May is National Walking Month. Since we’re able to go for longer walks now, multiple times per day, we’ve been walking a lot more than usual and discovering some of the local sights and green spaces we’ve previously taken for granted.

Walking is a great option to get out for some fresh air and exercise and take a break from our screens. We’re lucky to live in such a beautiful county with plenty of open spaces to explore.

Even with the need to social distance and be conscious not to overcrowd, we can all still enjoy the walking opportunities on our doorsteps.

So here are some top tips for enjoying responsible walking:

Plan your walks

And be prepared to change them at the last minute. If you arrive at your destination and find it to be very busy, move on to a quieter spot, or come back when it’s safe. Check the websites of places you are visiting such as South Down National Park to make sure they’re prepared for visitors. If large numbers head to the same place, maintaining social distancing will not be possible and then we’re all at risk.

Avoid the hotspots

If you know a place is likely to be popular or difficult to social distance, don’t risk a wasted journey. For example, the Cuckoo Trail is open, but some parts of the trail are narrow so maintaining a two-metre distance from others can be difficult. Beaches such as Camber Sands are getting extremely busy at the moment, even if you’re only walking along.

Sunrise or sunset

The best (and most beautiful) times to go for a walk are first thing in the morning or when the sun is going down. There’s something very refreshing about going for walk early morning and it can give you a boost of energy to last you the day. Early evening walks are a great way to wind down, especially if you’ve been looking at a screen all day. These are also much less busy times, so you’ll be able to avoid the lunchtime crowds and all-day sunbathers.

Find a new walk

We don’t mean like Joey in Friends. Walking somewhere you haven’t been before is a great way to discover new places in your area. Seek out somewhere quiet, a bit out of the way or off the beaten track. Or take a look at this excellent guide of 20 walks Wealden District Council have put together which vary from 4 to 12 miles. They are graded between a scale of 1 (easy) and 4 (very difficult) and there is at least one route passing through every parish.

Ordnance Survey have recently published a Greenspace layer (if you have OS Maps) that may help you discover a new place to walk that you didn’t realise was near your home. Commonly used green spaces are likely to be busy at the moment, so this can help you find alternative spaces to enjoy that are less popular.

Safety always first

An increase in visitors to our coastal areas and national parks as the warm weather continues will bring an extra risk to anyone going out for exercise. Many beaches don’t have lifeguard services in place and not all public facilities have reopened due to restrictions, so we need to all be responsible with the journeys we’re making.

It’s also important to remind you to stay away from cliff tops and bases. We were recently shocked to see people standing and sitting dangerously close to the edge of cliffs, despite warnings. Please remember that chalk cliffs are extremely unstable and can and do crumble and fall without warning. Do not stand or sit at the edge, even for a quick look or photo.

Keep your distance

This should go without saying by now, but wherever you’re walking, do remember to stay two metres away from anyone not in your immediate household. The government has published staying safe outside your home for guidance on how to enjoy the outdoors safely. Further guidance on access to green spaces is useful when considering visiting our parks and open spaces.

There is a huge selection of walks you can take, from circular, long distance, countryside sites, all ranging from short one-mile walks to nine-mile ones taking you further afield. But do be mindful of the current situation.

Have you discovered any new places to walk while on lockdown? Tag your photos with #YESlove on Instagram for us to share!

Photo credit: The Long Man of Wilmington, Paul Ward.