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Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust: Use green spaces, parks and nature reserves during the national lockdown

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As we face up to four weeks of limited contact with friends and family, and a reduced range of options as to how we spend our time as we all play our part in keeping the pandemic in check, it would seem likely that green spaces such as parks and nature reserves will once again be the mainstay of outdoor leisure for most of us, says ­Erin McDaid of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.

With many people’s hobbies off the agenda, folk who wouldn’t normally spend that much time outdoors will also be looking to green space for exercise and escape alongside those of us that knew of their value long before covid-19 darkened our collective door.

While many will be facing the new restrictions with dread, the removal of limits on outdoor exercise and the flexibility to travel to green spaces should help many of us cope better this time.

A walk along the River Leen. Photo: Lizzie Mead (43047627)
A walk along the River Leen. Photo: Lizzie Mead (43047627)

This change could make a massive difference to our experience during Lockdown 2.

The ability to get out to visit treasured green spaces and explore the local environment is a real bonus and the fact that we are not banned from driving to take our exercise should mean that people can make it to their favourite spot.

However, alongside the more flexible approach in the new restrictions comes a responsibility to ensure we don’t give the powers that be any cause to think again and to curtail this precious additional ‘freedom’.

Mobility scooter user at Attenborough. (43047625)
Mobility scooter user at Attenborough. (43047625)

The freedom to drive to a favourite spot could make the world of difference to those with limited mobility.

We know that during the stricter regime earlier in the year this was a real concern to many with people simply being unable to visit favourite haunts.

But, as many of us make plans as to how we will spend our free time in the weeks ahead we must make sure that we don’t overload popular spots.

With green spaces likely to be busier we must also respect each other and the environment when out and about.

A walk along the River Leen. Photo: Lizzie Mead (43047629)
A walk along the River Leen. Photo: Lizzie Mead (43047629)

On the first day of lockdown last week I was lucky enough to be working at our Attenborough Nature Reserve and as well as giving me a chance to stretch my legs, take in some fresh air and to enjoy the wildlife, it was a delight to see other people doing the same and making the most of the autumn sunshine.

There were a fair number of people on the reserve but everyone seemed in positive mood. There were polite ‘good mornings’ and friendly nods of acknowledgement as people passed at a safe distance.

As lockdown continues we hope people continue to get out and about to enjoy natural green spaces, especially our wetlands sites such as Attenborough, Besthorpe, Skylarks, and Idle Valley nature reserves where the numbers of winter birds continues to build and the autumn colours remain vibrant.

For many, connecting with nature has been a source of real solace, especially when other activities have been restricted and contact with family and friends off limits.

I have no doubt that nature will be just as important and potentially more so this time as our resilience is tested, but with increased numbers of people visiting sites we all need to continue to respect each other and the staff who care for and work at the sites, remembering that they are also coping with the many challenges being thrown at us in these unprecedented times.

So, over the next few weeks if you visit a site and the bins are full, take your litter home.

If you feel that there are too many people at a site to visit safely, head somewhere else for your dose of the natural health service.

If the facilities are not open in the way they would normally be, give a thought as to the reasons why before venting your ire on social media or at the staff on site.

If we all keep ‘smiling behind our masks’ and offer a friendly wave or recognition or a polite hello as we visit local green spaces, in effect practising ‘sociable distancing,’ our shared experience will be even more relaxing, rewarding and restorative.

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