Turning to nature in a time of crisis
It was no surprise to us that as lockdown loomed the wonderful communities of the Blackdown Hills soon jumped into action to support their neighbours, from vulnerable residents to local businesses. Since then, a host of community activities have been boosting morale and keeping people entertained, and our pubs and eateries have been getting creative with take-aways and pop-up shops. We’ve heard about all sorts of helpful initiatives in villages throughout the Blackdown Hills. Those of you who have been volunteering your time and effort are a credit to your communities.
The Blackdown Support Group has been doing sterling work too, alongside the Blackdown Practice, local parish councils, churches and partner voluntary organisations, supporting our communities during the pandemic.
The ‘natural’ health service
There is no doubt that recent events have led to many more of us appreciating what our natural spaces have to offer.
From their inception, protected landscapes (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks) were intended to bring health benefits. They came to life after the second world war through the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 and were seen as complementing the work of the NHS by providing opportunities for recreation. So, it is fitting that access to protected landscapes such as ours should contribute much to alleviating the impact of this pandemic and healing as a society as this current crisis diminishes.
In time, we certainly want to capitalise on our population’s newfound appreciation of the natural world and continue our quest (with ever more vigour) to enable a broad range of people to access the restorative benefits of our beautiful landscape.
Let’s go gently
Many of us are now able to access the countryside a little more than in recent weeks. Nevertheless, we remain in a situation where we have been asked to stay home as much as possible, and some members of our community remain particularly vulnerable and are, as yet, unable get out in our beautiful countryside.
Those who manage key visitor sites will, of course, be looking forward to seeing people return and many local businesses rely on visitors for an income, but this will take time. As the prevalence of Covid-19 continues to be monitored, we will need to continue to follow Government guidance on accessing green spaces.
Even apparently ‘wild’ outdoor spaces need to be carefully managed – from car parks, toilets and litter bin collections, through to protecting wildlife and ensuring the safety of visitors. The staff who look after these sites may have childcare responsibilities, be returning from furlough, or facing a variety of other challenges. Farmers could be having a particularly challenging time too, with increased demand for UK produce, staffing issues and possibly losing income from other ventures, at what is already a busy time of year. We might find that wildlife, particularly ground-nesting birds, have set up home in unusual places. So, this year, more than ever, it is important that we tread carefully and keep dogs under careful control.
So, if you’re thinking of accessing the countryside please consider the impact you may have and return gradually with care and consideration for the lives, livelihoods and the environment this affects.
Visitor attractions, and some wildlife sites, car parks, toilets and other facilities in the Blackdown Hills AONB may be closed at present. So, please make sure you read our visitor advice and check the details of your proposed destination online before you set off – you can do this by clicking on places to see then linking through to the destination’s own website for the latest details. Take the time to read signage. Respect the measures that local authorities and site management have put in place to help ensure physical distancing.
Indeed, we still have a tough road ahead of us but by continuing our efforts to pull together and showing thought for each other’s needs and wishes, we can make the journey so much easier.