Further easing of lockdown in England is taking place from 4 July. What will this mean for climbers and hill walkers? The BMC access team take a look.
Before looking at the changes that have just been announced, it’s always important to emphasise that anyone heading outdoors should continue to be respectful of other users, landowners and local communities.
Maintaining good hand hygiene after touching any shared surfaces or equipment is also still very important. Being aware of and trying to avoid popular areas at peak times is crucial. With unprecedented numbers leading to crowded parking in many popular beauty spots and crags, the potential for bad parking to obstruct roads and entrances has been high and if we don’t take responsibility for this ourselves, we may see access losses.
So, what do the changes from 4 July mean for climbers and hill walkers in England?
Social distancing reduced to 1m+
In his announcement, the Prime Minister said where it is not possible to stay 2m apart, people should maintain a distance of 1m+ from those outside your household group whilst adopting precautions to reduce the risk of transmission.
Detailed guidance on what these precautions may be is not yet available, but are likely to include use of facemasks, protective screens and increased ventilation indoors. How this will affect outdoor recreation remains to be seen, but it may allow a return to something closer to normality in how climbers and walkers operate with others outside their households. However, in the majority of outdoor environments, maintaining 2m social distancing at least for the majority of the time should be fairly easy to do and we should continue to try and use this as a general guide where possible.
Overnight stays allowed
This will be great news to many who have been limited in how far they can travel for day trips. The proposed changes will allow overnight stays and staycations from the 4 July meaning holidays and weekend trips will be possible within England once again. In addition, two different household groups can meet anywhere – inside or outside – providing they maintain social distancing, but it does not allow larger groups to stay together where members of more than two households are involved. The BMC has produced separate guidance for huts re-opening and this can be found here.
Try to avoid public transport
Recommendation is still to avoid public transport if possible, but for those who are committed to this mode, wearing a facemask is a requirement and being especially careful with use of hand sanitiser is a very good idea too.
Pubs, cafes and restaurants to reopen
Local businesses will be able to re-open providing they follow Covid Secure guidelines to limit risk of transmission. In the rural areas we visit as climbers and walkers, where communities depend on tourism as a major source of income, it’s more important than ever to spend money locally and help businesses get back on their feet.
Travel from England to Wales
For those living in England but wanting to travel to Wales, there are two additional significant dates. From 6 July, travel will be permitted into Wales from England but only for day trips. Then from 13 July, it is expected that Wales’ tourism sector will reopen and overnight stays will be allowed again.
All of this comes with the significant caveat that there are likely to be very high numbers of visitors from both Wales and England wanting to access the Welsh hills and crags so bear this in mind when planning any trip across the border.
Currently areas of Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire National Parks are still closed even to locals, and whilst it is expected that these closures will be lifted during July, the situation is fluid and decisions are changing regularly. As with the initial easing of lockdown in England, do your research and make sure National Parks are open and essential facilities such as car parks and toilets are available before setting off.
Car travel with others outside your household group
We raised the question of travel with individuals from multiple household groups in the same car or van through a multi-user Covid stakeholder group feeding into government through Natural England and DEFRA. 1m social distancing could be maintained through seating individuals in front and back and on opposite sides, whilst also using facemasks. When this is allowed it has the potential to reduce parking issues as there will be fewer single occupancy vehicles being used, however at the current time the response to our question is that it is unlikely to fall within the proposed guidance for the changes from 4 July.
What about climbing walls?
Whilst climbing walls opening falls outside of the access team’s core remit, we know lots of you are keen to see them re-open, as are we. At the current time it looks unlikely that indoor walls will re-open on the 4 July, but the BMC alongside the Association of British Climbing Walls (ABC) and Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) are actively lobbying the government to allow walls to re-open as soon as is safely possible. At the time of writing, the best guess of an opening date is mid-July, but any wall specific updates will be posted separately on the BMC, ABC and OIA websites and social media channels as more information becomes available.
DOWNLOAD: the shiny new BMC RAD app
Get all the info on crags with the newly updated RAD (Regional Access Database) app from the BMC! Available now for Android and iOS, it's free and comes with a host of new features like navigation and parking, weather and tidal updates, and of course information on restrictions or notes on access advice. Get it here now!
RAD is community led and your comments help keep it up to date so don’t be afraid to add any relevant information after a crag visit which might be useful for other visitors – anything from conditions on the crag, favourite routes or reports of rockfall/other recent changes to the crag are all useful for other climbers visiting.