It’s been chilly, you may have noticed. But here in the Outdoor City, Beast from the East (2) held no fear for the hardy locals stomping, running and riding around in the ice and snow.
Many have photos to prove it too. Now the frost has thawed (for the moment : see below) we asked a few of them to share their cold snaps, and bracing weather reports. They also have a few tips just in case it’s not actually sunny every day from now on.
“I love getting out for a mountain bike ride or dog walk in the winter,” says Stephen Morrison, who takes photos (as @mozzasnaps) in the northern Peak District.
“Whatever the conditions, I find it’s much easier to drag myself out of bed in time for sunrise and I often have the trails and scenic spots to myself. Plus, the low sun at both ends of the day provides great for light photos, and there’s always chance of a snowy, frosty or misty backdrop.”
Fellow MTB enthusiast Chris Maloney runs the Keeper of the Peak twitter account, which advises mountain bikers to monitor ground conditions, and stick to resilient paths in poor weather. But bad weather is no reason to stay inside.
“Rain or cold, snow or wind — get out there and enjoy the elements,” he says.
“My local walks and rides have been welcome breaks from the screens I’ve been locked to, and every day they’re different; be it the weather or change of seasons, or just the people and things you see. Spotting those differences has been fascinating for my kids and fun for me.
“Right now the snowdrops are through, and this morning I spotted my first crocus, right after seeing a hare sprinting across the fields,” he says.
“For me personally, getting on the bike is solace. The benefits of riding physically are obvious, but less talked about is the mental health aspect of it all. To be able to shut off the daily strains and focus solely on the path in front of your tyre and get into that rhythm is important for me and the reason I love riding. I can focus on that — and come back to the day to day after the ride.”
Zafar Ali runs and walks and takes photos in the wild landscape of Totley Moor.
“Winter doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see,” he says.
“When it snows it’s brilliant for field craft: tracking animals and birds gathering around berry laden rowan trees.”
He says: “Remember there’s no such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothes! Preparation is important and once you make the effort whatever the weather you’ll feel fantastic after.”
Zaf’s tips for wild weather exploration are to invest in grippy footwear for walking or running, and maybe some waterproof socks. And carry your phone in a warmer inside pocket, as cold weather can quickly drain phone batteries, and take a map you can read in case your phone crashes.
He uses the ‘RainRadar’ app to watch when the next shower or blizzard is coming, and ‘Relive’ for adding photos and videos en route.
“You should also tell someone where you’re going and what time to expect you back, but don’t forget to tell them when you are!”
Like many, Zafar was concerned at the litter left behind my newcomers to the countryside last year, and says: “Treat the countryside with respect and leave it as you found it, or better, by picking up litter yourself.”
Sue Lee, chair of the Step Out Sheffield walking programme, stresses the social importance of walking in the local countryside : “I’ve been making the most of the fact that Government guidelines allow socially distanced exercise with one other person. Regularly meeting with three different people each week for a socially distanced walk and talk really helps to keep the spirits up.”
She adds its worth making the effort, even when, as the local saying goes, it is looking a bit black over Will’s mother’s.
“The weather is rarely as bad outside as it appears from inside and, even if it is, you soon warm up once you begin walking!” she says.
She suggests walking poles for added security in wintry conditions. “It isn’t ‘soft’, it is sensible! And if you have two walking sticks, use both of them!”
For faster off road cycling in cold air, Chris Maloney recommends face coverings like a Buff or snood. “I also like nice thick gloves and socks with a bit of wiggle room. And a hot drink too. It’s amazing getting somewhere like Stanage and looking out across a winterscape while sipping on a nice hot chocolate.”
Zafar Ali says walkers could have a go at running parts of their walking routes in the colder weather.
“Mix it up a bit and you’ll be surprised at how much ground you can cover with a little bit of effort.”
He also advises politeness for faster moving explorers: “Runners and MTBers should call out to walkers as you approach to warn them and to let them know which side you’re going to pass.”
It may be milder just now, but meteorologists have noted a possibility of some moderately beastly weather on the way in early March. In current times, Outdoor Citizens will be undaunted.
Sue Lee took a particularly happy journey this week. “I walked to Jordanthorpe, battling against a ferocious and bitterly cold wind to get my Covid vaccination. Coming home, with the wind behind me and the jab safely delivered, was pure pleasure!”