Rescuers pleaded with people to stay off the fells. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Rescuers pleaded with people to stay off the fells. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Mountain rescuers in the Lake District have appealed to outdoor enthusiasts to stay off the area’s high fells when lockdown restrictions are eased.

The umbrella body for Cumbria’s 12 volunteer rescue teams said it is expecting a surge in visitors from Wednesday, and subsequent problems for rescuers and Lakeland communities.

It pleaded with visitors to show consideration and head to open spaces but not the national park’s mountains.

Richard Warren, chair of the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, said there had only been seven calls for help in the seven weeks since lockdown began, compared with 70 in the same period last year.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of staying off the high fells,” he said.

“Apart from helping to protect our volunteers from the risk of Covid-19 infection from a casualty, or indeed a fellow team member who is not showing symptoms, it helps reduce the workload on our NHS.

He said the drop in callout numbers equated to almost 50 fewer ambulances and 50 fewer casualties requiring NHS treatment in A&E departments. “This shows the real value of your help in saying off the high fells so a big thank you for your consideration and kindness.

“But from tomorrow we are anticipating real problems for our volunteer teams and our communities. We, like every one of our Cumbrian partners, are expecting a surge of visitors to the Lakes, many not fell-fit and wanting to climb the mountains, or hit those mountain bike trials.”

The National Trust car park in Wasdale has been closed

The National Trust car park in Wasdale has been closed

He pointed out Cumbria has one of the highest infection rates in the country and rescuers cannot afford to have team members infected.

“One team member becoming infected after a rescue can result in one of our mountain rescue teams quarantined for 14 days. The impact on our response times will therefore be significant as the numbers of on call-volunteers diminish, many being health care professionals.

“The government’s new slogan is Be Alert and our Prime Minister asks everyone to apply common sense and be kind.

“Be alert to the risks you are placing on yourself and our volunteers. Be alert to the longer time it will take for teams to get help to you. Be alert that we have limited quantities of personal protective equipment. Be alert that we must decontaminate our equipment, vehicles and clothes afterwards. Be alert that Cumbria’s infrastructure is not ready to cope with a surge of visitors.

“So very much be alert’ but also be kind.

“Be kind to our volunteers and our emergency services, be kind to our rural communities and be kind to our farmers.”

The Lake District National Park Authority chief executive Richard Leafe has urged people not to rush back to the area.

Responding to Boris Johnson’s announcement of the easing of restrictions in England for travel to exercise, he said: “We know that many will be keen to visit the Lake District.

“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.

“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.”

The lifting of restrictions on travelling for exercise apply only in England, and not in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.

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