The Friends of Haddon Wood

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How do you walk in Haddon Wood …and in fact anywhere else?

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At the moment the answer should be ‘I don’t, if I have to drive there’.

If you don’t agree/believe me, see this post from the Woodland Trust .. https://friendsofhaddonwood.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1748&action=edit ..It says, among other things, Our estate remains open but only if you can access it from your home without driving

Not only the Woodland Trust, but the National Parks are closing for the first time in their history and the National Trust has retracted its offer to open parks and gardens, because people are taking advantage and ignoring the social distancing rule.

The reason that they’ve all felt the need to do this is that people don’t seem to understand that this is the worst worldwide crisis since the Spanish flu pandemic at the end of WWI. It’s like the Foot & Mouth catastrophe, with knobs on.

As for my headline, I’m not referencing anything to do with Monty Python ministries in this post, as I hope the rest of it clarifies. Perhaps I’d have been clearer if I asked why you walk, but the answer to that more than likely would be the obvious: ‘because I need to get from A to B’; or ‘because my dog needs the exercise’; or even a sarky ‘because I can’. At the moment, though, with Coronavirus so much at the forefront of our minds, the answer is likely to be because ‘I’ve been told I can go outside once a day to exercise’. All of the above seem like perfectly reasonable responses to me. …at least I thought that was what I thought.

But exercise is the point here. We’re told that at the moment, while the country is in virtual lockdown, we are allowed to go outside once a day for exercise. So what I mean by the original question is do you walk with purpose, or wander vaguely? Do you stroll, chatting to others from the group you’re quarantined with, stopping to wait for others to catch up? Do you block gateways or junctions of crossing paths, to send text messages? Until the recent lockdown none of this was a problem, anything I thought about, but suddenly, in the last week or so, whilst living restrictions have been relatively simple, walking the dogs has become fraught.

More people than I’d have guessed think exercise is just a good excuse to go outside. On the other hand I’ve realised that I walk, not just to enjoy the countryside and watch the changing seasons – I work outside anyway, so can do all of that then, after all – but because my dogs need to get out, only once a day at the moment, read the local peemail and break up their day from the usual four walls and small yard they’d otherwise be confined to, but mostly to stretch their legs. We don’t go for gentle, vague strolls.

There are people around right now who aren’t normally here in quantity and some of them really do seem to be treating this critical situation like a holiday. They go for walks in large groups. The rule is no more than two at a time, people! The thing is, other people need to walk their dogs in Haddon and the lanes around on a regular basis but Alhampton is a tiny village! Lots of residents are permanently local, self-isolating and afraid. Add to that that spaceous as the wood is, the number of pinch points – like gateways, hedge-obscuring sightlines, slip throughs and path crossings – there are in Haddon make walking at a distance from others difficult. Can you begin to see their problem with groups of people just getting outside.

You may have noticed that in present circumstances I’m not as tolerant of others as I’ve liked to think I am. I’m not walking in Haddon at the moment because the friend over there I often walk with is self-isolating and it seems a bit selfish to drive there and add to the numbers anyway, when I can walk from my house and as it turns out, according to the Woodland Trust, I’m doing the right thing. Go me! But, even where I live, all sorts of people who wouldn’t normally be seen in a field are wandering about, ignoring the two metre rule and generally aggravating the sh*t out of the rest of us! There, I’ve admitted it. I’m both self-righteous and selfish.

The bottom line is that we’re lucky, aren’t we, to have such a lovely place to walk, in Haddon Wood and even luckier, in recent days, that the weather has been smiling, after such long and dispiriting period of rain. It’s been the easy option for many, but it’s the only one for quite a few and maybe at the moment, just for a while, the rest of us need to stay away. Either that or pray for the foul weather to return…

Author: tr3planter

Freelance gardener

One thought on “How do you walk in Haddon Wood …and in fact anywhere else?

  1. Couldn’t agree more. As an Alhampton resident with health conditions which mean I’m avoiding people like mad, I also have a dog and a need to exercise myself and her. I’m astonished and appalled to find, EVERY time I’ve been to the wood since the government said only essential car journeys are allowed, at least two cars in the car parks and people who I know live in neighbouring towns/villages with their own open spaces walking in Haddon Wood. On one walk I found myself face to face with someone coming through a gap who suddenly started coughing with no protection! Just stop it, please!

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