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COVID-19 Exmoor

Exmoor National Park Authority's latest statement on Coronavirus

Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives

The Government has said that from 13th May people in England can spend more time outdoors and enjoy a wider range of activities for any length of time, subject to social distancing rules. This includes travel to National Parks. In response some car parks and public toilets have been reopened but please be aware most other visitor facilities remain closed.

When you visit the National Park, remember it is your responsibility to follow the new guidance on staying safe outside your home

If you choose to visit us in the weeks and months ahead, we want to make you aware of the measures we have put in place for everyone’s safety. And in return we ask that you follow a few basic rules for your own wellbeing and that of the communities and wildlife that call the National Park home.

By working together we can all do our bit to keep each other safe and control the spread of Covid-19.

Car parks and public toilets:

Most Authority-run carparks and toilets have now reopened to enable visitors to park safely without blocking highways and help people follow Government advice to wash hands more often for at least 20 seconds.

Not all public facilities are owned and run by Exmoor National Park Authority and many will only re-open when everything is in place to keep visitors and staff safe. When using any of these facilities, please follow any measures put in place to support social distancing and good hygiene.

Sites run by Exmoor National Park Authority

Facilities

Ashcombe (Simonsbath)

Public toilets and car park (open)

Blackmoor Gate

Public toilets and car park (currently closed for planned works)

County Gate

Public toilets and car park (open)

Haddon Hill

Public Toilets and car park (open)

North Hill

Car park only (open)

Porlock Weir

Public toilets and car park (open) (car park operated by Porlock Manor Estate)

Robbers Bridge

Car park only (open)

Tarr Steps

Public toilets and car park (open)

Valley of Rocks

Public toilets and ENPA car park (open)

Some other providers with visitor facilities in the National Park:

South West Lakes Trust

National Trust

Forestry England

Public Rights of Way and Access Land

The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others from people using public rights of way and other paths and trails is considered to be very low as long as people follow the Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing. We have no legal powers to close rights of way but we can provide signage or waymarking and support optional alternatives where these are appropriate. Please see our Out and About Essentials page for more information.

Hospitality: In line with government measures and the current COVID alert level, all non-essential retail, food & drink outlets and accommodation providers are closed until further notice.

Accommodation and second homes: Going on holiday and visiting second homes is not yet permitted. Hotels, bed and breakfasts and other holiday accommodation will remain closed, except when providing accommodation for specific reasons, such as for critical workers needing a place to stay for work. Overnight stays in camper vans or tents are not allowed.

These are some of the things we are putting in place to help keep you safe:

  • Deep cleaning our toilets. We’ll do enhanced daily cleans from now on. We’ll also leave windows open and have extractor fans running longer to improve ventilation.
  • Social distancing measures, such as floor markings and signage.
  • Hand sanitiser dispensers in car parks and outside public toilets.
  • Extra patrols. Our rangers continue to assist the police to ensure people keep to the rules. Please be kind – they are only trying to keep you safe.
  • Changes to rights of way. Temporary one-way systems and optional path diversions to aid social distancing and avoid farms and homes. Please follow local signs.

And these are some of the things you can do for us:

  • Keep your distance. At least 2m from other people to maintain social distancing.
  • Avoid busy locations and settlements. Be prepared to change your plans if places get too crowded. Keep away from farms and homes where possible.
  • Consider when and where you go. Avoid peak times and popular locations, if possible.
  • Sanitise hands regularly. Bring your own supply if you can for use after touching shared surfaces such as gates or stiles.
  • Plan ahead. Bring enough food and drink and make sure you know where you are going. This is a rural area and many sites won’t have mobile reception.
  • Stay within your limits for your chosen activity and don’t light BBQs or leave litter that could result in an emergency call out.
  • Show respect to the local community and environment by sticking to the Countryside Code. Be aware that wildlife may have taken the opportunity to move into new locations while humans have been away.
  • Be kind. Above all we are in this together. Be considerate towards others and respect that you may not always see eye to eye.

For further information see:

Update Thursday 21st May 2020

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park, said: “In these troubling times, it’s understandable that people want to spend time in beautiful places. The biggest problem we are likely to face this weekend is overcrowding and it’s because we love these places so dearly that everyone must be prepared to make personal sacrifices to ensure those visits can happen responsibly, without serious consequences for those who live and work here.

“We are still learning about this virus, but we know that by staying apart we can control it. We ask everyone to follow the rules by keeping at least two metres from others and washing hands regularly. Visiting outside of peak times, avoiding popular sites and continuing to use green spaces closer to home are simple steps many of us can take to help make space for everyone.

“During these difficult times, farmers are working hard to provide food and care for the countryside, so it’s vital we keep their wellbeing in mind. Show your support by following the countryside code, keeping dogs under control and picking up any mess, which can be a health hazard to farm animals as well as people. Thoughtless behaviour such as lighting BBQs, illicit overnight stays and unnecessary risk-taking add to the pressure our local services face. With the recent warm and dry weather, we now face significant increased risk of wildfires, with local services already having dealt with one near miss this past week.

