News reports last week suggested that it might be possible to drive to go climbing or hill walking. The BMC access team investigate.
New guidance from the College of Policing, which was widely reported last week, seemed to suggest that it was possible to drive for a short time in order to exercise for a longer time. With no definition of what this exercise means, does this now mean that driving for 20 mins (for example) to go bouldering (for instance) is lawful? We think this is not necessarily the case.
This new guidance does not change the regulations: it appears to only apply to England and is aimed at advising police forces on how police officers should be enforcing the law on the ground. Ultimately, it will be down to police officers and the courts on what they deem to be a ‘reasonable excuse to not be at home’, as stated in the regulations. As with any new laws, until tested at a court, and case law is established, the nuances of interpretation are unclear.
Read the latest guidance from government
Exercise locally, from your front door
The best advice is simply to follow the regulations and exercise locally, from your front door. If you live in a tower block and your nearest green space to exercise is a few miles away then this could be deemed ‘reasonable’, but this would ultimately be down to the police and courts to interpret.
This new information from the College of Policing doesn’t give us the lawful right to drive to the crag or nearest mountain to climb or walk. This could be defined as unreasonable. The guidance also states we are allowed to partake in one form of exercise once a day so if you walk to the crag, the walking part could effectively be interpreted as your daily exercise.
Is Wales different?
The situation in Wales, where different and more stringent legislation is in place, remains unchanged: most upland areas and popular honeypot areas are closed. It is illegal under the regulations to enter these closed areas. Police forces in Wales (and also in popular upland and tourist areas of England) were actively messaging over the weekend that it’s not OK to travel from your home to such areas for the purpose of exercise. There are reports of people being issued with fixed penalty fines and being instructed to return to their home addresses. The regulations in Wales also more clearly stipulate that we can only leave our houses for exercise once a day.
North Wales Police is reminding people that north Wales is currently closed to visitors. Deputy Chief Constable Richard Debicki said: “Our tourist attractions, mountains, pubs, restaurants, caravan, holiday parks and campsites are all closed. Please only travel if your journey is absolutely essential. This means either shopping for food or medicine and for traveling to and from work if you cannot work from home.”
The BMC access team does, however, believe that the extent and reasons given for some of the closures in Wales and especially in the upland National Parks of Wales are disproportionate, are not within the purpose of the regulations and are too extensive. They are severely limiting the opportunities for exercise for the local residents of some communities and BMC is actively lobbying the authorities to review the details of these closures.
REWATCH: Live Access Q&A with BMC CEO
Wednesday 22nd April, Dave Turnbull answered your access questions live.
We’re all in this together
We all want to go climbing and walking in this fantastic spring weather. However, the current advice of the BMC access team is to follow and support the government regulations in order to beat this pandemic. All other national sporting and representative bodies are also asking their members to respect the guidance and to stop their sport for a short time.
Another consideration is what happens if it goes wrong. Accidents can happen and the impact this would have on our emergency services at the moment would be immense. The surrounding negative publicity could also impact future access.
The advice from the RNLI, Coast Guard and Mountain Rescue is simple: stay local and do not go climbing or mountaineering. Some BMC staff, who are also members of Mountain Rescue teams, have been put at risk recently by those not following guidance.
The BMC access team is currently working hard for all climbers and hill walkers. We are pushing behind the scenes to emphasise the impact that lockdown is having on our health and wellbeing, and the sooner we can get back into the hills and to our crags the better.
To date, people have been exceptionally respectful of the guidance and this will no doubt put us in a strong position as a community when negotiating access once more.
Remember, that you can still exercise from your front door
More FAQs about the BMC and Covid-19
🌳 Can I start climbing / hillwalking? Yes, but be cautious in your actions, respectful of local communities and vigilant in avoiding transmitting the virus. Read our latest advice for June here and for the general return to climbing here
🌳 What's the situation in Wales? Read the full June update here
😷 When and how will the walls reopen? Read the ABC's advice for walls and watch their live update here
🚗 What have the BMC access team been doing during this time? Read on
📜 Will the BMC keep running smoothly? Read more or watch our weekly live updates from our CEO
🏡 Do you have any advice for clubs and huts? All you need to know
⛰️ Which BMC events are cancelled? Take a look at our calendar
✈️ I've got a travel insurance question Get your answers
🛒 Is the BMC shop open? Nope - it is now closed
We hope you stay safe during this unwanted adventure and let's come together as a community to help and support each other.