Go out for a walk, yes. But please don’t travel too far.

Published 13 May 2020

Today is Wednesday and from today in Covid-19 world, things have changed. If you are in England you can now jump in your car and drive an unlimited distance in order to get some exercise. Just don’t drive into Wales or Scotland (or technically Northern Ireland, but logistics make that rather difficult) because their rules remain stricter, and driving for exercise remains forbidden.

Yes from today I can drive a hundred miles up the M6 and go for a walk in the Lake District. Hey, technically I can do a five hour drive to get from Manchester to Dartmoor National Park, for a nice stroll.

I won’t be doing this. Because now is not the time to be doing this kind of thing. Frankly I find it absolutely stupid that at the point we’re trying to control a major global pandemic, the Government in Westminster is telling people in England they can spread around the country to get some exercise.

Now we all know that if you want to distance yourself from others, the Great British countryside can be a wonderful place to do that. There are some amazingly quiet spots out there. But there are also incredibly busy ones.

The Peak District has loads of little spots you can drive to, park up in a quiet layby, go off for a walk and barely see a soul. But most people know of places like Edale, Mam Tor, and Kinder Scout. They get busy at the best of the time.

It’s the same in the Yorkshire Dales. Loads of great places to explore. But you’ll find most walkers around the peaks of Whernside, Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough. Or at places like the beautiful Malham Cove.

The Lake District. Full of quiet fells. And even fuller of people at Langdale, Fairfield, Blencathra.

It’s because of this that the guidance from Westminster is incredibly unhelpful. Especially given Cumbria currently has one of the highest Covid-19 rates in the country.

The reality is that by letting us all completely off the leash in England, we’re putting ourselves at risk, and others at risk. We risk spreading this disease around the country. And if we get into trouble, we could be putting others at risk.

Now in all my years walking, I’ve never injured myself. Never had to have Mountain Rescue out. Always been safe.

That doesn’t mean this will always remain the situation.

Even the most careful person can trip and injure themselves. And then it’s down to the good people of Mountain Rescue to help. People who come to help others. Rescuers who could (unknowingly) have the disease themselves. Rescuers who could end up contracting it from the people they are rescuing because that people (unknowingly) has it. It’s hard to socially distance when you’re providing emergency care for someone.

Now I am a big fan of a good walk. Not long ago I encouraged you – in this time of worry and crisis – all to enjoy walking. I stand by that. But I also strongly recommend staying reasonably local. Don’t travel huge distances. Preferably don’t travel at all. Keep away from the mountains. Avoid popular beautiful spots.

Reduce the risks of spreading this virus even further. Reduce your risks of getting it. Reduce the chances of putting other people at risk.

We all want our lives back to normal. But the more sensible we are about how we get there, the more likely it is we’ll get there quicker. And for my mind, what is coming out of Westminster really isn’t helping on that front.

Remember that the ability to drive to exercise ONLY applies to England. It does not apply to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Residents of England heading across borders may well find themselves stopped by the local police.



13 May 2020 at 9:38 am

I agree with all you say, I live in Southend-on-Sea, right on the seafront, you can imagine the amount of visitors we get!


20 May 2020 at 8:04 am

Well said . I live in Kettering and until March I would drive to the peaks every weekend. At the moment I’m not . Yes it’s driving me crazy not getting out but the hills will be there for another day

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