Image: unsplash.
Image: unsplash.

Learning to love your hometown

When I tell people that I am from Croydon I usually receive a mixture of sympathy and mockery.

It brings to mind London’s knife crime epidemic and the riots that blighted the area back in 2011. Those who know the South London town are quick to associate it with its brutalist and modern architecture. Although it cannot be disputed that the architecture in the town centre is far from being aesthetically pleasing and crime has a profound impact on certain areas, Croydon offers so much more than this.

Croydon’s commercial and art hubs have long been my favourite parts of the town. Throughout this term at university, I was looking forward to returning to these in the holidays.

I had planned to visit Boxpark, (a food and retail park made out of shipping containers), and Fairfield Halls, (a recently re-developed arts centre). Soon after returning to Croydon, I realised that I would no longer be able to visit these places in the current climate. I began to question how I would keep myself entertained over the coming weeks and months.

During the holidays, I had also hoped to temporarily escape Croydon by visiting Iceland, (the country not the supermarket). It has long been a bucket list destination of mine and I won’t hide my disappointment at having to abandon my plans when the gravity of the coronavirus situation became increasingly apparent. While planning this trip I could almost picture the thundering valleys and breath-taking glaciers which would have inevitably ended up on my Instagram.

I fully intend to visit Iceland once this is all over. For now, I must make do with the natural beauty of Croydon.

Do everything you can to fall in love with your hometown.

A key thing to note about London’s southernmost borough is it is incredibly diverse, both ethnically and in terms of development. The north is densely populated and shares many characteristics with other inner-city areas of London. Central Croydon is a thriving commercial and cultural hub. The south, where I live, is quintessential leafy suburbia, containing idyllic woods and extensive parks.

Before coronavirus, I would barely visit these natural areas. However, during this period of lockdown and isolation, I have already utilised the allowed daily exercise to explore some of these truly beautiful green spaces that surround me.

Walking around my local nature reserve the other day, I was treated to a breath-taking sunset. I have also had the chance to explore a small piece of local history when I discovered the remains of a World War II air-raid shelter. It was hidden deep in the woods that my father had played in as a child. I simply would not have had these experiences had I not taken the opportunity to truly explore my local area for the first time in this tumultuous period.

The advice I can give to everyone at the moment, wherever you are in the world, is to utilise the limited time that you have outside to just explore. Do everything you can to fall in love with your hometown.

If you are lucky enough to live on the doorstep of natural areas, seize the opportunity to get closer to nature. Explore your local woods or have a jog around your local park. For those living in more developed inner-city areas, perhaps take a moment to research some local history, and visit during your daily exercise.

Croydon is far from being the most beautiful place in the world and despite favourite parts of my hometown being closed, I have found a new love for the town in its green spaces. I do not doubt that getting out and exploring the natural world that surrounds me over the last few weeks has also been instrumental in maintaining my mental wellbeing.

You may think that you hate your hometown at the moment. All I can recommend is that you make the most of your limited time outside and give your local area a chance. It may not be Iceland or some other bucket list destination but you may still find yourself falling in love with it.

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