The Lake District National Park has all but closed its doors to the public in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has now claimed close to 600 lives in the UK.
The park has closed all of its car parks to visitors, on top of shutting all visitor centres and attractions and suspending Rights of Way maintenance.
Car parks will only be open for use by local communities in populated areas for “essential functions”, such as attending GP appointments or for essential shopping.
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“Last weekend we saw significant amounts of tourists travel to the Lake District, and my message is really simple, the Lake District is closed,” said temporary chief superintendent of Cumbria Police, Rob O’Connor.
“It is really clear that people should not be travelling unless there is an essential reason to do so.”
He added: “Over the weekend, people will see my officers in the Lakes and the Kirkby Lonsdale areas, and they can expect to be stopped and asked whether their travel is essential.”
Lake District National Park Authority, along with the National Trust, NFU and Farmer Network are also begging people to follow the government advice and stay at home rather than head to the park.
Chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, Richard Leafe, told The Independent: “As a national park the Lake District remains open to its residents and businesses, however we are actively discouraging people to come here for a visit or holiday during the Coronavirus pandemic. This is in line with the Government guidance not to travel unless essential.”
He added: “These are unprecedented times, and I never thought I’d encourage people to stay away from the Lake District. However, our footpaths often go through the homes of farmers and their families, our hotels and attractions are closing and our rescue services must be available to support this public health crisis.”
Local farmers have reported they are worried about adhering to social distancing rules when people continue to use footpaths that run close to their homes.
One farmer from Borrowdale said they usually love saying hello to people when they come through the yard, but are currently having to keep their children inside the house in order to maintain social distancing and keep their family safe.
Another farmer, Maria Benjamin, added: “It’s a busy, stressful time on the farm with lambing and calving and farmers don’t need the additional worry of contamination to gates and property. Please use your discretion and avoid farmyards and rural homes when exercising.”
The police are urging outsiders not to visit at all, and telling locals to be mindful of where they walk and exercise.
“We continue to urge people living outside the county not to visit as we aim to limit the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus,” said assistant chief constable Andrew Slattery of Cumbria Constabulary.
“We also ask people to remember that many of the rights of way, paths, gates and stiles they might walk on or touch on a day out in Cumbria are on farmers’ land, near their homes – where they carry out essential work.
“Your visit to their property may be spreading the virus that could affect all of us.”
The National Park Authority has even put up signs reminding people to respect farmers and landowners’ properties during social distancing and isolation periods.
Other parks have been similarly keen to dissuade visitors.
Dartmoor National Park has closed parking and toilet facilities.
The message is clear: “You should not be travelling to Dartmoor National Park,” said a spokesperson.
“If you travel to visit the National Park you are putting the lives of our communities at risk and additional pressure on our health and other local services.”
National Parks in Wales, including Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons, have issued similar warnings.
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