On Monday, the UK government introduced a new three-tier system of local Covid alert levels in England. This means different areas have different restrictions. The new English levels are medium (tier 1), high (tier 2), and very high (tier 3). Tier 1 carries on with the rules that came in on 25 September, including the Rule of Six and 10pm closing for pubs and restaurants. Tier 2, soon to include nearly half the population of England, bans indoor mixing between households. Tier 3 (currently the Liverpool region and parts of Lancashire) closes any pubs that don’t serve “substantial” meals and advises people not to travel out of or outsiders to stay in the area.
Meanwhile, Wales is banning visitors from Covid hotspots from Friday evening, while Scotland advises against travelling into or out of high-risk areas. Under Northern Ireland’s new rules, most hotels are shut and “no unnecessary travel should be undertaken”.
Which areas are in tier 2?
Tier 2 currently covers large parts of the Midlands, north-east and north-west England, including areas around Newcastle, Tyneside and Manchester, as well as Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester and Birmingham. From midnight on Friday they will be joined by London, parts of Cumbria, Essex, Derbyshire, Surrey and Yorkshire, meaning more than half the population of England will be living with tier 2 or 3 restrictions. A government postcode checker tells you which areas are in which tier.
Can I travel to other parts of the UK if I live in a tier 2 area?
Yes. You can still go on holiday to most areas, but only with people in your household or bubble. The tier 2 guidelines suggest people aim to “reduce the number of journeys you make where possible”. Friday evening sees a ban on visitors to Wales from Covid hotspots elsewhere in the UK. This means anyone from England’s tier 2 and 3 areas, Northern Ireland and the Scottish central belt. In Scotland, until at least Monday 26 October, people in the central belt areas are advised to limit travel.
What about days out in tier 2 areas?
Many visitor attractions have introduced booking systems and some have reduced their hours, but most are open again and pleasantly uncrowded. As they do everywhere, restaurants and bars now have to shut at 10pm and often need to be booked in advance as they are limiting numbers. But, as long as you only visit as a household group (or keep to six outdoors), you can still go for a day out in tier 2 areas.
What if I don’t want to travel? Can I get a refund?
It varies. Some hotels and self-catering companies are offering refunds; others are offering a credit note or new dates. Under the new system, most places are still open and bookable, so customers might be liable for cancellation fees. In many cases, owners will agree to let holidaymakers postpone or provide a refund, but they are not obliged to. Whereas the ban on visiting Wales is legally enforceable, the restrictions in England (even for tier 3) are just guidelines.
Alistair Handyside of the Professional Association of Self-Caterers (PASC) points out that in the current situation English law leaves a lot of grey areas. The number one question, he says, from people booking accommodation these days is: “What happens if I need to cancel?” He advises people to read the T&Cs thoroughly and to take out travel insurance if they can. Some insurance companies offer coronavirus coverage (for instance, to help if you contract the virus after booking), but generally can’t cover the cancellation of your trips if they’re not legally impossible. Handyside points out that self-catering is a relatively safe sector and that the PASC cleaning protocols have been downloaded more than 100,000 times. With the number of cancellations, he adds, there are “some really gorgeous places available”.
Mike Bevens, managing director of the glamping site Canopy & Stars, says that so far this year the company has been able to change more than 90% of its bookings for stays affected by coronavirus. They advise people to check their own local restrictions and those of the area they are hoping to visit before booking. If the rules change, they can probably offer a change of date. If that proves impossible, they can look into other options, which might include a refund.
What about travelling abroad from a tier 2 area?
Yes, you are still allowed to holiday abroad. But it’s complicated. The government’s travel corridor lists countries you can still fly to that don’t involve the need to quarantine when you return . More importantly, the only places where people from the UK don’t need to isolate when they arrive there are: Gibraltar, Greece and Sweden. In Germany, tourists from several areas of the UK are supposed to isolate, but might be allowed to travel freely after a negative test result.
