How I’m re-assessing the value of ‘local’

I wrote a blog in February the year about re-thinking the need for travel, when Storm Ciara hit the UK. Little did I know then that just over a month later, we would be facing such massive state-imposed restrictions on travel, where we are being asked to stay at home and only take essential journeys.

But here we are. The Covid-19 pandemic is upon us, we are (mostly) all doing our bit to reduce contact with others and minimise the spread of the virus. It is an awful situation and really scary stuff. We have been told we can have one stint of exercise a day, staying close to home and keeping a 2 metre distance from others. How many of you thought the same as me: How on earth do we entertain ourselves without going anywhere?

I have two young kids at home who don’t understand the virus. In fact, they are mostly delighted to have so much of their parents’ time and attention at this time. Being kids, they love simple things, and they love being surrounded by their primary care-givers (even if, now and then, it means doing sums and spelling). For me, their positivity is a shield from the negative news in the wider world.

River play

However, their need for entertainment has not diminished, just the tools I have to work with. I’ve taken this as an opportunity to re-energise our interest in smaller, simpler, more local stuff. I’ve designed treasure hunts and obstacle courses in the garden, traced rivers, set safari challenges and taken them on walking/biking trips nearby. A friend reminded me it was wild garlic/nettle season and we went out to find and pick the youngest leaves, making pesto with our spoils. We’ve perfected the art of stone-skimming in the stream near our house. We’ve looked under stones for worms, snails and centipedes.

Wild garlic and young nettle tops

Suddenly, the place where we live has become incredibly important. Who knew there was so much fun to be had within a mile of our house?

I’m learning a lot. About where we live, about how my children learn, about making the most out of a scary situation, being grateful for the small pleasures. Ironically, although my geographical limits appear to be shrinking, others are expanding. I’m seeing new stuff, in a different light. Children are incredibly resourceful – they find fun in the smallest things. It is a good lesson for us all.

Nature’s climbing frame

Instead of travelling in the car long distances, going to museums and shows, essentially shunning the ‘local’ as being boring, we’re now taking more pleasure in the small things that are close by. And we are learning the value of nature to provide understanding about the world. As this is an environmental blog, I have to make the point, but I believe that understanding and valuing nature is the first basic step to protecting it.

I’m not advocating this lockdown to be kept any longer than it needs to. We really do yearn for a bit of variety and a bit of adventure. But while it is a reality, we’re going to make the best of it. As I see more of our neighbours out and about in the street as the weather begins to turn more spring-like, I hope that they are also valuing the ‘local’ a little bit more, appreciating the world around them.

What YOU can do

  • Go for a walk, and learn something new about where you live
  • Make some food using locally foraged (or sourced) food
  • Trace the course of your local river on a map all the way to the sea and see if you know all the places it passes through

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