Guidance across the nations

Know where you can walk

The Ramblers has received queries from people concerned about path closures or access restrictions close to where they live. These closures can, in some cases, limit opportunities for people to exercise locally from their doorstep or access essential amenities.

If you are concerned that a path has been blocked illegally or restrictions have been put in place unlawfully, please report this to your local authority.  
 
We urge all walkers to follow social distancing guidance and walk safely, responsibly and considerately. Read our advice on walking safely and responsibly during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Guidance is changing regularly and the rules for accessing the outdoors differ in England, Wales and Scotland:

England

Defra and Natural England have advised that 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 instructions to maintain social distancing. 

Landowners and local authorities do not have the legal right to block or obstruct public rights of way or access land. However, in very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using such routes, Defra and Natural England have advised that landowners may consider the following measures:

  • tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.
  • temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools.
  • offering an alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so provided that the original right of way is maintained. This must be 

The Defra and Natural England advice is clear that:

  • If a landowner offers an alternative route, they must ensure that it is safe to use and that the existing right of way or use of access land is maintained so that users with differing abilities have a choice.
  • A notice must not imply that there is any doubt about the use of the existing right of way or use of access land - the notice is polite request as there is no power for landowners to close or obstruct a public right of way or use of access land. Defra/ Natural England have produced this template notice for ‘requests to the public to use an alternative path’.
  • These temporary measures must be lifted as soon as social distancing measures are relaxed.
 

Wales

Travel restrictions and most footpath and national park closures brought in under the emergency Coronavirus Regulations in Wales have been lifted.  Further details can be found on the Highway Authorities, Natural Resources Wales and National Trust websites. 

However local procedures will be in place to maintain social distancing and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Most car parks and public toilets should be open but please check before travelling.  Many car parks may have parking restrictions – particularly at popular sites including the Llanberis Pass, Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) and the Ogwen areas of Snowdonia as well as Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons.  It would be best to avoid these areas at peak times and to have alternative venues in mind when travelling.

Public transport is operating at reduced capacity and facemasks are mandatory.

From Monday 3 August groups of up to 30 people can gather outdoors again.

To see the Welsh government’s guidance visit https://gov.wales/coronavirus-regulations-guidance

We would like to urge all walkers to be Adventure Smart respect the Countryside Code and stay within their limits to minimise demands on rescue services who are operating under additional COVID-19 constraints .

 

Scotland

Ramblers Scotland strongly supports the Scottish Government's approach to access during COVID-19

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham released a statement on 9 April stressing the importance of using access rights responsibly during the coronavirus outbreak. Read it here.

Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy says: “Ramblers Scotland strongly supports the approach taken by Scottish Government, which is based on the principles of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. In these extraordinary times, exercising access rights responsibly is more important than ever. Walkers should make extra efforts, including responding to reasonable requests from land managers, to help keep everybody safe and avoid disruption to food production.”

Further detailed guidance is available from Scottish Natural Heritage here.