How lockdown makes you appreciate what’s on your Essex doorstep

PUBLISHED: 11:29 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:29 07 July 2020

Mersea beach huts (c) robin byles, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Mersea beach huts (c) robin byles, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Archant

Prior to lockdown did we take Essex’s prettiest spots for granted? David Whiteley is the presenter and a director of BBC1 current affairs programme, Inside Out. David was born in South Essex and cut his teeth in radio in Southend and Chelmsford

I’ve just got back from what feels like my 300th lockdown run with the dog. While I was out in the countryside, the peace was shattered by an alien noise, something I’d not heard for a long time.

In fact it was so alien I actually craned my neck skywards to see where it was. Yep, you’re right. It was a plane. Remember those?

The steel tubes we’d hop on to go on holiday, or maybe for work trips. Prior to lockdown, the blue sky would be a maze of vapour trails, all the product of aircraft heading to far away destinations of wonder. Well that’s how I sometimes saw them anyway.

But here we are, in what is a quieter world for some but certainly a more local world for us all. Those with plans for a holiday abroad this year, jetting out of Stansted or Southend airports, may be left bitterly disappointed. However, plans are on hold for good reason of course, as the world battles Covid-19.

I’ve been working from home for some weeks now, but each Sunday, I make the journey to the BBC to host my Sunday morning radio show. It’s called Treasure Quest and it’s a bit like a treasure hunt, except in lockdown we do it all on Google Street View – an invention of the fiendishly clever producer, who has adapted the format to keep it going.

We have many regular callers, and I love to hear from all of them, but there’s one from my old stomping ground, Tony in Westcliff, who is an avid listener.

Whenever he’s on, I always ask him how the estuary is, whether the tide is in or out. You get the idea. And I have to say, this isn’t for the audience’s benefit, it’s for mine. Selfishly, I love to hear him tell me about Westcliff, the beaches where I would go as a child and what the views are like on that given day.

Last Sunday, he called in. He got the clues right on the show, a bonus, but I was also grateful for his description of Westcliff. In my mind, I was immediately transported to the south Essex coast.

I pictured the mudflats, sparkling in the sunshine, the sailing boats on their moorings, the sound of halyards clinking softly in a light, warm breeze and, of course, the wading birds, picking their way carefully and stealthily, through the gloopy brown creeks. To be honest, I almost lost concentration on the radio programme.

During this time, it’s been good to reflect on what we have possibly taken for granted in the past. Our friends and family, nature and, of course, the beauty of places not too far from our own doorsteps.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve kind of been compiling a bucket list (or lockdown exit list) of places to go to, either that I’ve been to before or always wanted to.

The plan is to revisit special places in East Anglia and discover new ones. Sadly, up until now, that day hasn’t actually arrived, but as things are eased in the lockdown and we can go to places for exercise, we can discover, or even rediscover, the places we may have taken for granted in the past.

We may not be able to hop on a plane, but we can hop on our bikes and see our own stomping grounds, with fresh enthusiasm and appreciation. 

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