When the Air in My Lungs Stopped Killing Me

During the National Lockdown earlier this year, it was commonplace to hear people commenting on how fresh the air was, or how much bird song they were noticing. I used the daily permitted outdoor exercise periods to explore remnants of the old Great North Wood, or areas where some kind of regeneration had taken place. On the 18th of May this took in Camberwell Mountain – or Dawsons Hill to give it the correct name. 

The view of central London was incredible. I had never had such a clear view of it. The photo below was taken on a very mediocre smart phone. Because of the clean air, the clarity of the image was such that I was able enlarge one small part of it to provide the image above.

Camberwell Mountain

The quality of the air, the light and the blueness of sky was consistent for the duration of the lockdown. The picture below of the oaks in Grangewood Park was taken one early morning towards the end of March.  Motorised traffic was negligible and already that transformation in air quality was there to be seen.

Taken from different angles, the images below of Beaulieu Heights are from each end of the lockdown. Similar pictures could have been taken most days in between.

Dulwich Park in South London usually has a good display of rhododendrons and azalias in April or May. This year they were early and there was a fantastic display by the third week of April.  The whites and warm colours had great depth and vividness to them. I assume that this was due to far more ultraviolet light reaching them. 

It was not only road traffic that declined in lockdown. Air traffic virtually disappeared and, on many days, I didn’t even see or hear a plane.   

The novelty of this is because up until then, most days one could look up at the sky and either see vapour trails or, within a few minutes, an aircraft. The picture above of a smoggy Canary Wharf and City of London was taken last year. It was taken from Royal Albert Dock which is fringed on the North side with student halls of residence – stunning if you ignore the airport on the South side!

The West of London is affected by the approaches and outbound routes of Heathrow. When I took this picture of the River Thames at Kew, the planes were passing every 90 seconds.

At least the Royal Family have to put up with it too. This picture was taken from Kensington Palace.

Air traffic remains severely curtailed and therefore the pollution from that source is reduced from the pre-covid norm. Nonetheless, by mid-August, road traffic had increased and once again a layer of polluted air could be seen over Central London.

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