Context – it all happened so fast
On 31 December 2019, a pneumonia of unknown cause, detected in Wuhan, China, was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). A month later, on 31 January, the first cases of coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the UK were confirmed. On 5 March, a first death in the UK from the coronavirus disease – COVID-19 – was confirmed. The number of known UK cases passed 100. Six days later, WHO declared a pandemic.
On 23 March, the UK was ordered into partial lockdown. We were instructed only to leave our homes for limited purposes such as: for any medical need; to go shopping for basic necessities; to take one form of exercise a day; and to go to and from work, only when absolutely necessary. By 12 April, the number of people reported to have died with the coronavirus in UK hospitals alone exceeded 10,000.
On 14 April, just 105 days after that first report to WHO in China and with more than 12,000 deaths in the UK, the inevitable announcement came from WNBR London:
“So sorry to say it, but here is the news you were probably expecting to hear. The World Naked Bike Ride in London will not take place on 13 June 2020. Participants and spectators should not go to the start locations. WNBR London has considered current circumstances and concluded we must take a cautious approach for the safety of our participants and the general public. We assume it will still be unwise to encourage public gatherings in June.”
“We have seen no reliable evidence to indicate when it will be safe to take the ride onto the streets so we have not proposed a new date for the ride. It is possible that there will be no ride in 2020. We will review the situation at each of our monthly meetings and have the ability to mount a ride at short notice if circumstances change. We will let you know if there is any news.”
Many other regional rides had already cancelled, as indeed had most events across most of the whole world. We were all shut away in our homes for our own safety and the safety of others, only allowed to take exercise outdoors with members of our own household. People were dying by the thousand, while the living were going stir-crazy within their own four walls. We all needed a lift. We needed to do something. Safely.
Bowers Marsh Naked Bike Ride
Locked-down in south Essex, Esther and I decided that for one day, our ‘one form of exercise‘ would be our very own naked bike ride. Not a World Naked Bike Ride – not an official one – but one for ourselves, somewhere local, without many people about, where we could ride for at least 10km, for more than hour, without courting trouble or breaking the lockdown rules. We opted for RSPB Bowers Marsh Nature Reserve.
Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) reserve facilities were closed but its walking and cycling trails remained accessible. In early sunshine on Monday 1 June, we painted our chests with positive slogans, saddled-up in loose clothing and set off. Our start point was by Church Road, a couple of kilometres from home, just south of its bridge over the A13. We undressed in the tree-shadows of a discreet side turning.
Source: Steve Ritter
Original publication 10 June, 2020
Posted on NatCorn 19th July 2020
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