With the warm weather expected to continue for the next few days, KCC has expressed serious concerns about members of the public flocking to the county’s most popular attractions and beauty spots, without taking enough notice of the appropriate Covid safety measures.
The government’s priority is to save lives and says the best way to protect yourself and others from illness is to stay at home as much as possible. However, exercise is still important for people’s physical and mental wellbeing, so the government has said people can leave their homes for exercise.
This has led to a big increase in visitor numbers at certain places, with social distancing becoming impossible.
A KCC spokesman said: “Of course we want to reinforce the message that exercise and being outdoors is to be encouraged, and Kent has some wonderful beauty spots.
“However, too many people are driving to the same places which, in normal circumstances would not be a problem, but these are not normal times. In some cases, car parks and public toilets are closed and there may be reduced staffing.
“Our advice is that is it safer and probably more enjoyable if people get their exercise closer to home.
“This is the Garden of England with its 4,000 rights of way. No-one is far from these routes and green spaces, so it should be possible for people to find some quieter and possibly undiscovered places, without flocking to the county’s hotspots.”
Many examples are available online from Explore Kent, the KCC-led partnership which encourages people of all abilities to go outdoors and stay active. Visit www.explorekent.org.
The number of people visiting the Kent countryside to get their exercise walking the county’s rural footpaths has shown a big rise – up to a ten-fold increase in some places – over the past few weeks.
However, KCC’s Public Rights of Way service says some landowners are concerned about an increased risk to livestock, such as instances of gates being left open and dogs not being controlled.
There are also concerns that the use of public footpaths through gardens, farmyards and schools is increasing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus to residents and farm workers, but this risk is considered to be low, as long as people follow the Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing.
KCC is therefore asking the public to follow this advice from its Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty unit:
- Always follow hand washing guidance and strict social distancing of two metres apart from others who are not in your household. Social distancing applies to any form of exercise such as walking, running or cycling or sitting or sunbathing.
- Plan ahead before you travel. Do not make any assumptions about what will be open and check with the organisation managing the site before travelling; for example, a car park may be open, but the toilets may not be.
- Avoid known hotspots because if sites become crowded it will be impossible to safely socially distance. If you arrive at a site that is already busy, try to find an alternative or head home.
- To help avoid hotspots, travel by foot or bike from your home, while maintaining social distancing. This means you will have a chance to experience Kent’s wonderful countryside without worrying about finding a car parking space.
- Farmers are under seasonal pressures and are vulnerable to loss of staff from sickness. Support them and our communities by sticking to the path, keeping dogs on the lead around livestock, not picnicking on private land and taking your litter home.
- Please keep your dog on the lead and stick to footpaths and bridleways so as not to disturb ground nesting birds and other wildlife.