While this post is clouded by personal views, it is also a reflection about how external (urban) views about rural places directly impacts our lives and communities.
Most of our town and city parks have remained opened throughout the Lockdown (albeit with play equipment and other facilities closed) to provide much needed space for exercise and the therapeutic benefit that green space provides. However, in smaller villages, there is often only a playground and their closure is increasingly detrimental to the social, physical and emotional detriment wellbeing of young children. I am not exaggerating – my son actually cries if we walk past it (so I try to avoid those routes) and he asks us every night when he can go to the playground again.
There is perhaps a mistaken assumption that all of the countryside is one big “playground”. From an urban perspective, this is quite understandable as their interaction with rural places is principally for recreation and the enjoyment of nature and the escape of the city environment. There are many areas around Britain that fulfil such roles but these equate to just a tiny proportion of rural England. It is quite sensible to leave the larger attractions closed for a little longer as they will pose a greater risk due to the scale of visitor numbers from a range of origins but this should not cloud the decision-making concerning smaller local attractions and village-based amenities that serve a relatively small number of people from a tightly-bounded area.
The sad irony for many villagers is that without playgrounds and sports-fields they do not have access to safe spaces for playing outdoors. I have been driving 5 miles to a nearby park to allow my son the freedom and space to run around, something that he cannot do along a country lane, farm track or in our small garden. I believe this is within the rules but with our village playground reopened, it would be unnecessary. For those adhering strictly to the “no non-essential travel” rules, they have been able to take advantage of the quieter village roads and heightened awareness of drivers that have resulted from lockdown. As Britain gets back to work, many of these exercise routes will become more dangerous and very young children will not be afforded the same freedom to cycle or run along our village paths. A lot of the most remote rural villages have very few pavements and while the landscape is aesthetically appealing, it is of course not open access to all.
Therefore, on the grounds on urban-rural equality and for children living in rural areas without million-pound mansions and the equivalent garden, duck ponds and swimming pools enjoyed by a tiny elite, PLEASE RE-OPEN OUR LOCAL PLAYGROUNDS.