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Inspirational stories

Learning the accordion

Ed had spent the majority of the last 20 years travelling across the UK for work. When the lockdown came, he found himself suddenly working from home as a key worker. It was quite an upheaval as he had kept his work life and home life quite distinct previously, and now home was not only his office, it was also a school for his children, and that created conflicts about time, space and the capacity of the internet!

The positives of being at home more included being able to go for local walks, catch up on DIY and, of course, spend more time with family, but one of things that really turned a negative side of lockdown into a plus was the chance to teach himself to play his father’s accordion, which had been given to him a couple of years previously.

Learning to play was tricky at first, especially with trying to pick it up from online videos and tutor books rather than from a music teacher. At first, he couldn’t get the left hand and the right hand to play together, but had a breakthrough which was really rewarding and gave him confidence that he could do it.

Ed still feels he’s not very good and has a long way to go to become proficient, but every day or so he practices, picking his way through Scottish dance tunes and 1960s pop. While at times he has found it frustrating, he found that it was very absorbing as a new hobby, and took him away from stresses of daily life for a short while each day. The repetition, the physicality of playing – both the movement and the sound - as well as the mental challenge of re-learning music theory, the feeling of the continuity of a tradition, the frustration and eventual enjoyment of getting another tune right, led to a sense of achievement and personal growth.


The length of Shetland's coastline... in a wheelchair

Teenager Brynn had only just discovered the joy and physical benefits of enjoying the natural environment a few months before Covid-19 hit the world. He had recently acquired his own all-terrain wheelchair, after completing a two day off-road challenge in a borrowed chair, when he found himself suddenly shielding and confined to home.

Brynn realised quickly that, after losing his regular face-to-face interaction with friends and family as well as no longer being able to enjoy his outdoor adventures, he needed something positive to focus on to look after both his mental and physical health. This was even more important because Brynn has autism, ADHD and severe asthma.

Not one to choose an easy option, he decided to challenge himself to push himself the distance of Shetland's coastline (almost 1700 miles) in his wheelchair. Initially this was done on rollers in his garden shed while shielding, and several months later, when restrictions were relaxed, he was able to use local roads and footpaths, accompanied by his family or socially distanced friends.

Not only did Brynn complete his ambitious challenge over nearly a year, he raised £8,025 pounds for a local charity at the same time AND he was nominated for (and subsequently won) the Young Scot ‘Young Hero’ award for 2021!

Brynn’s experiences over the last year have kept him fit and given him a sense of achievement and purpose when it would have been much easier to sit and play computer games. He continues to put this experience to good use, and is now planning to complete 16 half marathons in his wheelchair, to celebrate his 16th birthday.

Read Brynn’s story in his own words here.

Walking for health

Estelle and James were both used to a very busy social life with lots of outdoor activity, as well as having demanding careers. When lockdown hit in March 2020, working from home and not going out was a major change to their lifestyle with Government rules restricting exercise to an hour a day outside of home ruling out their usual hobbies. The couple knew that they needed to have proper breaks from work and understood the benefits of being outside, so they decided that a daily lunchtime walk together was a way to benefit.

Realising that they had not explored their local area in great depth, Estelle and James took an Ordnance Survey map screenshot covering three miles from home, and decided to walk every footpath within that radius during lockdown. They soon finished the nearest walks, and started to take longer ones at weekends too, averaging about 5km a day on weekdays and 10-20km on Saturdays and Sundays.

Occasionally bad weather or injury prevented walking, but they only missed a handful of days and finished their challenge in early August just after the local pub had been allowed to reopen, so they enjoyed a celebratory drink on the way home.

During their challenge, the couple enjoyed their local environment, experiencing the seasons changing, watching wildlife, and taking photos. They also reported issues with local footpaths to the council!

The mental health benefits of the project were more important than improving physical fitness. It gave them the chance to regularly let talk about issues affecting their daily lives and they both feel it opened their eyes to what was on their own doorstep.

Estelle and James plan to continue enjoying walking their favourite newly-discovered local routes as often as possible, and hope to return to other hobbies such as caving and kayaking. Estelle has also set herself a daily photography challenge.


Gardening for community

Like many long-term home-educating families, Sarah, Darren and their young son Leo, were used to enjoying face to face time with other like-minded families with trips out as well as attending church regularly and having the support of close family. When lockdown began, they were suddenly required to shield.

As well as the obvious physical isolation from their social, support and educational circle, the loss of the option to learn in “the wild” in the natural environment made a big difference to their lives. Limited to just their own house and garden, they looked for ways to continue to learn from nature, while planning creative ways to make their garden a more productive and enjoyable place to spend extended periods of time.

Over the course of the spring and into summer the family worked to redesign their garden, creating raised beds and installing a small greenhouse. They planted many seeds, cared for their young plants and watched them develop. It gave them a project to focus on, with many learning opportunities and a feeling of achievement and satisfaction as tiny seedlings grew into healthy plants.

Leo became increasingly enthusiastic about these experiences, and as lockdown and the need to shield eased, soon discovered his enthusiasm rubbed-off on his friends, who started to visit to see what he was doing. The children soon wanted to be involved themselves, and so a small informal gardening group began to form. Working within the local Covid guidelines, and with Sarah providing a lead, people began to join in, learning about the development of plants, pollination, the importance of bees, and the satisfaction of growing their own food.

Now local parents have recognised the benefits of their children’s growing connection to nature, and have been inspired to create a local community gardening group, covering a wide range of ages and abilities. The emphasis has been on growth to succeed - "no wrong way to do it” - with opportunities for play, as well as freedom to explore and experiment. 

This small gardening project has begun to connect the local community in a new, social, productive and educational way.