“Finally remember that we are in this together, for the long haul. It was in the wake of World War II that the UK saw its first National Parks designated - alongside our great National Health Service - their combined healing power needed to help the nation recover after the turmoil of war. While we wait for a breakthrough that will free us from this virus, it’s up to all of us to do what we can to make the world a safer and happier place.”

Update Tuesday 12th May 2020

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “We know many will be eager to come to Exmoor following the Prime Minister’s announcement that from Wednesday people may take unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise and drive to other destinations, as long as existing rules on social distancing are followed.

“We look forward to welcoming visitors back as soon as we can, but our priority at the moment is to keep people safe and that starts with those who live and work on Exmoor.

“We are working diligently behind the scenes with local communities, landowners, businesses and partners to apply our combined knowledge and expertise so the countryside can be enjoyed safely. As with all walks of life, this will mean everyone stepping up efforts to keep each other safe, including additional measures everyone must follow to support social distancing and avoid unnecessary pressure on our local services.

“Even so it will be some time before we can say Exmoor is open as usual and, in accordance with the current Covid alert level, National Park Centres, accommodation providers and food and drink outlets all remain closed. We thank everyone for their continued patience and consideration towards our communities and staff as we take these first cautious steps in line with the Government’s recovery strategy.”

Update Monday 20th April 2020

It’s been inspiring to see how the millions we know dearly love coming to Exmoor have responded to Government calls to stay at home and only go out for essential reasons. This has meant many people sacrificing much-cherished trips to the National Park; an act of true selflessness that will undoubtedly be helping to protect our NHS and save lives.

We are aware there has been confusion over police guidelines reported in the media last week detailing what constitutes lawful activity. In response Defra have reassured all National Parks that their advice on accessing green spaces has not changed and can be found here.

Visitor facilities including accommodation, car parks and National Park Centres remain closed, with many people turning to social media to share their favourite Exmoor experiences, images and anecdotes using the hashtag #VirtualExmoor.

We thank you for the comfort you are bringing to those not able to visit right now. When the time comes to welcome visitors back, it will mean the world to us and local businesses that people took the time to stay in touch and support them through this difficult period.

In return we continue to look after the National Park and our communities to the very best of our ability, ensuring that the beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage we care for on behalf of the nation will be around for generations to come.

When the time comes, we deeply look forward to extending you a warm Exmoor welcome once again. In the meantime, for information and inspiration on Exmoor National Park and it’s unique, special qualities, please check back here often and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Update Monday 30th March 2020

Exmoor National Park was a much quieter place at the weekend following updated Government coronavirus guidelines stating that people should stay local and use green spaces near their home.

Teams from Avon & Somerset and Devon & Cornwall police, backed by National Park Rangers, worked together to reinforce the message that the public should stay at home and not travel to countryside beauty spots for exercise or any other non-essential reason.

The response follows extraordinarily high numbers of visitors across the UK’s 15 national parks last weekend, triggering concern that people travelling to them on mass could spread the virus.

Dan Barnett, Access & Recreation Manager for Exmoor National Park, said: “We’re extremely grateful to everyone for foregoing their visits to the National Park over the weekend and until restrictions lift. The importance of these places for people’s health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated and we fully appreciate the sacrifice many are making to protect fellow citizens.”

The Government have been clear that public rights of way should remain open for local people to exercise. Anyone accessing the countryside from their own home must keep at least 2 metres apart from other people, sanitise hands regularly and wash them on return.  Dogs should be kept under close control, on a short lead or at heel.

The law in England does not allow the National Park Authority to close any part of the public rights of way network for COVID-19 reasons. Anyone with concerns about public access can contact the National Park’s Ranger team for advice at info@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk or 01398 323665.

Dan Barnett added: “Public rights of way that cross working farms or are close to people’s homes can cause concern for those self-isolating there due to age or ill health. This is understandable and we ask that people are extra vigilant with their hygiene in these areas. As always Spring is lambing time for many of our farmers, so please take care to close gates behind you and always keep dogs on a lead near livestock or moorland where birds may be nesting.”

The National Park Authority are only available to inspect rights of way where there are emergency or safety issues at this time.  Issues can be logged online at Explore Somerset or by contacting the National Park’s Ranger team. For up to date Rights of Way advice see: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/out-and-about-essentials

Update Friday 27th March 2020

The Government has issued new guidance on access to green spaces and protecting yourself and others.

The government’s priority is to save lives and the best way to protect yourself and others from illness is to stay at home.
However, exercise is still important for people’s physical and mental wellbeing, so the government has said people can leave their homes for exercise once a day.

Please use the following guidance in order to stay safe:

  • stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily
  • you should only go outside alone or with members of your own household
  • keep at least 2 metres apart from anyone outside your household at all times
  • gatherings of more than two in parks or other public spaces have been banned and the police will enforce this
  • if you have a garden, make use of the space for exercise and fresh air
  • take hygiene precautions when you are outside, and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors

Please see the latest government guidance on social distancing.

Please be aware that if you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19) or at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus, then you must stay at home. See the latest guidance from Public Health England.

Update Tuesday 24th March 2020

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 23 March 2020, you should not be travelling to Exmoor National Park.

