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.
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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, and people are 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 seeking 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 Bondi 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.”