We can go out and enjoy the countryside but we have to be sensible - Christa Ackroyd

Hello again from lockdown land, or is it? There appears to be some debate. Half the country seems to want total lockdown, blaming the government for not keeping them safe.

Christa Ackroyd says people should take a common sense approach to enjoying the countryside whilst following Government advice.

Others are insisting life should get back to normal now this instant, saying they’d take the risk to be able to meet up with their loved ones en masse. Well we can’t have it both ways, can we?

So here goes. I don’t do political columns. My dad always told me my political views were between me and the ballot box. So this week my vote goes for common sense, personal responsibility and kindness.

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Let us be clear, even those who think the Government is not being clear, we know how to keep safe and that is to keep our distance. A distance of two metres, that’s just over six feet in old money.

"The countryside, the moors and the coast are to be shared," says Christa.

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This week I ventured out further than I have been for eight weeks on the basis that I needed to escape for my own sanity and out of necessity, because of a supermarket computer glitch, which informed me my order was cancelled. So I had to go out into the brave new world, or the not so brave in my case, if we wanted to eat.

I am going to be honest I was ridiculously nervous. But let’s face it, this could be our lives for many more months to come so excuse me if I say, having got the all clear from my doctor, it really was time for me to get on with it. Especially when there are those on the frontline who are risking everything to keep us safe every day. I was only going to the shops, for heaven’s sake.

So off I went. I even put on my lipstick, so ridiculously happy did I feel driving my car out of the drive where it had been standing for two months. Freedom. Freedom to choose. Freedom to explore. Freedom to sample the ‘new normal’.

And I have to tell you travelling a few miles down the road felt as exhilarating as any of the far-flung adventures to foreign lands I have been lucky enough to experience, including one at the start of the year which now feels like a lifetime ago.

Sadly not everyone was as concerned about their safety and mine. The three shops I visited had done everything right. One-way systems, a limit to the number who could enter, hand gels and wipes for trolleys. There were signs galore about social distancing and the vast majority of shoppers followed the rules.

But there was also some idiot who announced he only needed a loaf of bread and then pushed past in the wrong direction and in doing so broke just about every single rule. There was also the lady who stood closer to me than even normally I would feel comfortable with, because she couldn’t decide what she wanted.

Fortunately I am not backwards in coming forwards and I asked them to move. Another person edged even nearer to question why I was wearing a face mask. I resisted the temptation to explain it was because of people like her.

Which brings me round to the freedom to travel, the new-found freedom to go to your favourite place and have a walk or a picnic, maybe even meet a friend. The vast majority of people will do just that and feel energised and able to carry on by doing so.

It’s simple. If it’s too busy and you can’t socially distance then don’t get out of your car. Drive on and find somewhere you can. Police shouldn’t need to warn us, or feel they have to close the roads at the seaside to stop us arriving in our thousands. We know what is safe and what’s not. Do let’s use our common sense.

We are lucky enough to live in the largest county in England with vast areas of green open spaces and a beautiful coastline. I understand the worries of people living in some seaside towns or beauty spots here in Yorkshire, and further afield, who wish they could just close.

I felt the same about the sudden increase in people using the footpath at the side of my house. I found myself asking who they were and where had they come from? But I got used to it. I even enjoyed seeing new people, from a distance of course.

The countryside, the moors and the coast are to be shared. But let’s not all drive to the same place on the same day. If we all do then we are increasing the risks. But there is a balance.

One in eight people in England have no outside space to call their own, so I do think of those in cities who have been locked down for weeks on end for whom the streets are crowded and the park down the road is crammed to capacity, and I think of those living alone who can now meet a friend for a chat and a stroll two metres apart. For them a trip out is a lifeline.

We have to understand how lucky we are to live where we do, but it must be shared safely and policed properly. So let us go back to our childhoods. Forget the new day out being a visit to the garden centre or, worse still, the shops.

We don’t have to travel far to rediscover the hidden nooks and crannies in our glorious countryside. Think Enid Blyton. Let us buy an old fashioned picnic blanket, a flask for our tea and some ham for our sandwiches and revisit old secret haunts and take in the beauty of what we are lucky enough to have around us while allowing others to do the same, at a distance.

There is enough space to go around. That is the joy of living in Yorkshire. As long as we vote for common sense, keep our heads and count our blessings. Stay safe. I am now going for a walk to meet a friend. I am positively giddy.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

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James Mitchinson