You feel trapped, it’s quite horrendous,” said Fiona Harvey, who lives on the 10th floor of a tower block in Portsmouth with her adult son. Harvey has to take the lift to leave the building, which does not allow for social distancing.
“When the lockdown first started, people were still cramming themselves into the lift. There must be people in the building who are shielding, who can’t get out at all because of the lift,” she said.
“When our flats were built, they were aimed at single adults, but with the desperate need for social housing they’ve become homes for families, in buildings that were never intended for that. There isn’t a lot of space for young people to play,” she said. “There’s a resident garden with a notice saying no ball games.”
Harvey and her son are two of many people in Britain living without their own access to green space. As the lockdown enters its second month, many are struggling without gardens or balconies to get fresh air and sunshine throughout the day. For them, the lockdown is a very different experience.
“The current lockdown has created two classes of people : those with outdoor space and those that haven’t,” said David Nunn, 40, who lives in a second-floor flat in London. “If I had a garden over Easter I’d have been out there all day, having a BBQ, sunbathing, or gardening. For a lot of people living in cities, we don’t even have balconies. Once you’re inside your property, there’s nowhere else to go.”
Nunn is considered to be at high risk of getting severe symptoms of coronavirus, so has been told to stay indoors for 12 weeks.
“I can sit on the windowsill and the position of the sun in the late afternoon means I can dangle one leg out at a time,” he said. “That’s about it for my sunshine for now.”
For many without their own green space, daily walks have become a lifeline.
However, many parents are struggling to keep children exercised and entertained without gardens.
“The gates on the local nature reserve have been closed, and all the local sports facilities have been shut down. Even the basketball hoops have been removed,” said Natasha Dunbar, who lives with her two daughters, aged 10 and 15, in a flat in Essex.
Her youngest daughter, Jada, enjoys sport in school. “I’m getting on quite well, it’s been quite fun because I’ve been enjoying time with my family, but wish I had a garden and a bit of space, and a trampoline,” she said. “I really enjoy PE at school – I do gymnastics and swimming – and I miss it. A garden would give us more fun and exercise.”Quick guide
“I’m finding it hard, especially on days like today when it’s hot out,” Dunbar said. “We have the window open, and go for walks, but it’s not the same as having a private space. I don’t think people with gardens know how hard it can be … The government keep saying we’re all in this together, but we aren’t.”
“It’s really difficult for anyone with kids, especially young kids, because it’s hard to explain why everything’s changed,” said Sarah, a single parent of a two-year-old son who lives in a flat without any outside space in Somerset. “The play park we used to go to twice a day is locked up, and my son can’t understand why.”
“I know we shouldn’t, but we have to go out twice a day, in the morning and afternoon,” she said, adding that they are careful to avoid others. “My son wouldn’t manage with no outdoor space. On the days we didn’t go out twice, it’s been tantrums and screaming fits, and he doesn’t sleep properly. He’s too young for arts and crafts, he just isn’t interested.”
“I have friends with paddling pools, and swings, in the garden. I’ve just got the telly. It’s not the parent I want to be, I feel guilty about that,” she said.
The lack of space and contact with other adults is impacting Sarah. “We used to go to the park, have playdates, go to nursery. We don’t get to do any of that. I miss people, and human interactions. I’m a single mum by choice, so I planned lots of things, but never for a global pandemic,” she said.