Nature, cycling and local food could be the way forward for Sunday Times listed market town
A Yorkshire market town which has won several Gold In Bloom awards and uses Plantscape to provide its floral displays believes a focus on spending more time outside and a return to traditional local shopping habits could be the future for towns as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis.
Helen Watson, town clerk of Beverley, which has been named by the Sunday Times as one of the best places to live in Northern England, believes this shift will create a healthy balance between wellbeing and economic stability.
The town will shortly be receiving a consignment of 68 lamppost mounted seven-day watering floral displays and eight enormous and impressive flower towers from Plantscape, which coincides with a loosening of the lockdown rules.
Helen is a great believer in the power of nature in improving wellbeing – and says the recent restrictions have seen a rise in interest in the town’s 250 plus allotments and more people walking in the surrounding countryside, while observing social distancing rules.
“I’m hoping we will carry on nurturing nature in towns and think more about the natural environment and conservation,” she said.
The council has also installed bird boxes in seated areas in small gardens scattered around the town.
Helen says social distancing and the new ways of living to which we will all need to adapt in the post Covid world will require changes for all town centres and for the people who use them – and is full of positivity about how Beverley will look in the coming months and years.
“The way we shop and eat will change. We’re seeing more people buying local produce and visiting farm shops. We may see a resurgence in farmers’ markets and small food producers for example. Of course, as a market town, traditionally people bought and sold in the open air. A sort of medieval social distancing. We have a very popular annual food festival and 117 pubs, cafes and restaurants in town. This is a great way to educate people about the origins of food, about cooking from scratch, about eating seasonally and locally.
“We may see a rise in volunteering as we are becoming so much more community focused and caring. This was exemplified with our virtual VE day which showed a community, while not physically connected, united in spirit and camaraderie. And of course, during the war people were more adaptable – bottling their own fruit, drying herbs.”
She cites one example of a town centre eatery which unwittingly already operates social distancing measures and could be a model for the future of restaurants - a pub whose garden is full of individual dining sheds for an unusual communal, yet private, experience.
“We may see a more continental atmosphere, more landscaped seating areas and water features so people can sit while being socially distanced outside. We may learn to love being outdoors. If it’s raining, we can have huge umbrellas over the tables. Instead of indoor gyms we may see a rise in outdoor keep fit exercises – like Tai Chi. We need to reinvent what we do.”
Large empty shops could be used as a hub for pop up eateries with people then taking their purchases to eat outside at socially distanced tables.
She also suggests reducing car use via a combination of installing more bike racks in town and a rise in community bike refurbishment schemes. This would also provide employment for those who have lost their jobs in other industries.
“We could see a better work life balance. The government and councils need to look into proving a more holistic rather than material experience. And more towns could certainly benefit from providing allotments.
“We need to think about what makes people visit a town. What was the catalyst for the town in the first place? And think how we can use that information to reinvent ourselves. We need to think differently.”