I am lucky. I can walk to the end of our garden and sit in the sunshine on the cliff edge terrace overlooking Endcliffe Park. Through the yet-to-leaf trees growing tall from the foot of the old quarry immediately below I can see the road. Normally busy with all sorts of traffic it’s almost deserted. A lone car turns off Ecclesall Road onto Rustlings Road and a solitary walker crosses in the other direction. It sounds quieter than a Sunday morning, quieter even than a New Year’s Day morning.
The park, bathed in clean bright spring sunshine, is empty. Along the path on the far side by the stream a lone runner converges with a single cyclist heading in the opposite direction . The runner runs off the path to take a big detour around the other. There are people on the huge expanse of grass – 6 to be precise, all in sports kit, strung out in a line running across together, a rugby back line practicing their moves: six against none. They are at least keeping to the 2m rule – but what about the ball, passing from hand to hand? I muse on whether they have brought hand sanitiser and then see two high vizs walking across to them (definitely not observing the 2m rule). A brief discussion ensues and the back line fractures. Figures move off in different directions.
How are we (especially those of us living in an urban environment) supposed to navigate the instruction that ‘we should stay at home, we shouldn’t go out unless for a small number of prescribed reasons’ and yet we can take daily outdoor exercise – exercise that may well involve closer than sensible proximity to many others doing the same things in places like parks, woods etc?
Should we be mindful that what seemed reasonable, responsible behaviour only a week ago (avoiding pubs, cafes, restaurants etc but still being outdoors where others were wandering around) looks now, in retrospect, to be naïve. Should we be personally enacting a stricter lockdown, only going out when we absolutely have to?
For allotmenteers the dilemma is acute. Rationally it should be fine to leave one’s house, get in a car and drive to the allotment – thus avoiding any interaction or shared air space with others. Admittedly negotiating the virus magnet of the padlock and gates would need to be handled carefully but once inside and on the patch itself it would not be difficult to maintain the 2m rule and the threat of shared air space should be minimal. However, would the car trip be viewed as an unnecessary journey? We could of course combine it with an entirely necessary shopping trip!
What is a chap to do?
Thankfully a google search ‘Can I go to my allotment during the lockdown period?’ takes us straight to a statement by the Rt Hon Michael Gove which informs us that allotments can count as ‘exercise’ as long as the 2m rule is observed.
This is good news – because it is what we want to hear ….. and yet … and yet …. you surely have to take account of the reputation of the messenger …. The Honourable ……..?
A very real dilemma – we’ve been talking about it ourselves. And is one even less open to criticism or censure if one walks to the allotment? – or does that qualify as two types of exercise in a day and thus excessive…? Endless questions, and Mr Gove’s answers are like the Delphic oracle (I over-praise for sure) – ambiguous, if not impenetrable.
It seems all turned on its head – walking, cycling, public transport is usually ‘good’ and now it’s not and maybe even private cars are OK because they limit contact with others. It’s a hard balance to strike between maintaining fitness and general health and the need to respond to this particular version of ill health by staying indoors.
I cannot imagine what it must be like cooped up in a high rise flat in the centre of an urban area with a family of young children – or even worse families in B&B accommodation essentially living in one room. Puts the ‘do we use the car to access outside spaces’ dilemma into some perspective.
Our lane has never been so busy with runners, cyclists and joggers. I guess people are avoiding their usual routes to stay out of the way of others but when they all have the same idea, well…….
Fortunately my hobby is making music which means people prefer to keep more than 2 metres distance from me.
Thanks for the inspiration Phil. I have just ordered on line a one person band outfit – bass drum on back, sticks attached to elbows, cymbals on knees, ukulele and harmonica. Lets everyone know your coming and almost guaranteed to maintain the 2m distance – unless it provokes outrage and uncontrollable fury.
All I have to do is work out how I can operate all this whilst riding my bike .