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 (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.
Covid 19 only complicates an existing situation.
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.
People when they visit the countryside should show both common sense and sensitivity (both to locals and fellow visitors). How is this best achieved?
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.
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.
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
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’.
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 Stainforth.
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.
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 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.
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