Exactly one year ago, as the first lockdown began, we could only imagine what the next few months held for everyone and what the future held for our small charity.

With our activities well and truly stymied, it was hard to anticipate what we’d be able to say in summary of the year 2020-21. Yet although we’re telling a very different story this time, it is still packed with action, adventure, twists and turns, goodies, baddies and just a little bit of Zoom.

It would be nice to say that we’ve had a rare old time just sitting tight and eating biscuits but it’s safe to say that the entire team at Open Country has worked harder than ever to support our members in whichever way we could.

These are some of our key achievements in 2020-21:

  • We have worked with 216 members and volunteers
  • Despite lockdowns totalling over 24 weeks, we have managed to carry out 146 face to face activities
  • Offered nearly 500 hours of Zoom activities over 14 different sessions including nature study, exercise quizzes and socials.
  • Made over 1,700 wellbeing calls and carried out shopping and errands for members and volunteers who were isolating
  • Recorded and shared 24 Audio Walks
  • Updated three of our Countryside Directories
  • Created three seasonal nature activities packs to share online and send to members
  • Launched one brand new Breakfree pack with three more nearly finished
  • Held our Sunflower of Hope competition to grow the tallest sunflower
  • Launched a new project to grow 5,000 wildflowers from seed at our polytunnels in Thornes Park, Wakefield
  • Within the restrictions of Covid we were able to launch new groups including the Allotment Group and a Spin Class, which we hope to continue
  • Partnering with national organisations to raise awareness of access for all including Sustrans (winners of our 2020 Good Access Scheme Award) and CPRE.

We have done all of this whilst battling the financial challenges that Covid has brought. Despite some traditional income streams drying up, we have managed to keep the good ship Open Country afloat by attracting funds from our amazing supporters, from trusts and foundations and by initiating more community fundraising than ever before.

If nothing else, this year has given us a chance to stop and evaluate things. We sometimes shy away from communicating how much hard work goes into running Open Country – the hours spent before and after a full day of activity and the multitude of policies and procedures we have to follow. We feel that our members and volunteers want to come out for a day of fun, friendship and adventure and don’t need to be bogged down by the detail.

Yet we have spent the last year updating our policies, overhauling our health and safety, improving our evaluation process and developing 73 new ‘Tool Box Talks’ to ensure the safe running of our activities. In short, we have not sat still and let the virus ravage our beloved charity. We have done everything we can to ‘future proof’ our services and to be in a position where we can come back stronger than ever.

In the new world of Covid, a world where we have to learn to live with the virus, our policies and procedures will have to be more at the forefront of what we do and our members and volunteers will have a responsibility to play their part in ensuring our services are as Covid secure as possible.

Our review of 2020 (https://fb.watch/4p_ppDaR4i/) summed up the feeling of being on the ‘Coronacoaster’ – the highs, the lows – even some loop the loops! But as we emerge from the gloom and we gradually unfurl our wings like a veritable butterfly out of a cocoon, we feel stronger and more prepared for whatever the future brings.

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