Our first tentative steps towards a post-covid world

Schools have broken up, or are about to, for Easter and some of the Covid rules have eased enough to allow groups of six or two households to gather outdoors and for organised team sports to resume outdoors. Full details on the lockdown changes can be found on the Government’s webpages.

London still has a wealth of opportunities to enjoy and most of them are free, especially if it is one of the four thousand or more parks or public green spaces listed on the GoParks website. The listings include links to the London Garden’s Trust historic database or to the wildlife records office for London detailing what plants, bugs or other natural attractions you can discover.

England remains under lockdown, so you must stay at home, leaving only where permitted by law. You can be fined £200 minimum if do not follow the coronavirus rules. The two metre physical distancing rules remain in place so try to respect others personal space, especially where it gets crowded along narrow paths, bridges entrances or outside take-aways and other venues.

You can leave your home to exercise or to visit a public outdoor place for outdoor recreation, such as a coffee on a bench or a picnic in a park. You should minimise the time you spend outside your home, and you should not travel outside your local area, and must follow the guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus at all times.

Park activities c Victoria Stewart

Walking, sitting, cycling, playing football or running. Time to get more active together outdoors (c) Victoria Stewart

If you are planning to meet five friends or another household, there is one essential website you should remember. Lockdownloo.com is the most up to date service listing toilets not closed by the pandemic. Take water to keep hydrated and do not forget your mask, hand sanitiser and to let someone know where you are going and when you will be back.

One of the new lockdown changes is that outdoor sports facilities and team sports like football and tennis can resume. Check facilities are open before setting out as many still have restrictions. London’s outdoor swimming pools and wild swimming venues are re-opening; most with booked entry and one way swimming in force. Heated pools include Covent Garden’s Oasis pool, London Fields lido in Hackney, Hampton Pool and the lido’s at Park Road in Crouch End and Hornfair Park’s Charlton lido.

There are several unheated options too. These include Brockwell and Hillingdon lidos, and pools at Tooting Bec, Parliament Hill, Pools on the Park in Richmond and of course the Serpentine and Hampstead Heath ponds (nine degrees Centigrade on Monday 29th).

Several parks and nature reserves have set-up Easter nature trails where you can enjoy a stroll under trees full of blossom and catkins, or displays of daffodils, crocuses and other spring blooms which are starting to appear. Wildlife is emerging from its winter slumber rather like us staggering from our lockdown homes for some exercise or to clear our minds. Look out for frog and toad spawn. The first will appear like clumps of transparent rice pudding while toad spawn will be in strings. There may even be some tadpoles to enjoy. Migratory sand martins have started to return to nest in London from their winter break in Africa. Swallows and swifts will follow.

Art lovers could enjoy works by Anish Kapoor, Abigail Fallis and Anthony Gormley along London’s first dedicated art walk, The Line sculpture Trail. It takes you through some of London’s most historic areas and some of the newest. The route runs between Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and The O2, following the waterways through Three Mills Island (home of the MasterChef studios) and the line of the Greenwich Meridian. You can explore The Line virtually online too!

Thomas J Prices bronze silicon statue called Reaching Out depicting isolation and connectedness c Tim Webb

Thomas J Price’s bronze silicon statue called Reaching Out depicting isolation and connectedness (c) Tim Webb

London National Park City’s new Wiki pages offer several top ten walks or attractions and lots more from street art and wildlife to the best places for kite flying or star gazing during International Dark Sky Week (Sunday, April 19 Sunday, April 26). Lots to see, discover and do by yourself, in a group of six or with one other household.

There are thousands of public paths and walking or cycling routes through and around London. Some are signposted like the London Loop, while others like canal pathways are obvious. They can become narrow and busy so may not be the most attractive option at busy times. Always respect others.

London has more than a hundred city farms and community gardens slowly re-opening with a variety of attractions from chickens and goats to donkeys and sheep. Many have take-away drinks and snacks available too and most will be in desperate need of income having been closed for so long.

Feed your mind, meet your ancestors and get fit with a walk in one of the capital’s magnificent seven garden cemeteries established by the Victorians. Kensal Green is the oldest. The other six are West Norwood, Highgate, Abney Park, Brompton, Nunhead and Tower Hamlets. All are a fascinating mix of monuments to the famous and the unknown who built London and shaped society, plus fine  architecture, sculptures and nature.

If you want to immerse yourself in nature or try a bit of forest  bathing, Epping Forest is our largest woodland but there are others around London, and many have a few cycle routes, walking routes and picnic areas. Make sure you do not leave any litter.

While we are celebrating spring and all things outdoors, please remember, we are not out of the pandemic woods yet! England is still under lockdown. Only going out for essential activities or exercise. The GoParks interactive map can be searched by borough or postcode to find parks and green spaces near you. Covid remains a major threat we must all beat, even if school pupils are on holiday and restless. When you do go out, stay local, stay distanced and stay well.

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