On 16th March the Charity closed its office to safeguard staff from the Covid-19 outbreak and shifted to home-working. Living in a beautiful part of the South West with good access to the countryside and coast, this shift also gave an opportunity to reconnect with the local environment. Over the next two months I took the opportunity to walk daily along the local footpath network including the South West Coast Path National Trail.
It’s been very interesting watching the changes over this period. Not just the change from spring to summer, but also a wider change as nature continued as normal oblivious to the pandemic tearing through society. Timid deer became less skittish and more curious as fewer dogs and their owners walked around the local parkland. Bird song reclaimed the local woodland and skylarks warbled in full-flight above the fields with few of the ‘normal’ human sounds of traffic or industry blocking them out.
Those of us who’ve been lucky enough to get out in the countryside in the midst of the lock-down have been able to witness this change. In addition, I’ve given myself the time to take notice of the beauty of nature. Counting how many different species of wildflower can be spotted along a walk has become a new pastime. Reclaiming rural lanes for walking has given a new insight into the area, discovering old wells and parish boundary stones. The opportunity to stop and listen to the wind blowing through the trees without the previously ever-present ambient drone of the nearby city has become my meditation. This daily walk and time spent celebrating the wonders of nature is a tonic, quietening down the anxieties whirling around us.
As government messaging has moved from lock-down to recovery, traffic has started to increase as the wheels of industry start to turn again. Many more people are travelling to the countryside for recreation and exercise, which is applauded. With this shift there’s unfortunately also been an increase in litter. We need to engage with people to take more pride in their local environment so that antisocial behaviour does not spoil the very thing that is helping many people get through this crisis. The Countryside Code is a good starting point with its clear message of Respect, Protect, Enjoy.
“The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature. Yet, these are exceptional times in which nature is sending us a message: To care for ourselves we must care for nature. It’s time to wake up. To take notice. To raise our voices. It’s time to build back better for People and Planet.”
United Nations World Environment Day 2020: http://www.worldenvironmentday.global
Today is the 46th World Environment Day, the United Nation’s annual platform to raise awareness of environmental issues. This year the theme is ‘Time for Nature’. Over the past four decades there has been a growing disconnect between people, our environment, food and health. As we move along the path to recovery from the pandemic we should learn lessons from these unprecedented times. Specifically, in relation to our environment and nature recovery, we need to reconnect back to nature for our own health and wellbeing. We also need to ensure that communities value their local environment to ensure it can be conserved for future generations to enjoy. To do this we need to ensure younger generations get the opportunity to understand and engage with their local countryside and coast, helping to understand and value food production and local provenance. Our Every Mile Matters campaign will help the charity champion these issues going forward, helping promote the Coast Path as an exemplar of sustainability and taking a holistic view of the trail across environment, economy and society.