In 1963, a talented young man called Bob declared that ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ but I don’t think that even Mr. Dylan could have envisaged the events of this year and the impact that Covid-19 has had, and will continue to have, on our lives. This tiny virus has changed the way we live our lives, changed our work practices, and changed our social interaction (not forgetting the constantly changing guidelines). On top of the pandemic come the effects of climate change on our environment and the uncertainty of the impact of Brexit on our economy. Dire times ahead are the forecast of the many pundits, and yet, in the midst of adversity, there is always a glimmer of hope.
Although many businesses are struggling to keep alive, many will fail. Indeed, some have already done so. Countless will be in the leisure industry. Airlines, hotels, travel companies are amongst some of those most badly hit, but with so many people unable or unwilling to travel abroad, the fashion for UK holidays is in the ascendant. Herein flickers that glimmer! Many people are discovering the beauty of “…this sceptred isle”: the soaring mountains; the rolling verdant meadows and woodland walks; the languorous canals and babbling brooks; the friendly faces in cosy inns; the homely B&Bs with laden tables; “…this other Eden.”
Our local tourism industry has seen a belated summer boom; probably not since the Kinder Trespass in 1932 has walking as a recreational pastime been so popular. But the great British public is all thronging to the places that everyone knows, such as Lake Windermere, Snowdon, and The New Forest, whilst across. In the British Isles lie hidden gems, awaiting the adventurers, the dreamers, and the seekers of solitude. Places that are eager to welcome walkers from near and far. This could lead to the rejuvenation of small rural communities, whilst simultaneously easing the burden being placed on already worn footpaths and over-stretched honey-pot destinations.
Perhaps this surge in walking and UK holidays could lead to a new beginning. Perhaps, if these new walkers discover the beauty of our countryside, they will find the motivation to demand better protection for our natural heritage, which is under constant threat from urban creep, industrialisation, and a lack of funding. Perhaps too, they will learn to cherish the network of Public Rights of Way, born out of the Kinder Trespass, that gives the public access to the natural wonders that surround us and that is the envy of other countries. Perhaps (finally), just like experienced walkers, they will discover that inner peace that comes from losing oneself in our beautiful countryside.
So, for those seeking places with something different to offer, somewhere “far from the madding crowd”, visit the Walkers are Welcome website to discover these jewels in an emerald crown. And perhaps we can all help to fan that glimmer of hope into a bright new future for our countryside – a future of physical & mental well-being and economic stability. To paraphrase another talented man called William…
“… this sceptred isle…
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of Covid”