Why have millions of us spent Lockdown walking through the countryside?

Illustrated by Shelly Oyston

We mustn’t lose our connection with nature once this is over.

As I became accustomed to our new normal, I began to hope we would never completely return to the old normal. The old normal was fume-filled roads packed with angry cars, stressed out guilt-ridden parents unable to find the time they desperately needed and wanted to spend with their children. It was about money and material objects over peace and friendship.

Then the pandemic struck.

The new normal became family walks in the countryside, regularly checking on our elderly parents, homecooked meals and family board games. Chatting for hours on the phone to friends. Children having proper conversations with their parents who properly listened. Adults who had never had time to read a book in years, reading again. Children reading more. Youngsters baking with their parents, going for long bike rides in the fresh air, spending quality time with their pets.

Social media has been flooded with pictures of families together in the countryside, forest paths, unusual trees, beautiful sunsets, wild flowers, rare insects, pretty butterflies…

I know I am not alone in feeling the healing powers of the countryside when I walk through it. The sheer beauty in every direction, the tranquillity. It is sublime.

But we forget easily. Who still uses the hashtag #bekind? We thought we would all change forever after the tragedy of Caroline Flack dying from suicide, but something else always comes along. This time it was Covid-19.

We have to make sure we don’t slide back into our old lives.

We simply must try hard to stop trying so hard! Let’s give ourselves the space to enjoy each other and enjoy life. As we’re returning to full time work we have to ask ourselves some very serious questions. Do we need to work the amount of hours we work? Is a saunter in the countryside more relaxing than flopping on the sofa after a hard day’s graft? Do we need to spend £1,000 on little Mikey’s birthday or can we take him and his friends to a FREE woodland play area? I know which he’d prefer so why do we insist on blowing our money all the time? When we do blow money on expensive gifts for our children, how long do they play with them? How soon are they broken or forgotten or both? Yet memories last forever and a peaceful mindset sets us up for life.

The countryside never stops changing, we have the 4 seasons with all the mini-changes in between. The more experienced you become with the country, the more new things you will see. You’ll begin to recognise the flora and fauna and the clues to which animals have made their homes nearby. Not only will you become experts in animal tracks and burrows and nests, you’ll be come expert poo-identifiers too! You can walk the same track again and again and see something new every single time. There are books to help you identify the different birds, insects, animals and flowers so your children can tick off what they see and search for the more elusive ones. My latest picture book in the “Who Hides Here” series, “Footprints in the Forest” is a very basic introduction to tracking, teaching young children which animal has made the footprints they find when on their family walks through woodland and forests.

There are other fun ways to enjoy the countryside too. Once lockdown has completely ended, the local forestry groups will start putting on events again such as den building, making nettle soup, identifying pond creatures, etcetera. Local to me, Guisborough Forest has an excellent range of events, why not check out your local groups?

I have high hopes for our future. I think we’re going to be happier and healthier. A large part of it is due to our reconnection with nature. We just must not forget and slip back into our old ways.

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