Coronavirus: Lockdown leads to walkabout discoveries

By Gavin Bevis
BBC News, East Midlands

image copyrightDanielle Kinton
image captionA field of cows in the Ouse Valley Park, Milton Keynes

Since the coronavirus pandemic led to restrictions on people's movements and activities, many have learned to see their surroundings with fresh eyes, discovering hitherto-unknown walks and beauty spots right on their doorsteps.

During the first weeks of lockdown, government advice restricted many to taking exercise once a day within walking distance of their homes.

Although that advice has since been relaxed, many have come to view the streets where they live in a new light, discovering walks, trails and landmarks they had not realised were there before.

"This lockdown period seems to have given everyone a heightened sense of the simple pleasure of just walking outdoors," said Tom Platt from the Ramblers' Association.

"Lots of people have been telling us how much they're enjoying getting outdoors and exploring their local area. It's just made people see the world in a different way.

"With everything else that's been going on it's been really heartening to hear how much pleasure people are getting from being outdoors on a short walk."

Urban deer walk

image copyrightChris Claytor-Scott
image captionChris and Hannah Claytor-Scott say lockdown helped them discover a nature reserve on their doorstep

Chris Claytor-Scott, a theatre communications manager, and his wife Hannah, a consultant, said the lockdown gave them a chance to discover a nature reserve 15 minutes away from their Newcastle-upon-Tyne home.

The entrance to the reserve lies in a housing estate. "We tried to find it when we moved here three years ago but sat nav kept taking us to another place," said Chris.

"Because we had a bit more time during lockdown, we were able to explore a bit further afield and we now go there every day.

image copyrightHannah Claytor-Scott
image captionThe couple say the time they had during lockdown meant they could discover their local area

"There are fields of horses and some woods where you can sometimes see deer. It reminds me of the walks in the countryside I used to do as a child but it's all right here in the city, on our doorstep.

"We never would have gone there had we not been forced to stick to this area for so long."

On your bike

image copyrightAnne North
image captionAnne North says the lack of traffic on the roads has allowed her to explore new places

Runner and cyclist Anne North, from Redmile in Leicestershire, said the lack of traffic on the countryside lanes near where she lives had allowed her to use more main roads as the basis for her explorations.

"I'm loving the quiet roads. It will almost be a shame to be back to normal," she said.

Anne, 55, said the lockdown had helped her view her surroundings from a new perspective.

image copyrightAnne North
image captionLockdown reminds Anne how beautiful the world is

"I've been doing more road running because the traffic is much quieter and it means I'm less at risk of sharing space with others," she said.

"From there I run along a canal or an old railway track with a bridge where you can still see the old number. You can imagine the trains stopping to do the pick-up from the farm at bridge number 60."

image copyrightAnne North
image captionAnne's daughter Sophie (left) now enjoys cycling and running too

She said lockdown had helped her look at the world in a different way.

"You remind yourself how beautiful the world is and how peaceful. The birdsong is amazing."

Anne's daughter Sophie, 22, who was furloughed from her job, has also taken up running and cycling.

"She's got really into it now and she's discovering lots of new paths near us she never knew existed," Anne said.

Up close with animals

image copyrightDanielle Kinton
image captionDanielle Kinton - pictured with her partner Becky Brown - says she is "so grateful" to have discovered some nearby field walks

Danielle Kinton and her partner had a great time discovering inhabitants of the Wolverton side of the Ouse Valley Park in Milton Keynes.

"During lockdown, life dramatically slowed down," she said.

"My partner and I usually work in a school so we hadn't really had the time to explore our surroundings.

"One day we decided to get up, grab some snacks, bottles of water and just go for a walk without a sat nav."

Their walk took them to fields filled with livestock.

"It was a beautiful day so we decided to explore," she said. "We then discovered that there were multiple fields with sheep, cows, bulls, horses, moorhens and baby moorhens - a cow even licked my jacket!

"We cannot stop going back to walk further across the many fields nearby.

"We are so grateful to have such a beautiful place to walk around near where we live."

Air raid shelter find

image copyrightHolly Payne
image captionPokemon Go led Holly Payne to an air raid shelter

Holly Payne said playing an augmented reality game on her phone during her allotted exercise break in April led her to a fascinating piece of local history.

Holly, from Norwich, said she was playing Pokemon Go on her phone when a World War Two air raid shelter showed up as a nearby "Pokestop".

"It caught my interest," she said. "The game's actually a good way to find local history and architectural features that might be a bit out of your normal route."

She said the Anderson shelter was "tucked away" on the driveway of a local business.

"It's quite easy to walk past, even with it pointed out," she said.

Finding peace across the brook

image copyrightDr Gianluca Balla
image captionDr Gianluca Balla said he felt at peace when he found a new green area

Dr Gianluca Balla, a lecturer in Games Art at London's Brunel University, said the lockdown gave him time to explore the area around his home in Hayes, West London.

"My usual journey was home, bus station, work and home again," he explained.

"After one month in isolation, I decided to cross the Yeading Brook and explore the surrounding area.

"I discovered a piece of wildlife just beyond the stream - a peaceful field surrounded by trees in bloom.

"Suddenly, I felt at peace."

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