In troubled times, a ritual walk can clear the mind and soothe the soul | Walking
Come autumn, as a way of defying the back-to-school doldrums brought on by a rapid shortening of the days, and to mark what feels like the true start of a year, I go on a pilgrimage. This year, more than ever, I crave the slow and steady rhythm of a walking pace, big skies, and cleansing wind and rain to shake off the cobwebs of a long confinement and to break the domestic routines of daily life. I want to connect to my own pumping heart and the natural world around me, re-oxygenate stale lungs and feel the muscles in my legs stretch and work.
Since I’m looking for uplift, there is nowhere for me that’s more rejuvenating and exhilarating than the uplands of Golden Cap in Dorset, the highest point on the south coast of England. In the rinsed light of early autumn, it glows, as if just-hatched, new-born. I have earmarked the little church of St Candida and the Holy Cross, behind these soaring coastal cliffs, tucked into the valleys of Marshwood Vale, a landscape that folds gently in on itself like ribbons of thickened cream. It is part of a medieval pilgrimage trail that connected Bridport to Axminster, containing one of only two shrines with relics of a saint still existing in England (the other being Edward the Confessor’s shrine at Westminster Abbey), somehow miraculously surviving the Reformation and the civil war. St Wite, martyred by marauding Viking hordes, attracts the hopeless and hopeful sick who journey to her quaint limestone shrine.
Pilgrimage as a cure, pilgrimage for healing: the concept is as old as these hills that were crisscrossed with wayfarer and pilgrimage trails almost since the beginning of our civilisation. But the past 50 years, in particular, have seen a global revival of interest in the idea of pilgrimage; the eternal search for spiritual and physical succour dovetailing with today’s urgent calling for holistic meaning. It satisfies our hankering for “slow” over instant gratification, and offers an alternative, drug-free route to emotional and physical wellbeing. No surprise then that numbers increase year on year at the famous Camino de Santiago de Compostela trail, almost 350,000 recorded pilgrims last year, while more than 2m went on the Hajj in 2019.
In early March, with the world spinning on its axis, I was instinctively drawn to the pagan, mysterious, breast-like form of Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, off the Ridgeway, the oldest pilgrimage route in England. The perfect curve of the mound rose high above the flooded plains and I scaled it, in the horizontal rain, wading through treacle mud, reflecting that endurance is part of life, as it is part of any pilgrimage. Making a day’s circuit of the Neolithic standing stones and pagan burial sanctuaries seemed a very symbolic and purposeful way of processing the seismic changes that were unfolding. It was as if the very unknowability of Silbury helped me to find mental clarity, providing guidance as the tumultuous turn of world events shifted my own sense of self.
“Sometimes when people look for a new inner direction in their lives the most sensible and simple approach is to be found in an outer direction,” says Dr Guy Hayward, of the British Pilgrimage Trust. “With pilgrimage you literally walk a physical path, have a clear goal – your destination – and have a means of reaching it: walking. The simplicity of this tangible endeavour may be the secret that many need to know in order to find that inner-direction that so many of us seek.”
With no more than a pair of sturdy boots and a sense of purpose, on a simple physical and psychological level, the very act of walking, the rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other, of matching your breathing to your pace, in the fresh air, is soothing.
A 2015 study by the American National Academy of Science summarised that a 90-minute walk in nature calms the psyche, eases depression and feeds creative juices. Walking has been further proven to reduce blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels and improves concentration and energy. Unlike hiking, which is purely a physical challenge, the activity of a ritual walk, “the thinking footfall” as writer Robert Macfarlane describes it, encourages you to savour the moment and the resonance of each place. It’s finding pleasure and purpose in the act of “slow”.
So, after the easing of lockdown, I celebrated with a British Pilgrimage Trust route, via app, that guided me from the city of Wells, to the iconic pilgrimage landmark of Glastonbury Tor. I was drawn by their description of “ley lines, Green Men, leaping water, fire-breathing dragons and angels in high places”. I followed their counsel to pause, breathe and interact with the landscape; throwing stones into the holy wells, offering blessings at the foot of sacred trees, leaning into the branches and feeling the bark beneath my hands. My venture here felt like something quite separate from a ramble on a hill in my own backyard; a symbolic gesture of something meaningful and profound.
