Our parks have arguably never felt so loved. The pandemic has sent us careening into them, for fresh air, fitness, escape.
The trees have soaked up our worries, the paths accepted our stressed-out stomping, and the squirrels have more than appreciated the extra snacks and visitors.
However, after months of not much else to do, it’s easy to find the idea of another walk in the park a total drag. Especially if you have to cajole the kids into it too.
But where else are you going to spend a rushed lunchtime? Or dash to when homeschooling has become too much?
Here are just a few ideas to help you rediscover your local park, and zhuzh up those daily walks…
1. Change direction. Reverse your usual loop. Roll a dice at every junction, and go left only if it’s an even number. Or let the kids make a map and pick the route you take instead.
2. Mushroom spot. How many funghi can you find clinging onto tree stumps and felled branches, or hiding in the grass? Just don’t eat them.
3. Count how many bird species you see. And keep a record, so you can compare on your next visit. Be it pigeons or parakeets, there’ll be more breeds flying about than you’d probably think. And if you see a bird of prey, you win, hands down.
4. Invent elaborate back stories for strangers who always seem to be at the park at the same time as you. The guy who always carries his pug is clearly a wrestler; the lady only ever seen in sunglasses? Definitely a spy.
5. Create a really epic playlist. We’re talking Rocky levels epic. So you can walk round the park like you’re in the emotional montage scene in the movie of your life.
6. Listen to a different podcast for a change. Yes, prise yourself from your usual show and try picking something you’d never normally go for. If not now, when?!
7. Wear wellies and take to the mud. Splash in the puddles. It’s guaranteed fun, whatever your age, and it’ll make social distancing and skipping off the path easier too.
8. Test yourself on every dog species you pass. And fight the urge to adopt a puppy when you get home.
9. Insert bouts of stretching, or even a few sprints, as you walk. It’ll keep you warm, up the fitness aspect, and wake up your brain.
10. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in ages. Or just someone you’d normally text. Walking and talking is a genuine joy. And we really do mean a phone call. Don’t be that person getting in everyone’s way as they try to walk and FaceTime.
11. Take a Thermos and make it a sliver more exciting by doing a tea bag lucky dip. Or by adding a shot of something slightly stronger…
12. Wear your wackiest outfit. Full-on family fancy dress also welcome. It’ll definitely bring joy to your fellow walkers.
13. Invent your own treasure hunt. Draw up a list of things to track down on your walk – like a feather, a puppy, a person in a red hat, a silver birch – and then tick them off as you hit the park.
14. Lookup. How often do we trudge round on our walks, bundled up in coats, just watching the pavement with each step? Make it your mission to look up. Take in all that sky, and all those trees. You’ll feel so much better for it.