As restrictions on travel in England are relaxed, the nation’s National Parks are preparing for an influx of visitors wanting a change of scenery. The release of lockdown is something that has been viewed with some trepidation by communities within national park boundaries. But it need not be a mass onslaught by town and city. One of the great benefits that has arisen out of lockdown is the countryside has returned to be a local resource. For many years, ‘The Countryside’ was that chosen to be designated special, ring fenced inside a human made geographical boundary, given status by government funding, and a nice logo. National Parks were the biggest and most prominent areas in receipt of funds from the public purse.
Come the Coronavirus, ‘The Countryside’ closed to all but residents, ‘stay away’ was the call to dwellers of city and town. And, we did. Forced to take our daily exercise locally Alison and I began to develop a deeper acquaintance with our local commons and surrounding woodlands. What we found was our own local version of ‘The Countryside’ and it both thrilled and relaxed us. Daily walks became an exploration of nature, botany, birdlife and local history. Alison bought and downloaded apps to help identify plants and wildlife, and found things we never expected. We recorded woodland sounds, uploading sound projects onto Twitter, creating other worlds in the ether. Instagram became a reflection of our growing sense of local countryside. Wild foraging added taste to our sensory explorations. Did you know that the young leaf of the European Birch refresh the mouth when chewed, tasting a little like Beech Nut. Nettle soup and wild garlic became lockdown delicacies on the table. We began to dwell in woodland dells, bathing in the peace and relief from a life put on hold. Our own special place where we can breath free from the anxiety of viral transmission from passing people. Staying local and immersing ourselves in local nature has become something to look forward to. Gradually, we realised that ‘The Countryside’ was a few steps outside our own front door and we love it.
What happens once life returns to whatever normal will be, remains to be seen. But having rediscovered what local nature is, may well determine how people look at ‘The Countryside’ for generations to come.