Arrive, walk and drive away

May 23, 2020

Simple advice for visiting the outdoors which most will follow. The vast majority of people behave well in the outdoors, a small minority do not. It is no different to every area of life. This has not altered with Covid 19, it just has a media spotlight on it.

The Government message

Enjoying the outdoors

The government (in England, not Wales or Scotland) has opened the countryside for walking, biking and general visits. You can travel to places via car but preferably not by public transport. Many facilities are not open in the countryside. Car parks are probably open (with or without toilets), some cafes are serving take-aways, shops are closed but in essence you should come prepared to arrive, walk and drive away.

By not allowing overnight stays the message is actually very straightforward and in my humble opinion makes perfect sense. A number of people do not like it and choose to not understand it. Some residents (impossible to tell what proportion) do not want visitors at all, some visitors are behaving badly when they arrive.

Arrive, walk and drive away.

Benefits of being outdoors

Above Long Preston

Without going over old ground it is worth remembering why people want/need to walk or ride in the outdoors (regardless of the virus). It is why the outdoors has been released from lock down sooner than ‘more compact’ areas. It is also much safer than indoors.

  • Medical and Physical health benefits. In particular fresh air is a god send for those who have been living in a town or city. A healthier nation will help our NHS in the short and long term.
  • Economy. Rural communities are reliant on visitors money. Without it many will cease to trade and working people will move back to towns and cities creating a vacuum which will continue to be filled with the elderly or rich second homers.
  • It is also their legal right.

Sense and Sensitivity (misquoted)

Social Distancing in the Howgills

People when they visit the countryside should show both common sense and sensitivity (both to locals and fellow visitors). How is this best achieved?

  • Plan your trip so you are not based in the honeypot villages. We have 1,000s of miles of footpaths that are empty. Enjoy them
  • Do not just ‘visit’ a town or village. Head for outdoor space
  • Bring everything you need and take it away.
  • Social distance, it really is not hard in the countryside.
  • Keep your walk reasonable. Remember the Mountain Rescue service may not be available.
Stick to easier walks

If you keep to these simple rules there is no need for antagonism with local people. Ignore the social media warriors telling you to keep away. If you do no wrong enjoy your visit.

Arrive, walk and drive away.

Deal with the minority

However there is a minority of inconsiderate idiots who will turn up and ruin it for the majority. The police however have more time with the restrictions on social activity imposed by the lock down. A number could be employed in holiday hot spots dishing out £1,000 on the spot fines. A few days of this being reported and the anti social problems will be greatly reduced. I accept though you cannot stop every idiotic action.

It would also be interesting to see how many of the real problem people are local (or relatively so). From what I have heard it is a majority.

The Media are not helping

Car Parks are mainly open

The media, showing their usual lack of understanding of rural matters, has confused the issue by mixing general countryside conflicts with Covid 19. This has succeeded in raising the animosity between local and visitor…well done the press. Much of the problems reported in the media happen every year. At present the story is twisted adding the implication that Covid is somehow to blame. It is not

  • Anti social behaviour in villages. This was a big issue last year with regard to the 3 Peaks Challenge.
  • Parking. Inconsiderate parking has always been an issue.
  • Walking through farms. An on going issue. Public rights of Way often go through farms and this causes conflict. The solution is to re-route the path around them.
  • Speeding motorbikers. Particularly bad on the A65 where I live but it happens every year. Some bikers are idiots, most are fine.

However locals are more sensitive at the present time so take care and follow the principles of the Countryside Code: the main one being ‘Leave no trace of your visit and take your rubbish home’.

How can the authorities help?

Malham Tarn Often Empty

The Yorkshire Dales National Park have added a colour coded car park scheme to show how full they are. It is a start. However they should also be offering advice on where to go if the car park is filling up. As an example at the main car park in Malham village put a sign saying go up to Malham Tarn or Streetgate where there is plenty of parking with easy social distancing and great walking/cycling. Similarly if Horton looks full head to Ribblehead or Ingleton.

Visitors want information. Most are trying to do the right thing but if they do not know what to do they will play safe and go to where they know. National Parks, National Trust can all help.

Arrive, walk and drive away.

Locals pursuing their own agenda

Not helpful in Settle

Some locals are making use of Covid 19 to pursue their own agendas. Many (including some farmers) have never welcomed tourists and do not want them. The virus has been a chance for their voice to be heard. Like the inconsiderate visitors there is little that can be done, they are simply ignorant.

The outdoors is the best place to be

Happy souls

The reality is social distancing is straightforward in the countryside. Any visitor should be able to remain 2 metres away from any other party. When I have been out and about I have not seen any problems with social distancing. In fact many are happier than normal walkers I see; just grateful to be out (or possibly just appreciating the extraordinary weather).

Also bear in mind being outside does dilute the transmition of the disease. If we are going to get a second spike it will not be through people walking in the outdoors.

Arrive, Walk and Drive away.

Jonathan

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5 Comments
  • Coll Johnson says:

    Thanks for the sage advice. A real shame that divisions are exacerbated, as divisions in society seem to be these days, not helped by social media.

  • Jen Darling says:

    There are so many attractive walks of all lengths and difficulty away from the tourist spots. I think map reading should be a compulsory subject in schools. Primary age children would love it and could then guide their parents on routes away from the hordes. Education should be the way to go.

  • Francis Crookes says:

    I don’t drive but I would love to get back to the Peak District for a day walk, but because it’s not essential travel I don’t feel that I should be doing this,I would not travel in peak times, could you give me some advice please.

    • Jonathan says:

      It is fine to travel and walk but no overnight stays. Many are doing it and it is in fact recommended. Check the government advice 1.7 and 1.10.

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