Covid-19 Christmas - what does it mean for climbing and walking in England?

Posted by Rob Dyer on 21/12/2020
The Lake District in winter - but can you go? Photo: Alex Messenger.

Following the latest Covid announcement by the Prime Minister on Saturday evening, significant parts of the south-east of England are now classified as Tier 4 following a spike in cases of a new viral strain in this part of the country. This has changed many Christmas plans - but what does it mean specifically for climbers and walkers?

In many parts of the country tier levels haven’t changed yet, but London and many parts of the south east are the first areas have been placed into Tier 4 since Sunday. Some other parts of the country have also moved tier so if you’re not sure what tier your area is in, you can find out here.

Below is a summary of the current government guidance as it relates to climbers and hill walkers currently. As always throughout the pandemic, this guidance may change and we will do our best to keep our advice to climbers and walkers up to date.

Across all tiers, everyone:

  • Must wear a face covering in most indoor public settings, unless they have an exemption.
  • Should follow the rules on meeting others safely
  • Should walk or cycle where possible, plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes when travelling.
  • Must follow the gathering limits at their tier except for in specific settings and circumstances. These exemptions are detailed at the end of this guidance
  • There is no time limit on exercise outdoors.
  • Should stay local and avoid travelling outside of your local area, meaning your village or town, or part of a city, where possible. People should continue to travel for reasons such as work, education, medical attention or caring responsibilities.

Christmas bubbles:

  • The planned Christmas relaxation of rules has been significantly reduced following the identification of a new variant of the virus and rising case numbers.
  • The original 5 day relaxation of rules between 23rd-27th December allowing up to 3 households to form a Christmas bubble to meet indoors, and people to travel between UK nations has been cancelled.
  • The new guidance now allows only Tier 3 and below areas to form a bubble between three households on Christmas Day only, and Tier 4 areas must not meet other households indoors at all or travel outside of their area.
  • Travel between UK home nations is no longer allowed over Christmas, which may impact climbers and walkers who had planned to travel to other UK countries over the period.
  • Click here for more information on making a Christmas bubble.

Tier 4: Stay at Home

  • If you live in a Tier 4 area, you must not leave your home unless you have a reasonable excuse (e.g. for work or education purposes). If you need to travel you should stay local - meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live - and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall. 
  • People can exercise outdoors or visit some public outdoor places, such as parks, the countryside accessible to the public, public gardens or outdoor sports facilities. You can continue to do unlimited exercise alone, or in a public outdoor place with your household, support bubble, or one other person.
  • Outdoor recreation or exercise should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your Tier 4 area to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space).
  • In some limited circumstances, meeting in larger groups is still allowed. From a climbing and walking perspective, the most relevant is for Mountain Training qualifications. The guidance states that larger groups can meet for work, education or training (meaning education related to a formal curriculum or training that relates to work or obtaining work).
  • You cannot leave your home or the place where you are living for holidays or stays overnight away from your main home unless you have a reasonable excuse for doing so. This means that holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed. This includes staying in a second home or caravan, if that is not your primary residence, or staying with anyone you do not live with (other than those with whom you have formed a support bubble).
  • Indoor climbing walls and other indoor sports facilities must close.
  • Click here for more information on Tier 4.

Tier 3: Very High alert 

  • You can meet in groups of up to six outdoors in some public spaces including countryside accessible to the public. You cannot socialise with people outside of your household or bubble indoors or in private outdoor spaces.
  • Stay local and avoid travel outside of your local area (meaning your village, town or part of a city) where possible. People should continue to travel for reasons such as work, education, getting medical attention or fulfilling caring responsibilities.
  • You can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible.
  • Avoid travelling outside of your area, including for overnight stays other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. You can travel through other areas as part of a longer journey.
  • Accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites, and guest houses must close. There are several exemptions, such as for venues where it is reasonably necessary for work or education and training.
  • Click here for more information on Tier 3.

Tier 2: High alert 

  • You can meet in groups of up to six outdoors, either in private gardens or public spaces. You cannot socialise with people outside of your household or bubble indoors.
  • Accommodation may open but businesses must take reasonable steps to ensure that social contact rules are followed within their venues.
  • Stay local and avoid travel outside of your local area (meaning your village, town or part of a city) where possible. People should continue to travel for reasons such as work, education, getting medical attention or fulfilling caring responsibilities.
  • You can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible.
  • If you live in a Tier 2 area, you must continue to follow Tier 2 rules when you travel to a Tier 1 area.
  • Avoid travel to or overnight stays in Tier 3 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. You can travel through a Tier 3 area as a part of a longer journey.
  • Click here for more information on Tier 2.

Tier 1: Medium alert

  • You can meet in groups of up to six indoors or outdoors
  • Accommodation may open but businesses must take reasonable steps to ensure that social contact rules are followed within their venues.
  • Stay local and avoid travel outside of your local area (meaning your village, town or part of a city) where possible. People should continue to travel for reasons such as work, education, getting medical attention or fulfilling caring responsibilities.
  • If you live in a Tier 1 area and do need to travel to an area in a higher tier you should follow the rules for that area while you are there. 
  • Avoid travel to or overnight stays in Tier 3 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities.
  • You can travel through a Tier 3 area as part of a longer journey.
  • Click here for more information on Tier 1.

Travel to and from Wales

Wales is currently in their own Tier 4 across the country – this means that there is no cross border travel (with the exception of a small number of specific exemptions). For those living in Wales, climbing walls have closed, no household mixing is allowed inside or out and whilst exercise is still allowed from your door, the public have been asked to avoid hazardous activities and remain well within individual competencies. 

Travel to and from Scotland

Under current Scottish law, given the state of the epidemic in those countries, unless you have a reasonable excuse (see exceptions) you must not travel between Scotland and:

  • England
  • Northern Ireland
  • Wales
  • County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland
  • Jersey

Travelling for work would be classed as an exception, so a leader/instructor travelling to Scotland to work would be allowed, whilst someone travelling for recreation or to get QMDs (in preparation for a Mountain Training assessment) would not be allowed.


DOWNLOAD: the shiny new BMC RAD app

Get all the info on crags with the newly updated RAD (Regional Access Database) app from the BMC! Available now for Android and iOS, it's free and comes with a host of new features like navigation and parking, weather and tidal updates, and of course information on restrictions or notes on access advice. Get it here now!

DOWNLOAD: The RAD app for Android

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RAD is community led and your comments help keep it up to date so don’t be afraid to add any relevant information after a crag visit which might be useful for other visitors – anything from conditions on the crag, favourite routes or reports of rockfall/other recent changes to the crag are all useful for other climbers visiting.


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