Go placidly amid the noise

The pandemic has change everything, and not necessarily for the better. Lockdown didn’t really bother me if I’m honest, as I work from home anyway and am not exactly a party animal (in fact, I’m quite often in bed and asleep by 9.30pm……shhhh, don’t tell anyone, it’ll ruin my street cred 😉). It was when lockdown lifted and we were all allowed to travel again that my world tilted on its axis.

I live on the edge of the English Lake District, with the emphasis on the word edge. I personally never visit the Lake District national park, because it’s my idea of hell. 16 million tourists, tiny country roads rammed with caravans and coaches crawling along at 3mph, stupendously over-priced car parks or, worse, no car parks and vehicles abandoned left right and centre, city folks fell walking in trainers and flipflops often glued to their mobile phones………….. it feels almost sacrilegious to me in a area as stunning as the Lakes.

For the most part, the beautiful, tranquil, unspoiled area where I live has avoided the tourist trap. We tend not to tell anyone how special it is here, because to be fair we don’t want them to visit and spoil it. But Covid put paid to that.

My photography journey started after I adopted a little dog and started capturing the wonderful things we saw on our daily walks. One of our most treasured places is the local river and our time spent meandering by the water has always been my favourite part of the day. It’s an area of Special Scientific Interest and I routinely see leaping trout, Heron, Black headed gulls, Swans, Merganser ducks with their little ducklings and even Kingfishers and Otter. You don’t hear a sound as you walk along by the river bank, except the magical chattering of Sandmartins overhead and the occasional alarm call from the Dipper or Oystercatcher as they sweep on past. I used to be able to spend a whole day there with my camera and only see maybe 1 or 2 local dog walkers on the footpath. The peace calmed my brain, nature fed my soul and I would always be excited to see what wildlife I could capture through my lens.

And then along came Covid.

I distinctly remember last summer after lockdown ended but when we were still being encouraged to work from home and the schools hadn’t returned. I drove to the little lay-by where I park to walk along the river……..and there were cars as far as the eye could see. Maybe 20 of them lining the verge, and as I looked down the river it resembled Blackpool pleasure beach. There were barking dogs chasing balls, canoeists, squealing children lobbing rocks into the water, someone had a blow up dingy on which they were sunbathing, a radio was blaring……………….and I could have cried. Gone were my blissful walks which were like Prozac for my mental health and gone was the wildlife with whom I’ve shared this magical space for a decade.

It’s a year later, and Bertie and I went down to the river today. Local people are for the most part back at work, but tourists have now found our lovely corner of Cumbria and there were 3 groups of adults with their beach towels and bikinis, splashing about in the shallow water and squealing at the top of their lungs. I’m sure they were having a lovely time, but I do wonder why people choose rural areas to come on holiday then show zero respect for the environment they’re in. It literally makes my heart hurt.

As we carried on along the public footpath we came across a discarded plastic bottle (who do the owners of the rubbish think is going to put it in the bin, in the middle of absolutely nowhere?) and dog poo which I nearly stood in (just because the path is through a field doesn’t mean you don’t pick up after your dog).

Nearly ¼ of a mile down the path I could still hear the tourists shouting their heads off and I didn’t see one solitary bird on the water. In fact, I haven’t seen the timid Kingfisher for well over a year. I fear my days of taking my camera to the river, revelling in the tranquil solitude and always knowing I’d see something magical are gone forever 😥.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence…..

‘Desiderata’ by Max Ehrmann

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