Image Source: Kera Till

It’s been a couple of weeks now since everyone who could work remotely packed up their desks and made space in their homes.

Whilst the work continues, it’s at a different pace, interspersed with home-schooling for some, video calls, DIY haircuts and purposeful exercise. In the calm and quiet of social distancing, here’s what we’ve noticed about how people are engaging with place.

With only an hour’s permitted outdoor exercise every day, people are appreciating their locality more.  Seeking out bears and rainbows in windows, chatting with newly found neighbours from the other side of the street and walking where once they might have driven.  And let’s be honest, with fewer cars on the roads and no traffic jams, our towns and cities feel very different places to be.

We’ve noticed cyclists, runners and walkers (mostly) maintaining their 2m distance, sometimes by using the empty roads instead. In fact, along the promenade at St Leonards-on-Sea a Placemarque homeworker has found one-way walking lane system has evolved. In a world where we routinely start our day squashing up against strangers on the tube, train, tram or bus, this has taken some getting used to.

We’ve noticed people doing far more exercise than before. From half a million people tuning in to Joe Wicks in the mornings to an increase in online yoga and meditation, as well as many more runners on the streets and in the park. Were all these people in the gym before? Or has the lockdown sparked an appreciation of the need to purposefully take care of our physical and mental wellbeing?  We love how our indoor and outdoor places are being reformed in this way.

We’ve also noticed how quiet our town and local centres are. With the bars, restaurants, cinemas and unessential shops closed, they feel lost and empty. But also peaceful. And so clean! There’s very little litter.

We are enjoying the peace for now, the sense of a world paused, but look forward to finding our way back to life when the distancing comes to an end.

In the words of Joni Mitchell, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”