Opinion: How Derbyshire's green spaces have become even more vital during pandemic
Few of us can ever have been more appreciative of our local environment than in those surreal first days of lockdown - around this time last year - when the brilliantly bright spring weather seemed in inverse proportion to the gloom of the news.
Those of us who once reeled in horror at the thought of DIY became house proud, and avowed non-gardeners turned green-fingered overnight.
Suddenly everyone was a walker, runner or cyclist, with people determined to make the most of the one-hour of outdoor exercise allowed by Boris.
Rusty old bikes that had been banished to the back of the garage years ago were dusted off for an Indian summer on the roads, and family groups could be spotted pounding the pavements – with even teenagers reluctantly tagging along.
Many of us found time to explore the local area which we had somehow ignored in the past.
For me, the one-hour rule really exercised the mind – where could we go to make the most of our 60 minutes of freedom?
I was quickly drawn away from the roads I’d previously used for a recreational stroll to tiny footpaths I hadn’t even noticed before.
Suddenly I was looking for Ordnance Survey maps to pore over new routes across fields and stiles.
My favourite lockdown route – 55 minutes from front door to front door – combined open fields, woodland paths and views of ponds and green hills.
Where I live isn’t the country, it’s suburban, but walks like this suddenly opened up before my eyes.
These tranquil spots, so close to my home, made me appreciate green spaces more than ever.
Of course in Derbyshire we are blessed with stunning countryside in the Peak District and Dales, but our local area of green space might have gone unnoticed.
For most of us getting to the summit of Mam Tor or the stepping stones at Dovedale requires a car journey, meaning we may feel we’re being very healthy but are only adding to pollution and congestion.
Many of Derbyshire’s most scenic spots also ended up busier than Waterloo station during the pandemic.
But our local green spaces became ever more important for exercise and relaxation, as well as somewhere to go to escape the stresses of working from home.
In Derbyshire, they have also become a hot political topic.
With the need for new, affordable housing, more and more of these areas are being swamped by development.
Recently I spoke to councillors and residents about the loss of one treasured green oasis between Chesterfield and Brimington – which within a few years seems likely to be replaced by houses and concrete.
Elsewhere in the county, determined residents are fighting development in Denby, in the Amber Valley, and Glapwell, in Bolsover district, to name just two.
Some of these battles will be won, and sadly some will be lost, but our treasured green spaces are surely worth fighting for?
So let’s make the most of them – and not wait for another pandemic to appreciate what’s truly on our doorstep.