A Letter from Ambleside.

Dear Readers,

A strange new world has been thrust upon us. One that happened so quickly it has been somewhat unreal and difficult to grasp.

In early March, as is my usual habit when driving to work, I switched on the BBC Radio 4  early-morning news programme. A familiar voice appeared to be transmitting facts and figures, about thousands of people becoming ill and dying in virus-ridden Italy. The Coronavirus had grasped a tight hold on Europe. It was like listening to a surreal science-fiction radio play. My favourite newscaster was announcing ominous predictions of what was likely to happen in Britain, when Covid19 inevitably latched its terrifying little tentacles, onto the cells of our respiratory system. Apparently, thousands of us were to die if the virus became a UK pandemic. Clutching the steering wheel tightly, my first thoughts were;

‘This can’t be true, the media are exaggerating, surely this can’t happen in Cumbria? We’re too far away from the cities. I’m not going to believe what’s just been said”

In hindsight, I was obviously in denial. Not any more.

That was just the beginning of the madness that was about to descend on Ambleside and the rest of our country. Media reports from the Government, scientists, medical officers began to flow outwards through the radio, internet, newspapers and social media. It appeared that whatever device I used, every piece of news was devoted to communicating, calm and frantic information about the deadly COVID19 virus.

Less than five weeks later, most of the U.K. population are now confined to their homes, only venturing out for shopping and exercise. We have all struggled with disbelief, but that has eventually transformed into a nationwide, reluctant acceptance. The vast majority of people have at last acquiesced and are following the official stern and foreboding advice.

‘STAY AT HOME.’ ‘Stop the spread of the virus and help save lives’.

The village of Ambleside has a population of 2,700. At the moment it feels like a population of 27. The silence is deafening. But, (and this won’t please all who read this) it is an unfortunate but welcome respite for the local residents. A true rest from the hordes of visitors who fill the hotels, guest houses, bars, restaurants and shops. Most of whom crowd the streets whilst shopping and then tramp through the village, as they go to and from the hills. Yes, the local businesses need the trade and of course, everyone is entitled to visit and enjoy the beautiful National Park and World Heritage Site.

Now the tourists have dwindled local people only, are out shopping and walking. A new camaraderie is developing, neighbours recognise each other and nod kindly from across the street. We can smile at a stranger, in the knowing that the smile will be returned because that person is from somewhere in the village. The essential shops that have stayed open seem to have stepped back in time. No longer are the shopkeepers too busy or hurried to have a chat. It’s wonderful that despite the social distancing, the community in Ambleside appears to be drawing closer together.

My Yorkshire childhood memories have stirred. This was exactly how it felt back then. Daily life was slower. Birds foraged on the lanes, wild flowers whispered in the breeze. It was much easier to wander and be occasionally lost (literally). Traffic was at a minimum it was safe to play football and ride our bikes on the streets. We were wrapped in a cloak of stillness.

Pico Iver writes in his book;The Art of a Stillness’’

”We’ve lost our Sundays our weekends our nights off, our holy days, as some would have it; our bosses, junk mailers, our parents can find us wherever we are at any time of day or night. More and more of us feel like emergency room physicians, permanently on call, required to heal ourselves but unable to find the prescription for all the clutter on our desk”

Perhaps this particular Coronavirus is handing us all a chance, an opportunity to slow down, to experience some stillness in our lives.

Is it necessary to fill every moment?

Brew a cup of special tea, sit, daydream, stare out of your window and enjoy this new pace of life. Putting worries and fears aside for a short while.

Tourism is essential to Ambleside and the British economy and culture. I think most people though are aware of the erosion problems, dwindling flora and fauna and pollution issues occurring in the mountains and countryside of the U.K. Our lands badly need a rest from the constant stream of humans. The mountains, hillsides, and wildlife of not only Ambleside but the Lakes, the U.K and many other countries are now experiencing a vital period of rejuvenating rest and recovery.

The blackbirds, thrushes and robins are happily, hopping closer and closer. Their musical singing is no longer drowned out under the hum of traffic and people. The air smells fresher, cleaner and possibly brighter on a good day!

Nature has a parallel manmade sickness and because of COVID19 she has inadvertently been given precious time to heal. It is likely to be one of the few positives related to this pandemic that future generations will acknowledge.

Finally, the hottest social media topic at the moment is; For how long and where do we exercise?

There are lots of outdoor folks and many moderate to heavy exercisers living here. The Fells are on the doorstep, so naturally a short time ago, many people’s days were built around an important exercise schedule. Their exercise routines have under the Government instruction disintegrated.

The exercise debate amongst the local runners, cyclists and climbers is an endless one;

”Can we, can’t we? We’re rural, there’s hardly anyone about. It should be safe if we’re alone and social distancing? It would be different if we lived in a city, wouldn’t it? What if you have an accident when you’re out? Is it okay to walk/run on the Fells for a short while.

My best answer is, that I’m not going to add my opinion to the masses of circulating material on this subject. It suffices to say, that each individual needs to act responsibly for the greater good and themselves. Emotional well-being, physical health, fresh air, and daylight are extremely important for a strong immune system. It’s vital we all use responsible, safe ways to look after ourselves and others over the coming weeks and months.

”And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” Haruki Murakami

Make a plan as to whom or where you will visit, when the country and the world is a safe place again.

Remember to be kind to yourself and others. Remember we are all in difficult times and some are more fortunate than others. We can all be compassionate…if we choose to be.

Stay safe and well,


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