The national park boss pleaded with the public to stay off the Lakeland fells. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The national park boss pleaded with the public to stay off the Lakeland fells. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The boss of the Lake District national park has appealed to the public not to visit the area, despite the Prime Minister announcing an end to restrictions on travelling for exercise in England.

Richard Leafe, the national park authority’s chief executive said people should not rush back to the Lake District from Wednesday, when lockdown measures are eased.

The UK Government confirmed on Monday that people will be able to travel in England to outdoor open space irrespective of distance for the purposes of exercise from 13 May.

Previously, Crown Prosecution Service advice to police chiefs was that, if exercise took place over a longer period than the travel to its location, courts would likely judge it to be legal.

The Westminster Government also clarified that there was no restriction on the number of times in a day people could exercise from midweek.

The Scottish and Welsh Governments eased rules on Monday to allow more than one session of walking, running or cycling.

Mr Leafe said: “Following the Government’s announcement that people will be able to travel for exercise from Wednesday, we know that many will be keen to visit the Lake District.

“This is understandable for the many physical and mental health benefits the national park provides. However, sadly Cumbria currently has one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the UK, therefore keeping our staff and local communities safe must remain our priority.

“For example, our mountain rescue teams are made up of volunteers, many of whom work in the NHS and other frontline professions, so we cannot afford to put unnecessary pressure on them.

Lake District chief executive Richard Leafe. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Lake District chief executive Richard Leafe. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

“So 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.

“Campsites, hotels, restaurants and many businesses across the Lake District remain closed. 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.

“For now, we ask everyone who lives in and visits the Lake District to act responsibly, continue to observe social distancing and stay safe.”

“We wait to hear further details from the government.”

Mike France, senior executive officer of Mountain Rescue England and Wales, said: “Any surge in visitors and callouts is going to put a huge additional pressure on mountain rescue volunteers, in addition to the extra work of using personal protective equipment and stringent cleaning of kit and vehicles.

“It is essential that everyone heading for the hills takes responsibility for their own safety.”

David Butterworth, chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said it did not believe Boris Johnson’s changes to exercise rules were right in the circumstances but would nevertheless comply. He said: “This is not the approach we were advocating.

“Since late April we have been in discussions with [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] about the ‘re-opening’ of the countryside and 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.

Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales has attracted large numbers of visitors. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales has attracted large numbers of visitors. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

“However, that message has not prevailed and, as a public body, we are still expected to deliver the government’s message and manage the situation as professionally and sensitively as we can.

“We will therefore be opening the authority-run car parks from today and will strive to open toilets as soon as possible; they will be deep cleaned and have new cleaning regimes implemented. By making this decision we’re seeking to mitigate the parking by visitors in village centres and on verges.

“Our message to visitors and residents over the next few weeks is around respect.”

  • Respect the Land – Exercise within your limitations to keep pressure off local resources, and know the countryside code (you can download it here). Take care to respect the plant and wildlife which has thrived during lockdown
  • Respect the community – We recognise that many in the local community are among some of the most vulnerable groups of people. Many still need to self-isolate. While walking, please keep a safe distance from homes, schools, and farms
  • Respect each other – Stay two metres apart, keep within your family or household groups, and avoid gathering in Dales towns and villages where many of the shops and services remain closed. Finally, be kind and respect one another, whether visitor or local.

Mr Butterworth said: “It is important that everyone continues to act responsibly, as the majority have done to date. The virus will only spread further and put more people at risk if the guidelines are not adhered to.”

The national park chief executive pleaded with would be visitors to consider its residents. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The Peak chief executive pleaded with would be visitors to consider its residents. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The Peak District chief executive Sarah Fowler said anyone thinking of travelling to the national park should consider the health of its rural communities.

She said: “It is no surprise that as we take the first steps in the easing of lockdown in this time of unprecedented national crisis, many of us turn to our national parks as a place of sanctuary.

“Across almost seven decades – and a past that has rarely seen anything of the magnitude of the coronavirus – our national parks have never been more relevant to the country’s need for health, wellbeing and connection with nature, beauty and history.

“While we may need our national parks at this time, our relationship with them remains precariously balanced with the current risks to everyone from Covid-19. So as we prepare to welcome you back, let us draw upon that remarkable sense of respect, kindness and humanity we have seen so far in our fight against this disease.

“This is why I am personally appealing today to anyone seeking to travel to the Peak District national park. Before your journey, please carefully consider your own wellbeing and that of the Peak District’s many small communities, and be aware that the vast majority of facilities including hospitality businesses will be not be open for a little while yet.

“Continuing to use local parks and outdoor areas close to your home can continue to provide the crucial breathing space for you and for us, to ensure the Peak District can be a safe and welcoming place to visit in the weeks to come.

“In this way we can ensure we don’t place undue pressure on public highways, emergency access or key workers.

“With around 2,000 Covid-19 cases across Derbyshire alone and local services and resources already fighting on a significant front, is it vital that we limit the impacts on our residential towns and villages wherever possible.

“With a huge collective effort in respecting our national parks right now, they can be protected and will be there for us all to enjoy far beyond this current coronavirus crisis, including a responsible and vital return for our tourism sector.

“Those who live and work in our communities are already working hard to ensure there will be a warm welcome so our national park can equally be enjoyed safely by everyone.”

Bosses in Dartmoor also appealed to people to consider residents of the area before travelling, and urged the public to continue exercising locally.

The national park authority said on Monday: “We look forward to welcoming visitors back to Dartmoor as soon as we can. Our priority is to help people remain safe – those who come to exercise and the people who live and work in the national park.

“We are reviewing how we can re-open our car parks and toilets and await further guidance on how we do this while safely supporting social distancing. Our visitor centres will remain closed for the foreseeable future.

“Until then please stay at home, avoid unnecessary journeys, exercise locally and follow social distancing and hygiene rules.

“We hope you understand our national parks are living, working landscapes: the home to thousands of people and the factory floor for many farmers. Please think of them and the pressure you can inadvertently place on local services.”

The rule changes apply only in England and people may only travel on their own or with household members, and must maintain the two-metre social distancing protocol while exercising.

Lockdown rules in Scotland now allow more than one exercise outing per day. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Lockdown rules in Scotland now allow more than one exercise outing per day. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Monday: “We announced one change to the rules yesterday. If you want to exercise outdoors more than once a day, you can now do so.

“But otherwise we are asking you to stick with lockdown for a bit longer, so that we can consolidate our progress, not jeopardise it.”

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Our advice has not changed in Wales. Wherever you can you should stay at home.

“If you need to leave home for work, exercise or shopping, you should stay local and stay alert.”

The Northern Ireland Executive said the regulations in its nation had not changed.

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