You’re reading our series Summer’s Not Cancelled, celebrating summer in this new normal. From rediscovering nature and cherishing time with friends and family, to virtual festivals and unforgettable staycations – summer’s still here, it’s just different.
“On a normal Wednesday, we’d be sat over there,” said my friend, gesturing towards the harsh grey tones of the beer garden opposite the field we were sat in. With its parallel rows of seating and uniform umbrellas, it was a sobering picture as we lay, legs akimbo, in the park.
Socialising, at its purest form, hasn’t changed since lockdown restrictions were eased. Parks may have become the new pubs, but no matter where we are, we’re still mulling over the same stuff, right? Technically, yes – but if you ask me, sitting on the grass in a park is way better than being in a beer garden.
“Think of all the money we could’ve saved sitting in parks before lockdown!” another friend said. Why bother visiting a brewery or going cocktail making for entertainment when you can sack that off and lay in thick, green grass, instead?
Everyone I’ve said this to has struggled to give me a convincing rebuttal. More than just an adequate replacement for the pub, parks offer us the opportunity to come to terms with our weird new normal. Here’s why.
It’s gleefully childlike
Try rolling around or laying back flat to the ground. It’s essential while lazing in a park, if you ask me, and it’s actually good for your back (the laying on the ground part, not the rolling around part). Bottle of booze beforehand, optional.
Hear me out: meeting in parks is about more than just sitting. Meandering down narrow paths with the sole purpose of getting lost can feel like a mini holiday at the end of a static housebound day. And the presence of actual children extracts childlike tendencies from even the most adults of adults.
Think of the nostalgia. You may not have laid in a field with friends in a decade, but you almost certainly did as a child. And you’re likely to relish new memories made in a park today as much as you did back then – memories of family picnics, play dates, and hours running around in the sun.
It reconnects us with our local environment
We’re not venturing far from our houses, and with that comes a deeper appreciation and understanding of our local natural environment. Found parks you never knew existed? Me, too!
Consciously or unconsciously, we’re further connected to these parks, whether that means we’re noticing our neighbours stroll past us, or in tune with the fact the rose beds are still flourishing well into June. Shouldn’t they be gone by now? Would you usually notice the life cycle of plants?
Even if you don’t feel like you’ve become more in tune, you probably have. And for many of us, this greenery is here to stay in our lives.
It brings us together
“Who’s got a corkscrew?!” Ah, the lockdown corkscrew debacle that has defined park ambles for all of us this lockdown.
People scrap around in their bags, with a deep sense of shared concern, racing to find the closest one, working as a team. “Poke a stick in the top and push the cork in!” someone else suggests.
Park life has us chatting to strangers more than we ever would in a beer garden while we’re sat two metres away. A smile as someone walks past, a nod at someone you sat near the day before, a laugh at a collective joke. The small things have brought us together.
For some of us, it’s more comfortable
For those of us lucky enough to be physically able to sit in parks, changing positions every few minutes is an absolute delight.
Say a sentence to a friend, lay back, weight balanced on one arm, before surrendering to the grass entirely, eyes up to the sky, as they respond.
Then sit up, cross-legged, to make more of a serious point. Laugh later on, and relax back down again, legs stretched off into the sunny patch a few metres away – your head gloriously cloaked in shade.
This is a bit of an obvious one, but why pay £6 for a pint when there’s tinnies in the park? Feeling concerned about the community? Shop local, or support a local brewery. Treat yourself to pricier refreshments than you normally might and you’ll still be quids in compared to the average pub session.
Honestly, what’s not to love?