4-6 April: Covid-19 gets personal

Author: Mrs A

Location: West Bagborough, Somerset, UK

It has already been two weeks for us in Somerset – it is incredible how time flies! And still the skies are blue and we have not had a single wet day. Is this what happens when mother nature rewards us for reducing our impact on the planet I wonder?

We are minimising our time with other people, most days able to count the other humans we see on one hand, and always maintaining our distance. It’s the rare shopping trips that are most risky, and with constant new advice on how the virus spreads, most challenging to steer clear from.

Thankfully we love pulling on our hiking shoes and exploring, and have done some cracking walks the past few days. Please forgive me if you’re getting tired of seeing the same old scenery on every post – I do try to bring in some variety, and love capturing the new signs of spring as we spot them.

Our isolation home nestled in the hill
Our garden views continue to delight us

A walk over the weekend took us down a ‘new to us’ (probably hundreds of years old) pathway which wound its way behind the village houses and across the gentler slopes and fields.

We just love seeing the blossom bursting open, birds performing their mating rituals, pairing up and building nests, the increasing buzz of insects along the hedgerows.

Lovely shadows through this plantation…we wonder what the trees are…

Farmers are ploughing and sowing seed in their fields, the soil rich and nutritious, always happy to give a smile and wave as we walk past.

Perfect striped fields
Lovely colours on this new growth

Another walk took us to the historic Cothelstone Manor and the Church of St Thomas of Canterbury. The church dates back to the 12th century. Cothelstone manor was originally given to the Starwell family by William the Conqueror, some time after the Battle of Hastings. It is funny how so much history relates back to King William, no matter where we go.

Approaching the church of St Thomas of Canterbury
Entrance porch to the church which is very much still in use (though closed during the pandemic)
New cherry blossom on a very old tree
Crossing a style alongside the manor

I’m pleased to say (touch wood!) my airway has remained open since the last set of steroid injections in February, and breathing has been excellent. In fact I am breathing the best right now that I have in nearly six years. The injections are a relatively new and experimental technique for my airway disease, with a bit of a hit and miss approach depending on steroid type, quantity used and technique to apply them. It seems on this occasion the formulae has been a success with my trachea, and all evidence of scarring has all but disappeared.

Injections are not fun, but they are much gentler on the body than a general anaesthetic! This chart shows my peak expiratory flow levels (how hard I can breathe out) – the higher the number, the easier it is to breathe.

We’ve been here before though (after a big surgery in 2014 opened my airway ‘permanently’ but turned out to be just temporary), so are not taking this good breathing for granted. I intend to relish every easy breath I take. So we decided to tackle a very steep pathway up into the Quantock Hills.

Suddenly being able to breathe properly has its benefits, as I have effectively been altitude training for 18 years! I literally bounded up the hill, hardly out of breath. Mr A on the other hand made it up, but it was a bit of a tougher slog for him. The hike was worth it, with magnificent views across to the coast, buzzards soaring beneath us.

Nearly up the top – Mr A rounds the hill after one of the steepest parts

Up on the hills the bird life is prolific. Not only are pheasants constantly squawking, but walks are accompanied by the sweet song of skylarks and chirruping of the smaller nuthatches, warblers, tits, finches and thrushes. All very shy birds and hard to capture on the camera.

A common stonechat flits around the heather and bracken
Look at all the other people! A timer photo from the cairn at Wills Neck

We climbed up to Wills Neck, the highest point in the hills. We will always remember the first time we saw this lookout with a gorgeous shetland pony stood there like a mysterious sculpture, allowing me to talk gently and stroke her nose. We have never seen one up at that point since, and the ponies have never again been tame enough to stroke.

A young Shetland Pony foal skips after mum after spotting us

The strange name ‘Wills Neck’ comes from an old Saxon word meaning ‘foreigner’ or ‘stranger’. It seems appropriate that we keep finding our way back there.

We explore a new pathway for us, which leads directly to the pub in the village. Shame it’s not open.
More views, looking down at St Pancras church in the village

The temperatures are starting to increase now too, with daytimes heading up into the early teens. Gone are the thick winter coats and wooly hats, we can now head out in lighter gear.

Our latest walk had us exploring an area called ‘The Great Wood’. It‘s about 6.5 square kilometres of woodland, home to many birds, a variety of trees including Douglas Fir redwoods, and apparently red deer (hiding from us!).

Dwarfed by the trees, there are many mountain bike trails through here

Yet another great 11km walk with a total of six people seen at a distance in three hours. Perfect isolation.

White Spanish bluebells in the village
The little stream that runs through the village

It was Sunday night that we learned about the passing of an old friend the previous afternoon from Covid-19. The news really shook our world. This was someone with whom I used to climb trees, race bikes down the road, spent my first years growing up with. Just 45 years old, fit and healthy with a wife and two children, he just didn’t ‘fit’ the demographic for a fatal end to this disease. Suddenly the virus is getting really personal.

The shock and disbelief has led to tears, and a stronger determination to try and get through this period without contracting the virus, and concentrating on keeping ourselves as healthy as possible.

On Monday night we heard that the British Prime Minister has been taken into intensive care for his worsening symptoms. A healthy (if overworked and tired) 55 years of age, he too doesn’t fit the pre-described ’vulnerable’ category, and reminds a nation that none of us is truly safe. This is a virus that does not discriminate. While someone in their 70s might have mild symptoms, someone younger may not fare so well.

We implore all our readers, friends, and family to stay safe – keep away from other people, and together we can get through this. Look after one another. Virtual hugs from us.

6 Replies to “4-6 April: Covid-19 gets personal”

  1. So very sorry to hear that you lost a dear friend Catherine. It is said we will all know someone in our personal lives affected by this crazy virus. I know several now, and we pray they can fight it. Stay safe❤️

    1. Thank you Mandy, it is a tragic loss 🙁 I don’t think it will truly hit home for his family until they can all reunite and mourn it together, when this pandemic is finally over. Sending good vibes and healing thoughts to your friends too, let’s hope we lose nobody else <3

  2. I’m so sorry about your friend. A loss of a bit of your childhood. And scary, too. Emily is 45.
    But we are well, Woolies has just delivered provisions and Easter treats that I must go and unpack as soon as my cup is empty.
    Hugs to you both.

  3. It really is a tonic to read these stories of your adventures. It reminds me that the world is still beautiful even with the sadness it carrys on its shoulders at the moment.

    Im still trying to process the sad news from the weekend. Childhood carefree memories seem extra poignant now. xx

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