Warning to visitors planning return to England’s national parks

England’s national parks have urged caution for visitors planning to return to beauty spots from Wednesday – with some still telling people to stay away.

Updated Government rules on the coronavirus pandemic have relaxed the “stay local” message so people can drive to outdoor open spaces “irrespective of distance”, as long as they respect social distancing guidance.

But in the wake of the new situation – which only applies to England – national parks are warning people to respect local communities, keep their distance from others and avoid hotspots or busy areas.

Visitors are also being warned that many facilities such as car parks, visitor centres and public toilets, as well as cafes and pubs, are not yet open.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s chief executive David Butterworth said the Government’s approach to reopening the countryside was not one it had advocated.

“We, along with many organisations with countryside facilities, have advocated a staged approach with an initial ‘stay local’ message to avoid unnecessary travel and minimise any tension between visitors and local communities.”

But in light of the new rules, authority-run car parks would now be opened and it was working to open toilets as soon as possible, he said, as he asked visitors to respect local communities, nature and other people.

Lake District National Park Authority has urged people 'not to rush back' (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Lake District National Park Authority has urged people ‘not to rush back’ (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The Lake District National Park is urging people not to return yet, in order to help communities in Cumbria, which officials said has one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the UK.

National Park Authority chief executive Richard Leafe said: “For now, we’re asking people not to rush back to the Lake District – help protect our communities, the fells will still be here when this passes.

“When the time is right, we look forward to welcoming visitors back to the Lake District and have been working with partners to put measures in place that will help keep people safe, such as new car park information and availability to help plan ahead.”

Dartmoor National Park said it was reviewing how to reopen car parks and toilets and was awaiting further guidance on how to so while safely supporting social distancing.

“Until then please stay at home, avoid unnecessary journeys, exercise locally and follow social distancing and hygiene rules,” a statement from the National Park Authority said.

👉 A word from our @PeakChief (full statement https://t.co/h5F5WMNHDb):

"Whilst we may need our @uknationalparks at this time, our relationship with them remains precariously balanced with the current risks to everyone from Covid-19…but they will be there beyond this crisis” pic.twitter.com/hjYmm5xIvd

— Peak District National Park (@peakdistrict) May 11, 2020

Sarah Fowler, chief executive of Peak District National Park Authority, also issued a personal appeal for anyone planning to travel to the area, saying: “Before your journey, carefully consider your own wellbeing and that of the Peak District’s many small communities.”

Continuing to use local parks and outdoor areas close to home could help the park ensure it can welcome visitors in the coming weeks and not put “undue pressure” on public highways, emergency access or key workers, she said.

Other national parks also urged would-be visitors to respect people and business in the parks, as well as the nature that has been thriving, ensure they practise social distancing, plan ahead and avoid busy areas.

The Broads Authority also said it was seeking clarification on whether private boaters are able to use the waterways from Wednesday, and what the guidance entails for paddle and water sports.

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