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"This is what I missed while shielding in my flat"

13th May 2021

South East

This Mental Health Awareness Week, Erica shares a poetic account of how connecting with nature has helped her mental wellbeing, both during lockdown and beyond.

Ambassador Erica on watch and wait

This time last year I was shielding in our flat from March until July.

I was given a Walkman for my 70th birthday just before we went into lockdown. In July, once I stopped shielding, I started venturing out for my daily, early morning brisk walk, masked up with my Walkman playing my favourite music. I realised my sense of smell had heightened. My skin was very sensitive to the air.

I walk round and round the same recreation ground and I have done so every day since.

Every day is different, I am fascinated looking at the sky, the beautiful clouds ever changing, the exhaust from planes, the way if the rain clouds come over and the wildlife disappears.

There have been a couple of mornings where the snow has started and I’ve suddenly had the rec to myself! Other days it is pouring with rain.

I love the way the ground feels different every day, the dark mornings with dawn rising, the scent from the plants, the wind and how it can lower the temperature.

In autumn the leaves change colour and drop and I traipse through them, kicking them around.

The squirrels love the cold, crisp mornings and they chase each other up and down the trees and leap from tree to tree.

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The odd fox will wander around or scurry away. The early morning mist is eerie in a mystical way. One day it’s frosty, the next the grass is glistening with dew. There is often nobody about as far as the eye can see.

The next day the bins might be being emptied, the hedges cut, the grass cut or the playing field may be lined for sport.

Sometimes there’s people using the outside gym equipment, the tennis and basket ball courts, the children’s playground and even the table tennis tables if it’s not windy. They might be setting up for football or cricket practice, and matches are often there to see.

As for the birds, sometimes a flock will settle on the ground, and I’ll enjoy the wonderful sight as they all take off at once.

I wave at my neighbour, Pam, every time I go past, whether she is there or not.

She has the most beautiful garden, she puts out goodies for the birds and they seem to know when this happens. The pigeons arrive from nowhere and all sorts of birds swoop into her garden from the rec and settle on her fence after feeding.

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There is a robin that knows me well and sits watching me go round and round. One morning I even saw a parakeet in a tree.

I could go on and on, but this is what I missed while shielding in our flat and why I am so happy doing the same route every day. I say hello to everyone whether they respond or not, it is never the same and I feel completely free.

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