefore much easier to type into). There's also Skype.
FaceTime also allows video calls, as do WhatsApp, Viber and Skype. All of these will consume plenty of mobile data if used when you are out and about, but when you are at home, they should work through your broadband router, and not cost you a penny. The BBC News website currently offers a useful guide on how to get started with FaceTime and WhatsApp, complete with videos, and you should find it here.
We're still here for our members
The fact that all of our activities which involve face-to-face meetings of more than two people are currently suspended, doesn't mean that we've simply given up for the next few weeks. We are still in the business of supporting our members as best we can, while we get through the closedown.
Although there are a lot of things you can do nowadays on line or by telephone, catching the Corona Virus isn't yet one of them!
If there is anything we can help you with, your point of contact is our Admin system. Any message sent to this address will be seen by several members of our Committee, and will be forwarded, within a day or so, to whoever is best placed to deal with it, and they will get back to you. If you don't have access to e-mail, then you probably won't be reading this, but you can still try phoning any of our officers at their home phone numbers shown on the Contact Us page of this website, though you may not get through if they happen to be out for a walk at the time.
The sort of things we can help you with:
- Technical advice for your computer, tablet or smartphone, for such things as contact with friends, or help following the route of a walk
- Contacting a friend of your choice (in accordance with data protection requirements), with a view to becoming walking partners
Social Distancing, Self Isolation, and Stockpiling of Supplies
There's currently a useful article about Social Distancing and Self Isolation on the BBC News website, and you should find it here.
Social Distancing is about avoiding close contact with other people, and it should be practised by all of us. It allows us to go out for a walk, and to go shopping for food or other essential supplies, and is for people not having any symptoms of Corona Virus.
Self Isolation is a period of quarantine, to be observed by any household where someone has, or has had, the symptoms of Corona Virus. If you live alone, you are in quarantine for 7 days, and during this time you can go out for a walk, but you should not go shopping for food or other supplies, unless this is unavoidable.
If you live with others, then each person who goes down with Corona Virus should self-isolate for 7 days, and the entire household should self-isolate for 14 days from the date the first person is affected. Once 14 days have passed since the first person was affected, then any member of the household who is not within their own 7 day period of isolation can go back to social distancing.
Stockpiling of Supplies is a hot topic, but it's something you might need to consider before you go down with Corona Virus, if you have no reliable means of having food delivered. You might want to assemble a hamper of supplies for either 7 days or 14 days, depending on whether you live alone or with others, as this is the period for which we are told not to go shopping. Don't touch your supplies unless you need to self-isolate - you don't want to catch the bug, and then find your hamper half empty.
You may not have room in your freezer for an extra 7 or 14 days' worth of food, so think about storing dry goods such as porridge or cereal, tins for perishable food, and long life milk - don't forget soap, cleaning and laundry supplies, and of course the toilet rolls! Don't go mad - you are storing supplies for a week or two, not for several months.