Monday 13 April 2020

The Outdoor World and the Coronavirus Crisis

The Cromdale Hills at dusk, April 10

My last piece on the coronavirus lockdown crisis described my personal thoughts and feelings in the face of this abrupt change to the world. Here I want to look at the practical side of how it is affecting the outdoor community, what can be done, and what is happening. I'm using outdoor community in its widest sense - writers, photographers, magazines, book publishers, guides, instructors, rangers, and more - as everyone is affected, some only slightly, some drastically. Many people are self-employed and do what they do for the love of it not for the money. They have little to fall back on. There are things we can do to support each other through this and to help the outdoor world recover as quickly as possible once the crisis is over.

The first thing to do of course is to follow social distancing and travel guidelines. The sooner this is over the better for us all. Stay away from other people. Walk from home. The hills will be there when this is all over. For their own sake and everyone elses Mountain Rescue teams need this to be the quietest time they've ever had. See Mountain Rescue England and Wales and  Scottish Mountain Rescue.

Social Media

Using social media to follow people, offer support, and stay in touch is well worthwhile. It is very reassuring to know there are people interested. We may be distant physically, we don't have to be mentally. Talking to friends, planning future trips, reminiscing about previous ones, sharing photos are all valuable.

Writers, photographers, magazines and books

This is the area that affects me directly as a writer and photographer. So far I have only lost a little work, which I'm aware makes me luckier than many others in the field. 

With book stores and many shops that sell magazines closed and people staying home anyway over the counter sales are falling, affecting the livelihoods of writers, photographers and publishers. There are ways though for readers who want to support us to do so by still buying our work.

Some publishers like Sandstone Press, Cicerone, Vertebrate and Birlinn sell direct. Many independent bookshops can deliver. Buy from them and they are more likely to still be there on the high street when the crisis ends. (I've just ordered two books from The Bookmark, my wonderful local bookstore in Grantown-on-Spey, - @BookmarkMarjory).

With magazines subscriptions are the best option, a commitment of support that allows publishers to keep producing them. You can do so for The Great Outdoors here.

Writers and photographers who maintain free to read websites often have a 'donate' or 'buy me a cup of coffee' button on their pages - there's one on this site. Contributions, however small, can make a difference and are always gratefully received.

Telling people on social media about books you like is very valuable. Word of mouth recommendations are powerful. Reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, your website or social media are also important.

Alex Roddie has written a much more thorough piece on how you can help outdoors writers. 

Guides, Instructors, Tour Leaders

Trekkers in the Himalaya

Anyone who works with people in the outdoors will have lost all their bookings for the foreseeable future. Suddenly the world is empty. Unlike writers most guides and instructors now have nothing to sell. No-one can book courses or treks or days out for the present. You can though offer support and let them know if you plan on booking in the future - again social media is a valuable tool and many have websites and are on Facebook and Twitter. BBC Scotland for the Highlands and Islands did a piece on this to which I made a small contribution. In this piece kayaking coach Zoe Newsom says "This crisis certainly brings home the fragility of our industry, and the lack of security inherent in it. We spend many thousands of hours and pounds on training, but rarely make much money from it."

Gear Companies & Outdoor Shops

Outdoor shops have also lost their income during the lockdown, except for those who sell online. They are having a hard time. With outdoor shops closed many gear companies have also closed. Some are still working and sell direct or through online shops. Those who are able have turned their expertise to making medical equipment.  The BMC has an article on this.

Hillwalkers, mountaineers, wild campers

Garden camping - I've been testing solo tents so a different one every night!

Deprived of access to the hills outdoors people have been coming up with many innovative ideas to help everyone keep going, feel involved and get through this. Climbing the equivalent of Everest on stairs, camping in the garden, making videos and more are all being turned into group activities with photos and stories shared on social media. Lightweight gear maker and online shop Valley and Peak organised garden campouts with site 'fees' going to mountain rescue. The Ordnance Survey and Ramblers both have stepping challenges, the latter as part of its Roam Sweet Home initiative. There are many other online events organised by organisations and individuals. New ones seem to pop up every day, showing imagination and ingenuity.
UKHillwalking has posted a longer article on this here.


Keep up to date with the situation in the outdoor world.

Mountaineering Scotland
British Mountaineering Council

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