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Blog: being active is good all round

11th June 2020

By CNPA Board Member, Pippa Hadley

What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?

I recently made my first and only journey to Inverness and back since lockdown started to get essentials I could not get locally. Despite the stunning day and scenery, my thoughts turned to how much time I have spent travelling of late, and how little I spend now. The difference is astronomical, and having a break from it allowed me to see how little I enjoy it really. I walk everyday with my dogs so do not suffer from a deficit of nature, and I love the views that travel affords – but I always experience a longing to physically get into the views I travel past, yet never afford myself that time.

And now, where is that time going?  Around me I see parents with children, playing on the communal pitch, cycling past en famile, walking with dogs and without – spending time freely in nature, spending time they have been given to spare by this strange, new and restricted way of being.

Restricted we may be but we are very fortunate in the Cairngorms National Park to have space and a wonderful array of good paths to enable us to get out and enjoy the sights, the sounds, the smells. Now that restrictions have eased a little, we can get out more and go a little bit further, which is great. Although, the advice is travel no more than five miles and if you can, you should walk or cycle to that local beauty spot you have missed so much. With good path networks linking communities, such as the Speyside Way, that is made much easier and safer for everyone.

As the outdoor access authority, the CNPA has a role to promote ‘active travel’. That is, getting to your destination without the use of a vehicle – so walking and cycling rather than driving. Not only is active travel good for our health, it is extremely beneficial to the environment when you think about a reduction in emissions and that other battle we are fighting – climate change.

So could we have a world with only active travel – or even virtual travel?  Probably not, for we will still go places that will require a vehicle, to explore or connect with loved ones. But the relentless movement of our species, a lot like a nest of ants when disturbed by lifting a sheet of corrugated iron, makes no sense when an overview is gained. The same sense of frenetic movement and business is there, but the ants work together to better their lot; we are all so lost in our own sense of urgency, but for what? Is there an answer to that question, other than 42?  Perhaps not, but we now know that the level our overzealous activities have reached is now destroying the planet that supports us.

We may never move away from movement beyond our own propulsion, but we can gain a sense of balance as to where we need to go and how we get there. Given the time we have gained from not yoyo-ing physically between our suddenly non-essential needs and responsibilities, we have the luxury of exploring a world that we have been too busy to see. We have been given the gift of time, to stand and stare.