Dee Dee O’Connell, shopkeeper at independent outdoor store The Brokedown Palace and environmental campaigner, has been riding out lockdown in Hackney. Here, she describes how urban green spaces have made the restrictions bearable.
I live in Hackney, London by the River Lea. We’re lucky here because even though it’s quite central, we have a huge amount of open green space in Hackney Marshes and the Lee Valley. It’s beautiful at the moment with all the spring blossoms and wild flowers.
It feels busier there than usual because everyone is out doing their daily exercise locally. Lots of people who are still going out to work are also using it for their cycle or walking commute. The open space is big enough for all, but it can feel stressful at pinch points like bridges and narrow paths. The towpath is very busy and too narrow to distance properly, and it’s hard for the people living there in boats, so I’ve avoided walking on it during lockdown.
Hackney Council have made a big effort to keep all our parks open, and they’ve installed lots of 2m distancing signage and patrols to stop people gathering. Another local park, Victoria Park (in Tower Hamlets on the border with Hackney) was closed for over two weeks because of concerns around people not social distancing. It opened again [recently] which was really positive news because the closure created a lot of pressure on the streets and towpaths around it. It’s a densely populated area and lots of people live in cramped accommodation with no gardens. It has the highest levels of child poverty in the UK and it was sad to see children playing in the still busy roads next to a huge closed park. On a personal level it being open again will make our lives easier because we still need to walk into work on some days – it’s an 8-mile round trip and normally you can do over 2 miles of it in the park. It’s been difficult walking there on the streets as they’re busy and it’s hard to always stay 2 metres from other people. I’m looking forward to being able to walk through the park again.
Our local green space is under constant threat of development – hopefully after this more people will realise how precious it is and want to protect it. Local environmental campaigns I’m involved with have been planning and meeting up virtually, and we’re all more passionate than ever about saving our precious local nature.
Make indoor time better with The Great Outdoors
During the lockdown, we’re continuing to work (from home!) to make a magazine that will help you keep your outdoor spirit alive. Even though you can’t go physically go to the hills and mountains, we aim to take you there with our words and images, and perhaps conjure some of the feelings they inspire.
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Stay home, stay safe, and see you on the hills when the day comes!