Should I go for a walk during lockdown?

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 06/04/2020

Yes, please do go for a gentle walk as part of your daily exercise if you can do so safely and from your front door. However, you must ensure you stick to Government guidelines and keep yourself and others safe.

The headline advice however is to stay local, do not travel and follow the most recent government advice for your area. Concerns have been raised over the past week that the use of public rights of way that run through gardens, farmyards and schools is increasing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus to residents and farm workers. Similarly, some landowners are concerned about increased use of public rights of way on their property increasing the risk to livestock, such as instances of gates being left open and dogs not being controlled. It’s also worth remembering that it’s currently lambing time and dogs must kept under strict control and on open access land, must be on a short leash in the vicinity of livestock.

The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others from people using public rights of way and other paths and trails is considered to be very low as long as people follow the Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing.

While landowners do not currently have the legal right to block or obstruct public rights of way or access land in England (see below for the situation in Wales, which has different rules), in very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using such routes, landowners may consider the following measures:

• tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.

• temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools.

Note: this is a polite request only, and there is no power under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) or the Highways Act 1980 for landowners to close or obstruct a public right of way or use of access land.

• offering an alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so provided that the original right of way is maintained.

• if a land owner offers an alternative route, they must ensure that it is safe to use and that the existing right of way or use of access land is maintained so that users with differing abilities have a choice.

These temporary measures must be lifted as soon as social distancing measures are relaxed. If you see these notices, please do respect them!

In Wales however, the situation is slightly different. The legislation introduced in Wales is stricter than in England and puts a legal duty on Local Authorities, National Parks and the National Trust to close public spaces and footpaths where people are likely to gather in numbers. Many popular walking areas have been closed, including the most popular parts of Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons, Moel Fammau and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. It is an offence to be in those areas or on any of the closed paths, which should be marked by official signage and also listed on the relevant National Park or Local Authority website.  Police forces in Wales have the power to stop people travelling to these areas and high-profile policing is in place to enforce these restrictions. It is also now a criminal offence to be within 2m of any person who is not part of your household or unless giving emergency medical support.

READ: Welsh mountains, waterfalls and coasts close

In line with Defra and Public Health England / Wales advice please ensure you:

  • Maintain social distancing requirements 
  • Ensure you keep at least 2 metres away from other people
  • Hand wash/sanitise after touching any shared surfaces, e.g. stiles/gates
  • Keep dogs on a lead around livestock and away from other people/dogs
  • Leave gates as you find them
  • Gatherings of more than two in parks or other public spaces have been banned and the police will enforce this
  • If you have a garden, make use of the space for exercise and fresh air

Whilst everyone should be staying local to their homes, these closures can in some cases, limit opportunities for people to exercise locally or access essential amenities. Guidance is changing regularly and we will keep you updated. 

The BMC advice to all climbers and hill walkers remains the same however: climbing and hill walking are not activities requiring essential travel. Stay local, and put your climbing and hillwalking on hold. This applies to all types of climbing and mountain activities, from bouldering to ski mountaineering. Use your local path network or the green space which is easily accessible from your front door, your activity needs to be low-risk and well within your limits. Emergency services and hospitals are already fully stretched and apart from the fact that there will be a considerable delay in rescuing anyone who is in difficulty in the countryside at this time, you really don’t want your broken ankle to be taking up a valuable hospital bed and depriving someone else of life saving treatment.   

READ: The latest government guidance on social distancing

The Cabinet Office has also published the following: Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do.

Please be aware that if you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19) or at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus, then you must stay at home. See the latest guidance from Public Health England.


More FAQs about the BMC and Covid-19

๐ŸŒณ 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 July here and for the general return to climbing here

๐ŸŒณ What's the situation in Wales? Read the full July update here

๐Ÿ˜ท When and how will the walls reopen?  In England it's July 25th Read the ABC's advice for walls and watch their live update here

โœˆ๏ธ Can I now travel abroad again? Get the latest answers to going abroad with travel restrictions now easing

๐Ÿ›’ Is the BMC shop open? Yes - we officially reopened at the start of July!

๐Ÿก Do you have any advice for clubs and huts? The latest club huts update and all you need to know

๐Ÿ“œ Will the BMC keep running smoothly? Read more or watch our weekly live updates from our CEO

๐Ÿš— What have the BMC access team been doing during this time? Read on

As the climbing walls, crags and mountains start to open, we wanted to say thanks to every BMC member who supported us through the Coronavirus crisis.

From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t have made it without you.

If you liked what we did, then tell your friends about us: www.thebmc.co.uk/join


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Anonymous User
07/04/2020
If you had been on the roads in Snowdonia the first fine weekend after the rains you would be as shocked as I was. There were hundreds of cars parked on the double yellow lines on all the major mountain roads leading to popular sites. Some were so badly parked it was hard to believe, they were obviously not us local climbers and mountaineers. If we accept them to our areas they should at least show some respect for the way in which we keep this aea open and safe. Jean Roscoe, Bangor, Gwynedd.
Anonymous User
20/04/2020
I should like to offer a slightly different view concerning the restrictions which have been brought into effect as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The freedoms that we have enjoyed in our country (and elsewhere) and which have been suspended have been fought for, by ordinary people in the face of powerful voices keen to limit our access to land. Those strong voices are still being heard by government and they will use the present emergency to deny those freedoms, or at least limit them. How do we get back access to areas presently 'closed' on the same footing as before the pandemic started?

Footpaths and bridleways have to my knowledge have already been blocked in the Yorkshire Dales, and with Councils in a dire financial position how will such illegal activities be addressed? I am shocked that the BMC has not voiced any concern about our future access to the countryside or how the Council will argue for and ensure return of our rights of access.
Anonymous User
22/04/2020
FTAO : Jean Roscoe of Bangor

The point you make about parking illegally is well made but the arrogance with which you seem to feel that you have some of god given right or not to accept visitors to what you describe "our area" as you describe it is laughable were it not so discriminatory.

It rather reminds me of the attitude of local surfers in some parts of the UK who resent visitors to what they feel are their personal beaches and take have been known to damage visitors cars and even on occasions assault visiting surfers.

This sort of selfish I want the mountains just for me and my local friends approach is not acceptable.

Criticise illegal parking by all means and take it up with the police , if the Police had issued tickets for parking on Pen Y Pass or elsewhere that would have discouraged repeat offenders and made a contribution to the exchequer.

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