Coronavirus & Country Life

‘Unprecedented’, ‘difficult times’, ‘challenging times’: there are many euphemisms for ‘totally buggered’ at the moment.

There has definitely been a seismic shift in everyday lives and expectations, and many of us are living daily lives that were unimaginable a few weeks ago.

One of the headline-grabbing effects of the Coronavirus has been the crazy panic-buying in supermarkets – little short of looting, leaving shelves empty of bread, rice and staples especially vital to those who actually need to cloister themselves away until this wave of infection recedes. Supermarkets have reacted quickly and robustly, but one of the amazing, and heartening, side-effects of empty shelves has been the rise of the independents to bridge the gap between supply and demand.

Our local Tesco recently

In the last week or so I’ve spoken to bakers, growers and cooks who have adapted their systems to increase production, and provide services such as takeaways, deliveries and even boot-drop shopping. Cafes and pubs, faced with possibly months of empty tables, have created takeaway menus and delivery services which may just be the difference between life & death for their businesses over coming months.

Near us, Felicity’s Farm Shop is always well stocked with fruit & veg, local meat, fresh (delicious!) bread and all the dry goods you could need. I’ve just heard from a friend who rang Barleymows Farm Shop, ordered & paid by phone & they dropped the box in her boot, so she didn’t have to leave her car. Millers, Washingpool and all the others are likewise doing great things right now.

The closure last night of restaurants and pubs has suddenly left producers with a glut of produce, so Rousdon Village Bakery are holding a pop-up farmer’s market, where salad, veg, dairy and more can be purchased direct from the producer. River Cottage were selling their produce through the window of the Canteen in Axminster this morning, and many cafes etc are offering goods that they can easily still source from their suppliers.

This whole episode seems to be a real wake-up call in terms of food security, supply chains and greed. We are very lucky to be surrounded by food – how much of it were we buying before?

It’s also been lovely to see the sudden mobilisation of communities to support those in self isolation – everything from shopping & deliveries to writing letters to care homes. Let’s face it, lots of us will suddenly have a lot of time on our hands, so we may as well use it for good.

One other really positive thing is that the National Trust have pledged to keep all their open spaces and parks open, free of charge, for people to safely exercise and socialise within the limits of social distancing. They own some of the most beautiful landscapes around, so please have a look at the website and make a to-do list. Bluebells, dawn choruses and larks singing Didn’t stop for world wars and they won’t stop for Covid-19. Getting outside and seeing spring happen is going to be so important to keep people hopeful and positive.

If you look back through my archives, you will find lots of ideas for places to walk, farm shops etc, and snippets of countryside nonsense, which may entertain you briefly whist we’re all in limbo.

If you are lucky enough to live somewhere with farm shops, open spaces and community spirit, PLEASE take the opportunities, as there are so many people who won’t have these privileges over the next year or so.

Yes, things are pretty crappy right now, but spring is coming, and we are owed a CRACKING summer!

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