Nature in Lockdown - in conversation with Helen Glover

River sunset

Two-time Olympic rowing champion Helen Glover was born and raised in Cornwall, where her love of sports, the outdoors and wildlife began. Now living in Berkshire with her husband, naturalist broadcaster and author Steve Backshall, and their three children, Helen returns to Cornwall frequently to see family, enjoy ice cream, and enjoy our beautiful wildlife and wild places.
A Cornwall Wildlife Trust supporter, Helen spoke to us about her experiences of nature in lockdown.

How’ve you found the last few months?

The coronavirus situation has been life changing for everyone. We’ve been in the situation where we’ve had a life changing personal event, the birth of our twins (who arrived seven weeks before lockdown), coincide with a life changing global event.

You envisage what your first few months with new babies will look like; introducing them to friends, taking them to different places, and getting them to Cornwall as often as possible. When Logan, our first child, was born, we took him to every beach on and around Penwith. I expected to do the same with the twins but that just hasn’t been possible.

Helen sits to the left of the image, with her two twins perched on her knee. Her young son brogan is at her feet, looking out of a door way to feed the ducks on the river below. The sun streams onto them and the river shimmers

Fortunately, we did sneak in one trip to Cornwall just before lockdown so they have met their grandparents. Usually, we’d be down frequently so it’s been strange.    

Where have you spent lockdown?

We’re very lucky as we live by the Chiltern Hills and River Thames, so we’ve been able to access outside spaces. Our daily walks were by the river, which is really peaceful.

Helen walks along a path with her twins carried on her chest, as her young son logan runs ahead in blue shorts and a life jacket

We have missed Cornwall enormously though. At this time of year Cornwall is just very special. It’s just before visitors arrive in large numbers but after the battering winds and storms of late winter. You can get out on the coastal path and not see anyone. Steve and I live a very outdoor lifestyle and Cornwall’s the place for that.

I still feel very tied to home and always miss Cornwall when I’m not there, but it’s been especially tough when you’re not actually allowed to visit! My family run an ice cream shop in Newlyn, which thankfully reopened in June. When younger, we’d go for walks along the prom at Penzance and that’s still something we do whenever we return – ice cream in-hand and trying to spot the seal who’s often there!

How have you spent your time in lockdown?

Despite the difficulties, we’ve really embraced spending it as a family. It’s the first time that Logan, who’s almost two, has been aware of the changing seasons so it feels like his first proper spring – we’ve been showing him the plants and encouraging him to listen to birds. That’s been lovely.

In the foreground, 3 swan cygnets huddle together. Behind, Helen sits on a paddleboard with her son between her legs and cruises down the river

Paddle board with cygnet - Helen Glover

We have a canoe so have been on the river lots. We can put the twins in a sling and Logan in a lifejacket to explore the water around us and feed the animals, which Logan loves. It has been amazing to see the river explode with life. We’ve seen swans with their cygnets, ducks with their ducklings, and geese with their goslings. Because we haven’t been able to go anywhere and have been on the river more, we now recognise the individual animals – particularly the ducklings.    

A bright blue sky reflects in the river, and three tall trees stretch up in the background. The sky and river are divided by a bright red canoe which Helen is paddling in, as her son looks out towards the camera

Helen Rowing, 25/05./2020

That sounds amazing! What wildlife have you seen on land?

We have lots of wildlife all around. There’s a badger sett just up the road and we sometimes have foxes in the garden. We also have some rescued hedgehogs that we’ve been feeding, which will be released soon.

What have wildlife and nature meant to you in recent months?

We’ve barely turned on the TV since lockdown started! We’ve become quite obsessive about sitting out and see what’s going on – which is great for a toddler! He’s just fascinated.

We’ve had this outdoor experience which we’re incredibly grateful for. We’re very aware that not everyone has easy access to a garden or outside space, which must be tough. But that’s one of the special qualities of Cornwall – you’re rarely far from a beach, lake, wood or quiet footpath.

I’ve had access to nature and wildlife from our home and grew up surrounded by it in Cornwall. They’ve always been and always will be a big priority.

Talking of Cornwall, what are your favourite beaches?

Steve and I got married at Prussia Cove. I’ve always loved it and Piskies Cove just around the corner. I’ll always have a soft spot too for Sennen and Porthcurno, which are both glorious.

And finally, what three words would you use to summarise on how nature has made you feel in lockdown? 

I’d have to go with relaxed, entertained and interested.

Helen sits in a canoe with her back to the camera, paddling through a calm river with lush vegetation in the hills beyond

Helen Glover  - Birthday Row

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES

We’ve all had our own experiences of nature over the last few months and we would love to hear yours

We invite you to take part in the Cornwall Wildlife Lockdown Survey.

Completing the survey only take a few minutes, and we will use this to help shape our conservation work and conversations with policy makers.

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