On the southern bank of London’s River Thames sits Battersea Park, a protected green space that first opened to the public in 1854. Within its 200 acres of parkland are several hidden gardens, a boating lake, and even a children’s zoo, making it one of the city’s most interesting parks. Its northern perimeter is a promenade that opens out onto a view of the river and the grand Chelsea mansions beyond that. On its other three sides, dense apartment blocks plug the gaps.
I’ve lived in a tiny studio apartment in one of these blocks for the last four years. For me, the park has always been a place of peace and joy, a replacement for that rare commodity in central London—a private garden.
That all changed last March when the U.K. entered a national lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The entire country was told to stay at home, and only go outside once a day for essential reasons such as to shop for groceries or to exercise. To ensure we complied, police were sent to patrol the streets, ready to hand out fines to those who broke the rules.