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Suitably subdued… On day one of lockdown, Takapuna Beach (pictured) was quieter than usual, while Milford Beach seemed packed

Going for a walk will help us stay sane, but editor Jodi Yeats finds the Milford to Takapuna walkway hard to recommend during lockdown. On day one of shutdown, 26 March, I moved from the chill of the office to the warmth of Milford Beach to check out the coastal walkway.

Despite the government suggesting more than 20 people at the beach would be problematic, I counted around 100 people, and another 20 swimmers. The contrast with the eerily deserted streets of Milford was alarming.

While most dogs were on leads, one excited dog ran around wildly from group to group, potentially spreading infection.

We have been advised to go on solitary walks.

At the end of the beach, a woman in a flowery bathing cap entered the water between the rocks. Further along, a father entertained a toddler by investigating a rock pool. These seemed safer activities than the relative bedlam at the beach.

The coastal trail was beautiful and interesting, as always, but its spiritual benefits were offset by the challenges of avoiding other walkers.

While most paused, so we could navigate narrow sections without colliding, others pressed on, forcing me to clamber over the famed 200,000 year-old lava fields.

“Two metres, Cam,” was one woman’s comment to her mate.

A kayaker slipped by, close to the rocks, defying the Coastguard’s call to stay off the water. As the Coastguard points out on its website, pretty much all of the 3700 people it rescued last year didn’t expect to get into trouble.

Takapuna Beach was far more quiet than usual, with around 60 people along its much longer span than Milford, including a couple of swimmers.

I decided it would be safer to return along the road, with its wide footpaths, plus a few interesting historic homes, not least the eccentric Algie’s Castle, a captain’s 1924 tribute to his ancestral homeland.

Seemingly in their own world, joggers and people staring at their phones came too close, meaning I had to swerve out onto the road.

People were out trimming hedges, painting the house and otherwise catching up on jobs at home.

Teddy bears waved from windows – a brilliant idea to enhance outings with children getting restless at home. I returned thinking we need to do better than this. Walking outside is good for our mental health, and there are local historic, literary, war and art walks available online to explore.

But, we need to think more creatively about how to get outside while also staying in our “bubble”.

This article originally appeared in the 3 April 2020 edition of the Rangitoto Observer.

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