As my eyes adjust to this new light
I stand in complete awe
People still surround me
Why hadn’t I noticed before?

OUT OF CHAOS comes order. Life and routines change in this small rural village, but no one is alone, thanks to well-thought-out communication networks, volunteers of all ages and the tireless work of key retailers, writes Jane Cooksey. Restrictions are lifting and cautious outside social distancing is becoming more visible and audible with the popping of corks and clanking of glasses in the late evening sun.

How do the key people who work in the grocers, butchers, bakery, post office and pubs feel about the changes and the current situation. Will it ever be the same as it was!

Square Café: which is often referred to as the beating heart of the village. ‘The café is a lifeline for many people in the community, its where friends meet, get a good meal and often the only conversations of the day.  I am troubled about re-opening as it is a relatively small space so social distancing will be difficult and how can I ensure that the people who most need the place have priority over the hoards desperate to get back to the Lakes?’

Village Grocery and Butcher Shop: ‘Initially we had temporary loss of staff due to age, anxiety or health issues, but volunteers, new staff and the hard work of existing staff soon filled the gaps. Home deliveries have become a very important part of our service, making sure people in rural areas as well as local people who are isolating get all that they need in a safe environment.  There is a great sense of togetherness in the village. We have had to change a lot of our systems, but we have adapted, and hope things will return to ‘normal’ – but who knows!

Manor Pub: ‘It was a sad day for the village when our pub doors closed as it is a daily hub for socialising – where locals meet on a regular basis and like the café communication is a vital and key part of the service we offer.  However, we have been offering take-out beer and other drinks and snacks, which have proved extremely popular and as long as the brewers keep brewing we will keep this service going until we can re-open the doors and welcome everyone back – it will be one heck of a party!’

Village Bakery: ‘Surprised and delighted that customers have remained loyal and new customers have been placing orders. We have just about managed to keep up with production and have been delivering to isolated members of the community as well as other rural areas. With the lifting of restrictions, we can now re-open our takeaway service, which is proving very popular so thanks to local and new customers we will survive.’

Post Office: ‘We felt very exposed at the beginning of the virus and so reduced opening hours, but provided a home delivery service to our customers in isolation and rural areas. Unfortunately, even though we followed all the guidelines and took all the necessary precautions, the post mistress caught the virus and we had to close for two weeks. The silver lining which has saved our business and hopefully secured the post office for the future is our booming online and in-shop train model and accessory line, which have clearly re-kindled hobbies and passions as people now have more time on their hands! It’s thanks to customers new and loyal that we can keep going through these incredibly uncertain times.

Prince of Wales pub: – After the initial shock of the pub closing and dealing with all the practicalities, the drive and purpose of our days evaporated and lots of sleep followed.  We then pottered and exercised as we had the huge luxury of time on our hands.  The pub sale was then resurrected which gave us back renewed purpose and so we started doing take away beer and our famous ‘throughout the county’ pasties.  The generosity and support of our customers has been overwhelming outweighing all our expectations, our future holds retirement of sorts and the pub is now safe in new hands.  This strange period has given us time for thought and realise we will always need and have an overriding sense of purpose.

Cow enjoying a social distancing get together in a garden

Slowly and cautiously under new guidelines people can meet family and friends not seen for months and travel further distances. People are travelling from the closest cities and towns to enjoy the tranquil beauty of the Lake District and all it has to offer. 

Paddle boards, canoes and sailing boats are appearing on the lakes and the once quiet roads with bikes and cars. Socially distanced picnickers’ clamour to the shores of lakes and rivers complete with BBQs, beer and inflatables. Hikers are returning to the mountains and climbers to the rock, with most people adhering to the rules, but always a few spoiling it for the many.

Traffic and parked cars at local beauty spot

Locked bins in beauty spots are surrounded by dumped bags of rubbish and empty bottles, used BBQ’ left on beaches and by the side of rivers, plastic bags, empty coffee cups and takeaway cartons left at the side of county roads; it is sad that for some there is no respect for such a beautiful landscape.

The countryside was silent for a while, enjoying peace and quiet, wild animals became braver and birds noisier while villages and towns were in an enforced slumber. Life is slowly returning to normal and people are on the move as travel and visiting restrictions are lifted. Soon pub gardens and campsites will re-open, and the village will be filled with visitors new and old frequenting all the above establishments, and the square will once again be filled with the sounds of conversation and laughter.

For some the return to ‘normality’ will be a welcome and much needed respite, for a few the uninterrupted sounds of nature and peaceful countryside will be missed, but for everyone the change in tempo will have brought about time for reflection and possible change.

This life is a wonderful gift .. accept it, embrace it. 
It starts with a new day .. wake up and greet it.
Life is a challenge .. take it head on and meet it.
Full of opportunity .. use it, don’t waste it.
Danny Joyce

Jane Cooksey is a keen adventurer, which is convenient as her husband Andy is, too. She is a climber, mountaineer and skier, and loves exploring new places. She has had quite a few big trips exploring America, Canada and Australia, plus many remote parts of Europe as well as most of the UK. She has her own PR company (Real PR Outdoor – specialising in outdoor brands, and in recent years has started freelance writing for various outdoor and travel publications.