Time to end excessive curbs on going for a walk in the woods

The car park and woodland at Craig Dunain.


                                                                                                                                                      Monday, May 4

ONE afternoon last week I saw a police vehicle pull up alongside two cars in a small car park up at Craig Dunain, beside a pond there, which is the point where people head off for a relaxing stroll along pathways through a hillside of trees. An officer got out and fixed a leaflet under their windscreens.

 I don’t know what it said, but it would not have been headed “A guide to woodland walks”.

 All over the country people outdoors are still receiving unexpected “Stay Home” warnings, informing them of the limitations on movement, including that they’re not supposed to drive anywhere to take exercise.

 The police are only doing their job, following the government rules. But as the current situation continues, some of these rules look more dubious by the week.

 Is there any good reason on God’s green earth why people should be warned against driving to somewhere like that little Craig Dunain car park to go for a walk in the woods?

 It makes no sense on any level. We have on television coronavirus coverage round the clock but I have yet to see any politician adequately grilled and required to explain the rationality and logic behind this kind of thing.

 Even if you believe there’s a risk of the virus being transmitted outdoors in the open air – and evidence is mounting that the chances of that happening are infinitesimally small – it is surely safer for people to get in their cars and drive a mile or two to woodland areas or nature walks where there is plenty space and not many people there at any one time.

 Safer than walking through streets around their homes where they are much more likely to meet other pedestrians.

 Is that not obvious even to the politicians, health advisers and assorted bureaucrats who devised these rules in the first place?

 The police in this area appear not to have not been heavy-handed in trying to enforce these guidelines, and we can be glad that in general there has been a common sense approach. Elsewhere there have been reports of people being ordered not to even sit down on a park bench. That kind of heavy-handedness will only be tolerated for so long. It will lead to people purposely looking for ways to flout the rules, and feeling pleased with themselves when they’ve done so. And that helps no-one.

 If there are groups gathering together in parks it’s right, for the time being at least, that they should be broken up. Neither do we want to see any early return to crowded beaches. And those who flagrantly breach the rules by holding noisy house parties deserve a visit from the police, a very firm rap on the door, and any further action deemed necessary.

 But the vast majority of people are not idiots, and as this drags on patience is fraying with regard to the more questionable guidelines.

 Nicola Sturgeon last week promised there would be “a grown up conversation” on the way ahead. That should mean bringing an end to treating responsible adults like children, and telling them they can’t sit on a park bench, or drive a short distance to go for a walk in the woods.

Gush and ‘gratitude’ is beginning to grate

 LAST week I was in a store where an automated voice was reeling off the “We’re all in this together” message that’s been delivered in so many places in so many different forms. Shoppers were then informed that new shopping arrangements were in place, which was obvious anyway, and then told: “Be a local hero and follow the one-way system.”

 Be a “local hero” – for walking around a supermarket in the right direction?

 There are genuine heroes in this situation, but they are staffing hospital wards and local care homes. Nurses and doctors who deal with coronavirus sufferers on a daily basis are displaying the kind of resilience and bravery comparable to the levels of selflessness in wartime. The efforts of many other people – including store workers – should also be fully appreciated.

The genuine heroes in this crisis.

 But after nearly two months, an endless flow of praise and gratitude continues to be directed at so many of us who are really doing nothing much to deserve it. Do folk need or want to be continually thanked or praised in TV commercial adverts, information broadcasts and by politicians – including local politicians –for sitting indoors in a sofa reading a book or watching television. Do we need to be hailed for observing social distancing? And do we need to be urged to become “heroes” by following a one-way system in a supermarket?

 It may be well intentioned but the outpouring of gush is beginning to sound increasingly fake and pointless, and I doubt if it’s raising anyone’s morale. An excess of the most ardent “we’re here to help” and “thank you, thank, thank you” TV adverts come fron banks. In the pre-virus era they’d happily take the shirt of your back. Have they really changed that much?

Amid gloom, being furloughed isn’t all that bad

 A LARGE majority of people are opposed – as I am – to the lockdown being eased to any significant extent.

 Of course this is based on health concerns. But is it influenced one iota by the possibility that, amid the doom and gloom, being furloughed isn’t all that bad really? Getting paid 80 per cent of your wages for not doing any work doesn’t sound wholly intolerable. And from what I’ve heard, people I know in different jobs are very happy with that 80 per cent figure they’re receiving, however the 80 per cent has been worked out.

 Now that April money has been paid out, is everyone still desperate to get their lay-off over, and to get back to clocking on and grafting away as usual?

Riverside plan has never seemed so remote

 IS Highland Council playing fast and loose with figures by already claiming the coronavirus will cost it £60million? That assertion has been branded ludicrous by several of its own members. Is it worth the paper it’s written on – if it’s written on any paper, as opposed to having been plucked out of thin air?

 Many people will take a lot of convincing that the council hasn’t jumped the gun in claiming it will incur such staggering losses, when so much about its future operations remains uncertain.

Plans for the Gathering Place have never seemed so outlandish and remote.

 There’s another council figure which has never been explained – the claim made last August that scrapping plans for the riverside Gathering Place would cost it £190,000, two thirds as much as it would cost to actually build it. People have never been enlightened on that assessment either, and I suspect we never will be.

 However, it’s now difficult to see when that notorious development will or could go ahead. It may finally be written off.

 In these difficult times the Ness riverside is a source of relaxation and solace for people who want to enjoy its peacefulness and tranquillity, maybe more than they’ve ever been done before. The prospect of ripping part of it up and turning it into a building site for a £300,000 vanity project has never seemed more outlandish and remote.

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