Freedom in the landscape…..or is there?

Actions by governments across the world to combat the Coronavirus pandemic have severely curbed our freedom to do what we want and when we want to do it. Who we can meet and where these meetings can take place. Where we can go, the purpose of our visit and how long we can stay there.

These are all freedoms that for the most part we have taken for granted, so when for good reason they are withdrawn it only serves to heighten our overall awareness of what freedom means to us on a day to day basis.

I love being in the open countryside, taking exercise, enjoying the fresh air and taking photographs of course. I am away from crowds and the busyness of life in a big city. If I stick to footpaths and bridleways I can more or less walk as far as I like, which is always much further than my stamina and legs will allow me to go! If I want savour the scenery or the wildlife, I can stop whenever I wish and for as long as I want to. I am free….or am I?

On a recent two hour walk in the South Downs National Park I couldn’t help but notice the number of signs which arguably restricted my freedom. Signs telling me not to go here or there. Signs telling me what I could and couldn’t do. I fully appreciate the need for these notices to be put out by the landowner or estate manager, but in my view they don’t enhance the beauty of the countryside. However documenting rural life is in itself a worthwhile thing to do.

This walk is familiar to me so I know I will have seen many of these signs before. But because I was thinking about freedom or more precisely the lack of it during the past couple of months, these signs entered my conscience, and took on a meaning over and above the literal words of the notices themselves.

Slowly but surely here in the UK the restrictions of the past 3 months are being lifted, so our freedom to move around and to do as we please is returning. A major announcement by our Prime Minister has in fact been made today. We are not returning to the ‘old normal’ nor has the virus been defeated but we are making good progress.

I greatly value freedom, providing of course we remain law abiding citizens, and I will gladly accept a few signs in the countryside if we never find ourselves in a situation again where the government needs to tell us to ‘stay at home’.

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