How lockdown has brought us closer to each other – and the countryside

7th May 2020

We at CPRE have worked with the WI to research how people are experiencing lockdown, and the results suggest that physical distancing doesn’t necessarily make for social isolation – and that we’re valuing our green spaces more than ever.

We asked over 2000 people about their experiences of lockdown, and it’s clear that this time has helped us feel more connected to local people and green spaces. Over half of us are appreciating our local green spaces more since the country adopted social distancing measures – perhaps not surprisingly, given the time many of us are spending locally on our daily exercise. Lynne Stubbings, chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, hits the nail on the head:

‘So many of us have discovered pockets of green right on our doorsteps – a chance to get out in the fresh air, exercise, and support our mental wellbeing, which has been an oasis in difficult times.’

The real benefits of these precious green spaces are clearer than ever, with over half of those we asked saying that lockdown has made them more aware of the importance of these local green spaces for mental health and wellbeing. And our lovely parks and green areas (including Green Belts, the ‘countryside next door’ for so many of us) are getting extra love and footfall in these strange times, with more than a third of us visiting them since the start of lockdown.

'Going back to business as usual is not an option.'
Crispin Truman

It’s not surprising, then, that almost two-thirds of those we asked told us that they think that protecting and enhancing green spaces should be a higher priority for the government after lockdown ends. Our chief executive, Crispin Truman, commented that:

‘… the coronavirus pandemic has reminded us why the countryside next door, including our Green Belts, is so important to ordinary people. More people are aware of the health and wellbeing benefits that access to green spaces delivers, and support for protecting and enhancing these after lockdown is impossible for the government to ignore. Going back to business as usual is not an option.’

Connections and kindness

Despite the rules around distancing in place, happily, only 11% of people reported feeling less connected to their communities at the moment, with over a third, (40%) saying they actually feel more connected during lockdown.

And community spirit has surged. Our poll discovered that over half of us (54%) agree that people are doing more to help their communities right now. Kindness and connection are the order of the day, with 42% of us actually communicating more with people in their local community than before – and one in six people communicating twice as much or more with their neighbours!

Physically distanced, socially closer

Social distancing rules have brought us new ways to link into our local places, with our poll showing the top five means by which people feel we’re connecting more under lockdown. Unsurprisingly, sharing applause for the NHS on our doorsteps on Thursday evenings comes out top – but other types of connections are popping up too.

Top five ways that we’re connecting during lockdown:

  1. ‘Clap for the NHS’ on a Thursday evening (49%)
  2. Saying hello at the front door (37%)
  3. Social media (36%)
  4. Phone calls (33%)
  5. Seeing people in person and at a safe distance in communal spaces like parks (29%).

Apart but not alone – across all ages

A quarter of those that we spoke to told us that they’ve made new local community links with people from different age groups. As Crispin notes:

‘Many of us feared that lockdown would see more people isolated, lonely and cut off from their communities and the outside world. However, today’s results have turned these notions on their head. While we are physically distanced, many of us are more connected than ever and people are helping each other in their communities – with different age groups connecting more – which is truly inspiring to see.’

A pleasing side-effect of lockdown seems to be chances for new intergenerational connections, with a third of 18-34 year olds reporting they’ve made new links of this sort. And these don’t seem to be lockdown-only links; over two thirds of people told us that they’re optimistic that these new relationships will continue after the crisis.

'While we are physically distanced, many of us are more connected than ever'
Crispin Truman

Lynne Stubbings of the WI summarises the lockdown effects neatly:

‘It’s wonderful to see how communities have become more connected in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s clear that we are cherishing our local communities now more than ever – by supporting our neighbours and those who are vulnerable and getting out in the fresh air at our local green spaces.’

Staying connected – through lockdown and beyond

Want to help look after and representing these local green spaces that have been such a haven to us lately? We work hard to advocate for Green Belts and building responsibly for positive progress in the countryside. Read more about our work and consider making a donation to help us keep at it – or why not join us and support us that way, enjoying our membership perks too!

A woman reads signs left hanging on a fence with images of rainbows