WE’VE had the Kent variant and the Delta variant, but let’s hope another wave of coronavirus isn’t going to wash up on our shores, or if it does then that it doesn’t reach Cumbria.

But if we do find ourselves locked down again at least we know what to expect.

And we’re still encouraged to gather all the silver linings from the Covid clouds – the more time spent with family, the money saved without the usual spending on transport, takeaway coffees or foreign holidays, the rediscovery of simple, inexpensive pleasures.

One of these is said to be connecting with nature.

As a city dweller, and someone who’s always been fond of his creature comforts like central heating, I’ve never really overdosed on nature.

That’s not to say I dislike it. Of course I admire a river shaded by trees, still lakes surrounded by silent mountains, the multitudes of yellows, browns and reds that autumn brings, a field dusted white by wintry frost, as much as the next townie.

But a lot of nature consists of brutal violence, with birds and animals mercilessly ripping each other to shreds. If it was a movie it would carry an 18 certificate.

I suppose what’s meant by connecting with nature is enjoying the well-documented benefits that resting our eyes on greenery has for us.

It is relaxing and good for our stress levels to sit in the back garden and enjoy the tranquillity, as long as you’re not witnessing next door’s cat pouncing on the blackbird who had eaten the seeds you left out, and whom you felt you’d got to know.

We don’t need our own garden for greenery. Carlisle as a city has a very high proportion of parkland. And there’s a national park just down the road.

Of all the characteristics of nature that we’re paying more attention to, butterflies and bees seem popular.

In a survey by the University of Cumbria, 83 per cent of respondents said they had taken more time to notice butterflies and bees.

West Cumbria has its own butterfly – also Britain’s smallest one. The larvae of the Small Blue butterfly only feed on kidney vetch, a plant that is especially attracted to the post-industrial areas of Workington. The Small Blue is sometimes known as the Allerdale Butterfly.

But spotting butterflies is becoming more difficult. The charity Butterfly Conservation says that even a short amount of time spent in nature can reduce stress levels and leave us feeling more energised. Yet it has found that 76 per cent of the UK’s butterfly species have been in decline over the last 40 years.

Numbers of the UK’s larger moths have also been in sharp decline, by more than 30 per cent in the last 50 years – though considering they’re less pretty they’re probably less missed.

It matters, the charity says, because it’s a bad sign for wildlife as a whole.

Butterflies and moths are not just important pollinators, supporting the food we eat or the food for the animals we eat.

They are also food in themselves, for a host of birds and mammals. If they disappear so will those who need them to survive.

Butterfly Conservation suggests that more flowers and plants in gardens and window boxes – even a few herb seedlings – is one way to help.

It will help other insects too. We have a positive attitude to the likes of butterflies and bees, and a less sympathetic attitudes to flies and wasps. And yet they are pollinators too. Wasps, for all their bad reputation, are voracious predators of pest insects and produce powerful antibiotics in their stings. They do us more favours than they are ever given credit for.

I don’t think we really need percentages from wildlife surveys to see what’s happening. When I was a child a drive through the countryside always seemed to result in a windscreen black with dead insects, and a trip to the car wash.

Maybe I’m driving through the countryside less often now, or in the wrong parts of it, but I no longer see that.

The use of pesticides, the destruction of hedgerows and the extreme weather patterns that come with climate change are to blame for the disappearance of insects, and their disappearance is a danger for everything that relies on them, including humans.

I fear no amount of garden flowers or abundant window boxes will be enough to halt it, let alone reverse it. Time observing the natural world is supposed to reduce our stress levels. But it may make us feel more stressed about what’s happening to the planet.