Nature to combat social isolation

Aiman Shaikh, one of our Research Software Engineers, tells us more about the steps she has taken to tackle feelings of isolation during the pandemic by organising walks, playing badminton and exploring nature with friends and colleagues across the North West.

Aiman enjoying the great outdoors!

For people like me who live far away from families, the current situation of lockdown certainly started to take a negative effect. Since everything started back in March when we switched to working from home, I had a very limited social contact with colleagues and friends. After the peak of the virus, as soon as it was safe to do so, I planned to organise walks. Initially, in July, this was limited to local parks with only one or two other people, following social distancing. Gradually, I extended it to more colleagues who live by themselves, assuring them that we would be abiding by all recommended safety measures, as I completely understand anxiety during this time. After organising various local parks walk, we ventured further to do a walk exploring West Kirby and a walk across Rhyl beach in Wales with a small group.

Aiman and the rest of the group enjoying time in Snowdonia.

My first walking trip was to Delamere forest over the August bank holiday. It was a very lovely sunny day, and I managed to gather Charlotte Freeman, David Bray, Helen Newton and family, Judicael Grasset (SCD), Benjamin Breig (Quantum Science Ltd at Daresbury) as well as my friend, Kanchan. It was a success after planning a sequence of trails to walk on. The group was so happy and it was great to see everyone and enjoy nature!  Benjamin went on to plan a Snowdonia trip on the following weekend and we did Y Garn via Devil’s Kitchen from the Ogwen trail. We have spotted things like Amanita muscaria commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita as well as a Royal Air Force Red Arrows flight!

Apart from walking and hiking, I have been actively participating in playing Badminton at leisure clubs in Warrington. This was Judicael s idea to start with but I have to say that I am really enjoying it and am now inviting more people to join us. This all prompted me to participate in the Virgin Go challenge and I’ll be organising more walks with colleagues in the coming autumn months. If anybody would like to join us, please let me know and I’ll add you to the email or WhatsApp group.

A socially-distant walk in Delamere Forest.

I know the situation at the moment is not great, but activities like this have really helped me and others to get fresh air and feel active, forgetting our anxiety and worries for a while. I have many great plans for our future walks, of course following local rules and regulations and precautions. I am also planning to do some kind of virtual walk due to lockdown, which I hope will involve local groups walking at different places but starting at the same time and sharing their experience at the end of the day.

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