I recognise that my private pilgrimages, which bookended lockdown, were very personal and solitary quests for direction and a sense of wholeness and wellbeing in a fractured world. Yet it should not be forgotten that social interaction can be the most memorable source of influence in a pilgrimage. As a way of taking the pulse of place and its people, pilgrimage is a great way to travel. Traditionally, it has always been a true social leveller, as Chaucer has so vividly described.
On my various holy trails around the globe, the inevitable spontaneous mixing with strangers has been a singular takeaway. I have met down-and-outs and dreamers, strivers and shysters, hippies and Alpha achievers, and even a future lover, all as varied and as interesting as the swindling millers, virtuous martyrs and libidinous wives in the Canterbury Tales. Climbing Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka on New Year, and watching tantric ritual dances and seeking the head lama’s blessing at the Mani Rimdu festival in Nepal with its medieval atmosphere of beer, bribery and bride-bartering, the communality, and festival vibe is joyfully infectious, the social interaction uplifting.
A few years ago, I was wrung-out emotionally in the wake of my mother’s death and at a kind of crossroads in my life. Not knowing which way to take my career, unable to make any sane decision about the most trivial things, even what colour to paint the bedroom, I decided to join an organised pilgrimage in Shikoku, one of the less visited islands of Japan. The mythological landscape is part of a route made sacred by Kōbō-Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism in the 8th century. I hoped it would help me, not only get under the skin of this indomitable landscape and Japan’s rich, storied past, but also to find the something that was missing, the key that would reconnect me to myself. After all, extending one’s horizons is a fundamental human instinct, a fact that made lockdown so challenging.
I invited my sister and we piggybacked on to a jolly coachload of white robed henro, or pilgrims, for a few days, following the same slippery forest paths to our destination-shrines. We entered into the convivial spirit of their rituals: purifying at the water troughs, throwing a coin into a tray, lighting incense, ringing the giant bell, hitting the gong, chanting the Heart Sutra. Each step had its own resonance, like notes on a score sheet. They rose and fell.
Over tricky, stony, maple leaf-strewn paths, trodden down comfortingly over centuries by so many pilgrims before, the act of walking and talking out our grievances and problems among our uncomprehending fellow pilgrims, without having to maintain constant eye contact, was conducive. My sister and I successfully aired our hopes and fears, argued and cried, and came home, sore of foot, but with lighter hearts and soaring spirts.
We display the mementos of the journey – conical hats and staff, journals full of shrine stamps – with humour, but never underestimating that these are material symbols of the transformative power and healing trajectory of pilgrimage.
Contact British Pilgrimage Trust for organised pilgrimages in the UK (britishpilgrimage.org). Britain’s Pilgrimage Places by Nick Mayhew Smith and Guy Hayward is published by Lifestyle Press at £19.99
5 healthy foods that don’t actually help with weight loss
The internet is full of weight loss plans and each one of them claims to make you shed those extra kilos. While some of these plans work wonders, there are many that do not lead to any positive result.
So, before you plan to switch your black tea with green tea, here are a few things you should know. In this article, we will tell you about five such foods that are absolutely healthy but cannot help you fulfil your weight loss goals.
10 simple make-up looks to try for Halloween
If you have some rhinestone bindis lying around, you can easily recreate this 3D Halloween look.
A statement eye make-up look with a spider web design is equal bits creepy and glam!
To pull off the Wednesday Adam’s Halloween look, all you need is a grey or black outfit and black lipstick to pull off this look.
This half angel and half devil eye make-up can be created with simple make-up products and will surely make a statement too!
If you’re in a mood for a bold make-up look, then this spider web eye make-up highlighted with rhinestones and black lipstick is perfect for you!
Freaky clown make-up can never get boring. Test your black liner and kohl for this look and try it on your lips too for some extra drama!
Another interesting way to use your black kohl is go for skull make-up. Try this look with an all-black outfit and slay your Halloween look.
Want to pull off a cute look? Then, turn to the classic cat make-up look. All you need to use is a black liner on the nose and cheeks to draw some whiskers.
Give your eye make-up a vibrant makeover white pumpkin-inspired eyeliner.
This corpse bride look is so creepy and can be recreated with simple clothes at home!
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