It feels as though we have been in lockdown forever. After some decidedly challenging months of combining working from home with schooling from home, it seems as though the end is finally in sight!

By Kate Retout ǀ Parsleyfrog Digital

The current lockdown has felt so much harder than those that came before as shorter days and colder weather have made it harder for some of us to spend time outside, but we have found it’s always worth the effort to get out for a while.
Some family members, such as my 80-year-old mother, are absolutely committed to the outdoor habit. Every morning, regardless of snow, baking heat or severe flooding, she can be found marching around the river. Nothing interferes with her enjoyment of observing the seasonal changes around her (or hitting her Fitbit step target). In the earliest days of the first lockdown before the introduction of support bubbles, these walks made the difference between total isolation and coping. As a hyper-social person with a crammed calendar, my mother’s life closed in around her in lockdown, and the wide-open space and beauty of the river quickly became her favourite mood lifter.

Others, like my young daughter, have settled very naturally into lockdown life and have to be cajoled into leaving the house. Not the most extroverted soul at the best of times, she has been quite content to follow the ‘stay home’ guidelines. There are plenty of things to tempt her out, including the chance to ride her bike, a kickabout with her dad, or a ‘nature walk’. Nature walks are something of a family tradition on her father’s side of the family, instituted by his Nanna. They involve taking a bag and gathering bits of interesting ‘Nature’, then bringing them home and emptying the bag on to the table and talking about the contents. This works very well with autumn leaves, daisies, twigs and fir cones, unless those fir cones are inhabited by many terrified earwigs. In case of earwigs, I recommend carefully gathering them up as they dash around the table in a panic, and returning them and the fir cones to the spot they were found. Bedford Park is a particularly good place for a nature walk, with lots to look at whatever the season, and the extra excitement of ducks and swans.

With so many options unavailable to us over the past year, as a family we got back into geocaching. Although we are pretty rubbish at finding the treasure via GPS, we have a lot of fun trying. There are lots of Geocaches to search for around Bedford Park, the river, and other local outdoor spots.

Despite complaining about having to leave the house, my daughter always comes back refreshed and happy after making the effort. We are lucky enough to have a garden, where she would prefer to spend most of each day playing and singing (and avoiding my efforts on the schooling front, given any distraction on my part). On warmer days, taking as many lessons as possible out to the garden has made a huge difference to her ability to concentrate and stay motivated. Reading? Boring. Reading outside? Very exciting.

On occasion, when the rules have allowed, we have ventured as far afield as exotic Bromham to visit the charming fairy garden at Bromham Mill, which made a very exciting afternoon out. My husband liked it better when the coffee shop was open, and I have always enjoyed touring the mill itself, but even without access to the buildings, or the coffee, the fairy walk was a hit. A walk around Priory Country Park is always very pleasant, and comes with the chance of spotting herons, and sometimes even deer. Careful timing is needed, as we’ve arrived on warm days to a rammed full car park, and found the paths so busy social distancing became quite a challenge. We’re far from the only people to have been making the most of Bedford’s beautiful green spaces in lockdown.

For a smaller, quieter spot, the Hill Rise Nature Reserve is definitely worth a visit. Maintained carefully by local residents, it’s close to Robinson Pool and Bedford Park. The reserve isn’t open to dogs, but for non-dog owners like us, it’s a peaceful spot to visit and mercifully free of dog poo.

As the weather gets warmer and the daffodils bloom, we will definitely be making the most of our chances to take a break from stressing over work and home-schooling, get outdoors even if it’s just to stare at some trees from time to time. Ah trees. Nice calming trees!

All photos © Parsleyfrog Digital 2021

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