You should stay at home – as set out by Government:

  • Only go outside for food, medical reasons or essential work
  • Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home

The Government have clarified that you should not be travelling to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar. Wild camping and roadside overnight stays in any vehicle are not permitted in the National Park.

Our car parks, toilets and visitor centres are now closed.

If you travel to visit the National Park you are putting the lives of our communities at risk and additional pressure on our health and other local services.

Government guidance is that you are allowed one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.  You should do this from your home in the best way you can.

We look forward to welcoming you back when this pandemic is over. Until then 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.

Update Monday 23rd March 2020

We will be closing our public car parks and toilets from today to help support updated government guidelines advising that people should stay near their primary residence and avoid all but essential travel.

The advice states: “Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays. People should remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.”

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park, said: “All travel to the National Park for recreational purposes must cease now to allow the full focus of the National Park Authority and frontline services to be directed at protecting our communities.

“We are a deeply rural place, with grocery shops and hospitals few and far between. What happened at the weekend with people flocking to the area was utterly irresponsible and has left food isles stripped bare for our largely elderly population, who are themselves very vulnerable to the illness. As people are out enjoying themselves, our communities are shouldering the risk.

“This is clearly unacceptable and so to discourage further travel, we are closing our main carparks and public toilets. We ask that people are considerate in not travelling to the area while we complete this vital task and very much look forward to the day when we can extend them a warm Exmoor welcome once again.”

Update Sunday 22nd March 2020

Exmoor National Park calls on people to follow government advice, as visitor numbers soar. Visitors have been flocking to the usually quiet Exmoor National Park following last week’s announcement that pubs, cafes, restaurants, gyms and leisure centres were to close, along with strict public health advice and restrictions on all unnecessary travel.

With fair weather in the National Park over the weekend, reports were of unprecedented numbers of visitors for the time of year, with some local restaurant and café owners forced to stop offering takeaway services over concerns that social distancing rules were not being followed. Campsites and caravan sites are also reported to be busy with people taking out long-term lets at holiday cottages.

The National Park Authority is continuing to work with government to monitor pressure on local services during the pandemic, and slow the spread of the virus.

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park, said:

“English National Parks are in close contact with government over the evolving coronavirus strategy. We understand people’s wish to spend time in beautiful places like Exmoor at this extremely worrying time, when all other sources of respite are few and far between. But with people’s lives and livelihoods at stake, its vital that government guidelines around social distancing are strictly followed to slow the spread of the virus and protect our local communities and NHS services.

“The National Park Authority has offered help to local agencies to respond to the crisis and ensure the needs of vulnerable residents and those in self-isolation are met. We are also working closely to support local businesses – many of which are small-scale providers – to help them cope with the inevitable economic impact of cancelled events and lost custom.

“Past experience of foot and mouth disease and the blizzard conditions of 2018 that left whole villages cut off shows the incredible resilience of Exmoor communities, who are already pulling together to support one another. We now need visitors to do the same by adhering to government restrictions around unnecessary travel and instead turn to opportunities to connect with nature closer to home. We look forward to welcoming them back here when circumstances allow.

“Exmoor is not the only area experiencing this problem - other visitor destinations across the world have also been overwhelmed. This weekend the Australian government were forced to close Bondai Beach following major over-crowding. We continue to monitor the situation extremely closely and are ready to take further steps if required to do so by government.”

Updated Tuesday 17th March 2020

Dear all,

Our National Parks exist as places for everyone to find peace in beauty, gain spiritual refreshment, and reconnect with nature.

Covid-19 has developed into a global pandemic and we recognise that not everyone will be able to access these special places in the weeks and months to come.

We want to reassure everyone that this special place continues to be well cared for by our passionate team of staff, who are working under very difficult circumstances to keep key functions up and running – such as our Ranger and Planning services.

We hope thoughts of Exmoor will provide some comfort at this difficult time and look forward to welcoming you here when circumstances allow.

All our teams have now been asked to work from home. This includes staff at our National Park Centres, who as always will be happy to answer your queries about Exmoor via telephone and email. We apologise if this means things don’t run as smoothly and thank you for your patience and understanding.

Your health and safety while enjoying the National Park is of utmost importance to us. Unfortunately, this has meant we and others having to cancel events. This and the reduced number of visitors will inevitably be a major blow to our rural businesses, who can find bespoke help and advice here.

Despite all the challenges that this pandemic brings, it also forces us to re-evaluate what really matters. Over the next few months let’s hold our loved ones dear and make the safety of our families and communities the number one priority.

Everyone can help support the UK’s response by:

  1. Relying on information from trusted sources, such as www.nhs.uk/coronavirus and www.gov.uk/coronavirus, and checking frequently for the latest advice.
  2. Using NHS 111, pharmacies and GPs responsibly, and only going to hospital if you really need to. See: When to go to A&E
  3. Offering support to elderly or vulnerable family, friends and neighbours and, if you or a member of your family has a new continuous cough or high temperature, following government advice

Yours Sincerely,

Sarah Bryan

Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park

Switch board: 01398 323665

Email: info@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk