Updated 25 April, 3.00pm.
The majority of parks in London are still open, but leading politicians have reiterated advice about maintaining social distancing after a month of lockdown. The guidelines issued around Victoria Park give an indication of what is considered 'acceptable' when you're taking your once-daily exercise:
- Reduced opening hours from 8am to 4pm, daily.
- Follow the existing guidelines for social distancing: only exercise outdoors once a day - such as a run or walk, alone or with other people from your household. Stay two metres away from other visitors at all times.
- Leisure cycling is only allowed for children under the age of 12 who are accompanied by an adult.
- Exercise = keep moving → get home, stay at home.
- No gatherings, sunbathing, picnics or sport games.
- Use of playgrounds, toilets, gym equipment and benches is prohibited.
- Give way to people exiting the park.
- Keep left on pathways and avoid narrow ones.
- Keep dogs on a lead and on the grass, where possible.
- Treat staff, police and others with respect.
- Anyone who enters Victoria Park when it is locked does so at their own risk.
Community Support Officers and the Met will be in the area to police activity.
Elsewhere in London, the message remains the same: stay local, only go out once a day by yourself or with your family group and steer clear of 'honeypot' areas... you can read the guidance about going out here.
These reasons are exceptions – even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.
So walking within a few blocks of your front door is the way to go.
A few London parks are now closed, as people weren't following the guidelines, and there are now restrictions on gathering together with more than two people in public (excluding people you live with).
The Mayor has also requested adults to 'Visit your park at different times (later/earlier) to allow parents, children and older people to use these spaces.'. This should leave parks and green spaces a bit quieter for families.
Those who are self-isolating (who are unwell, or have been in contact with someone who is unwell) should stay indoors, and go outside only if they have access to a private garden or balcony space. The same applies if you have been sent a letter because you are at high risk.
If you're unsure about what you should do, you can find the latest guidance on when you should self-isolate, and how long for here. The Scottish site NHSinform is also excellent, but note Scotland is a few days behind the UK and especially London.
The more people adhere to these guidelines, the less likely even stricter measures will be introduced, so it’s in all our interests to follow the advice as it is given.
Thankfully, the message is that a daily connection to nature – even if that is from your window or just outside your door – remains a crucial part of our collective wellbeing:
"keep your windows open to let in fresh air, get some natural sunlight if you can, or get outside into the garden."
So how do I get quality outside time?
These new measures mean the tough job of keeping children healthy and happy, learning, playing, has just got harder. We’re adding new suggestions to our blogs to keep yourself calm, active and connected to nature every day, as well as some ideas for homeschooling. Hopefully, they contain some useful ideas and strategies to keep you, your family and friends safe and sane over the coming weeks. However, with over 20% of the world’s population in lockdown and over 80% of children not at school, you know you are not alone.
Even when you are stuck inside, battling boredom and a low mood, the tiniest connection with nature (just tending a pot plant) can help with your mental wellbeing. And, for children, playing becomes even more important.
Nature can bring balance and calm. It can be a resource for renewal and respite.
Please ask everyone you know to pay heed to the social distancing message. Social distancing will help limit the spread of the virus, and will mean the most vulnerable among us are not put at risk. It will take some adjusting to this new reality, but the reality is that following these guidelines will save lives and protect the NHS.
Take a break from the media. Keeping up-to-date on developments is important, as the situation is changing daily, but overloading yourself with news and rumours will only increase your anxiety. Turn off your phone and look at ways to connect with nature.
Go for a walk; take your shoes off; stand on some grass; breathe deeply; gaze at a tree for a minute or two and lift your face to the sun.
A hop/walk/skip around the block can give you the calming moments you need, and a chance to notice nature either alone or with your children. Perhaps there's a tree just coming into leaf; a verge that's home to flowers, some native, some which may have escaped from a nearby garden. Explore the streets near to your home, and the pocket parks - you should still be able to take a walk and respect the social distancing rules. Ordnance Survey's Greenspace Map is FREE and we can almost guarantee you can use it to find a green space within 20 minutes of your house that you didn't know was there. A bit of space, a good run around, explore and play is always a good thing, and even more important just now.
Take a look at this blog from BBC News: What to do if you go for a walk and it's crowded?
If you're going outside every day (and we'd suggest it's essential that you do), you'll need some inspiration. You'll probably be familiar with Google Maps and Google Earth (fun learning resources in their own right), but also check out the GoJauntly app, which has hundreds of suggestions for walks, or Plot A Route, which allows you to invent your own.
If you're going to commit part of your day to help with your children's learning, make sure you make time for play – and make sure children know which part of their day is 'their time'. Children need time to process and assimilate learning, have fun, and let off steam.
For children, play can be a way of processing stress and working things through, in a way that is non-threatening (hence the emergence of the 'coronavirus' game in playgrounds, a somewhat darker version of kiss-chase).
You'll want them to keep up with their learning, but when they're playing, they don't need (or necessarily want) an adult to play with. Playing games together is great, but most of the time hanging back is the best thing to do.
The great thing about outdoor play is, all the play resources you need are right there, and they're all free. Logs to leap from; sticks to turn into wands or horses; bugs to watch and birds to spot.
Learning Through Landscapes has created two groups on Facebook, and are starting weekly newsletters with sections aimed at those with children at home or educators setting activities and work for children. Resources, advice, inspiration, support: free to join, just go to ltl.org.uk for more information.
We've moved all the information we've found around homeschooling to our blog post Homeschooling tips to make the indoors easy. There's more and more every day, so we'll update it regularly if you need further inspiration.
Thinking about silver linings
We're enjoying such a beautiful spring, warm sunshine, blue skies. The birds are in song, the flowers are beginning to emerge.
What's more, community spirit seems very much alive... in a country that had seemed irrevocably divided only a year ago.
We know it may be weeks before things begin to return to normal, but in other countries the lockdown seems to be having an effect, which gives us hope that in the not too distant future, the situation here will similarly improve.
If you have any questions or feel there's a subject you'd like us to cover in future posts ... please leave a comment and we'll try and find you an answer. Also note, this blog is written from the perspective of a UK-based organisation, if you're visiting us from elsewhere, please follow the appropriate public health guidance within your own state or country.
We'll be updating this blog regularly. Lots of ideas to bring the outdoors indoors to come...