Restrictions on freedom of movement due to COVID 19 are a sharp reminder of the importance of public outdoor spaces. Even during the midst of lockdown there was a shared recognition by health care professsionals and the chief government health advisor of the need to allow for time to walking outside for mental and physical health. Despite intense pressure on local parks most were allowed to stay open.
For me walking allows space to be, to reflect and to dream. Without it I am not sure how well I would be able to weather the storms of life. The possible mental health benefits of being outdoors are discussed in a report by MIND. Natural England, WWF, the RSPB and the National Trust have also published reports about the benefits of time spent in “natural” landscapes. Writers who influence my work are Rebecca Solnit who has written eloquently in her book, “Wanderlust“, about the spiritual aspects of walking.
Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts in their book, “Edgelands“, have written about diverse landscapes which are immediately accessible to all of us, but are often overlooked. Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris’s beautifully illustrated book ,”The Lost Words“, is a timely reminder of how with our fast paced modern life we may be losing touch with the immediate natural world around us. They point out that even the words we have to describe once commonplace species are being lost from our vocabulary, words such as bluebell, blackbird or conker. Their work seems especially poignant in the current health crisis which has given a unique opportunity to rediscover the beauty of our local environment.