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.
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.
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
🌳 Can I go climbing / hill walking in England? Here's what you can and can't do in the 3rd Lockdown (January 2021)
🌳 What's the situation for climbing and hill walking in Wales? Read our full January update
😷 When and will the walls reopen? In England and Wales they're now closed for the National Lockdown. Read our walls article
✈️ I have a travel insurance question! Here's the FAQs
🏡 Do you have any advice for clubs and huts? Check out our latest clubs, meets and huts update
🛒 Is the BMC shop open? Yes - it is and BMC members get 10% off!
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