During a busy week of lockdown working, my permitted daily walk has kept me sane. Often just around the block or on calmer days, the one mile stretch up to Hilly Fields in Brockley.
One lap of my building is actually decent exercise, as I’m going up and down the 104 stairs to the ninth floor at the moment. Due to restrictions on workers entering our tower block, the concierge has warned that we use the lifts at our own risk – they can’t guarantee help if we get stuck!
I’m grateful that as soon as I’m downstairs, it’s green.
We’re part of a development that’s a textbook example of great place shaping: The shaded walkways, playing field and re-wilded canal all ensure that as residents, we’re never too far from nature. On most trips (a term I now happily use to refer to an outing within a hundred metres of where I live!) I can spot Henry, our resident heron and up to twenty other bird species if I’m lucky.
Of course recently, any lingerers are being moved on by the police. Quite rightly too; so I try to keep a swift pace as I walk my loops. A less stressful alternative is to move beyond the hundred metre mark towards the edge of my bounds – the short road up to my local park, Hilly Fields.
On this longer route, the figure of eight shape I stride around the park itself before dropping back to towards Lewisham has become automatic. I’m getting to know every tree, what stage of blossoming it’s in, and also where to avoid bottle necks with joggers.
On the days that glimpsing what I can’t have won’t ruin my day, I allow myself to look behind the green.
London’s famous skyline breaks free from behind huge horse chestnut trees at the highest point of Hilly Fields: The tantalising tip of the Shard and the glassy flash from one of the City’s newest buildings, 22 Bishopsgate. Further east, Canary Wharf’s towers stand to attention, usually only ten minutes away on the DLR. Central London seems so close but agonisingly distant at the same time.
On these marches, nature seems extra noisy at the moment. Perhaps because I’m noticing it more than usual. Or perhaps because the birds are simply becoming braver with the lack of humans they encounter. Either way, the volume of flora and fauna within a one kilometre radius of my city home always amazes me.
I hope that when life eventually returns to what everyone in the media is now calling the ‘new normal‘, I don’t overlook these details that I find so comforting at the moment. In fact, I’m finding this little lap so therapeutic that some days I feel like a different person when I come back into the four walls of flat 41.
Spring is now coming to an end. On these daily walks I can already feel the heat haze of a London summer just around the corner. The turning of the season is a welcome change amid the otherwise monotonous days of lockdown across the capital.