By Helene Mauchlen

We’re back! We’re back on the beaches, back in our favourite forests and back in the country parks; since the 5 mile travel limit for leisure rule has been lifted, we and our glorious mounts are able to ride our favourite rides at last.

And you certainly “don’t know what you have got till its gone”. Thankyou Joni Mitchell and Big Yellow Taxi, and in a similar vein we won’t let them “pave paradise and put up a parking lot” but they might need one because everyone, simply everyone is needing out to our beautiful places and a dose of Dr Green. The BHS is working as partner and stakeholder with rangers, park authorities and Forest and Land Scotland to balance needs, instill responsibility and encourage fair sharing while respecting the environment. I have seen some great infographics and slogans - Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park’s “Love it like a local” or the sense of urgency (if you are a 60 year old lady) in the need to “Go before you Go”. Cairngorms National Park say “Tread lightly in the Park” and our equestrian one is “Leave Space – leave no Trace” as we try and encourage horse owners to park their trailers and lorries with consideration in busy car parks, take their rubbish and dung home (or kick it to the side on a path) and be very sensitive to keeping other visitors and of course, the locals safe – we must not create anxiety in any way. We may be back - but we must be back with the right attitude!

The value of precious public spaces has never been more highly prized and BHS Scotland has never been more pleased to be part of something than the Scottish Outdoor Recreation Alliance (SORA) ‘Manifesto for the Outdoors’ that is currently being put in front of political parties by the Ramblers as the candidates prepare their intentions and views for the May 6th Scottish elections. If there is one thing covid has done its underline the values of nature and the beautiful Scottish landscapes, and activities like equestrian in turn feed many pounds into the Scottish and local economy; not to mention the physical and mental well-being provided by walking, cycling, paddling and companion animals – equine and canine! So we (SORA) are raising the profile of outdoor recreation and its setting at this pivotal time in history.

If you think pivotal sounds a bit drastic; if I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked “what will you change as a result of the pandemic” I would be rich? So what will I change and what has changed? The value of local for us on the farm, our neighbours setting up a food co-operative and the local what’s app group where one is making masks for the other households out of old shirts. The amount of cyclists on the road and a reclaiming of the rural roads by recreational users. It’s great to see the Road Safety Scotland vulnerable road users campaign “its everyone’s responsibility” that uses eggs in their thin shells to get the message through and announces that we all have a stake in safe road use; drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrian and horse riders. What else has changed? Well after many months in the desert I have bought myself a new pony – a small, male pink one and I can’t tell you how exciting that is – watch out green spaces here we come!