In light of the changing situation with the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic and in accordance with the Prime Minister’s statement on 10 May we want to reinforce the Government’s message in the releasing of lock-down measures in the countryside. We want to highlight this is not the time to travel to visit the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Over the coming weeks and months we hope to welcome everyone back with open arms, but until then we encourage you to access the countryside greenspaces closer to home and observe social distancing measures to help restrict the spread of the virus and ensure the countryside is a safe place for all.
Heather Kerswell, Chair of the Surrey Hills AONB Board comments;
“As we move out of the lock-down period over the coming months we look forward to welcoming visitors back to the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We know you will be keen to return to the Surrey Hills but just for now please stay local! This will ensure we all respect Government safety measures, local communities and wildlife. As freedom returns and we embrace a new normal, we will be keen for everyone to come and enjoy the benefits of natural beauty while supporting the local business community who very much need our custom at this time thank you. Meanwhile look on our website for Surrey Hills Enterprises businesses offering great local produce and services”.
This very slight lifting of lockdown measures will still see many businesses remain closed, particularly those catering for the visitor e.g. Attractions, hotels, restaurants, cafes, pubs, public toilets etc. The worry for many rural communities is people descending on beauty spots and picturesque Surrey villages making social distancing difficult and therefore increasing the risk of spreading the disease.
Chris Howard, Chairman of the Tourist Board – Visit Surrey adds;
“Whilst we are all anxious to get back out into the countryside, it is worth bearing in mind that facilities are still very limited due to the coronavirus restrictions. This means a lack of open toilets, and places to get food. So plan your outings carefully and get to know some of the amazing places right on your doorstep. Remember, the lockdown rules have only been tweaked slightly.”
Stephanie Fudge, National Trust General Manager for the Surrey Hills comments;
“For several weeks, while our places remain closed, we have been working on plans to gradually reopen them. Following the Prime Minister’s broadcast outlining the Government’s gradual roadmap out of lockdown we are reviewing its effect on our reopening plans.
The safety of our staff, volunteers, visitors and local residents is our priority. Any reopening will need to be gradual and phased and visitors’ experience is likely to be different from usual, including the need to manage volume at our pay for entry places. Countryside car park opening will also be phased.
We will need the support of everyone to enable us to keep places open safely. We will be updating the website with details of how and when things might change. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”
We’ve set out some key guidance points for accessing the Surrey Hills over the coming months;
• Keeping yourself and others safe is paramount and we encourage you to adhere to guidance set out by DEFRA in their Countryside Code.
• We are aware that many visitors who love to walk and cycle will have greatly missed the Surrey Hills landscape, the views and the well-known beauty spots. We encourage you to use countryside sites close to your home rather than travelling. Over the coming weeks and months we will see carparks and facilities gradually re-open and we urge you to check before you travel that car parks are open and would advise you away from the more well-known sites which may become congested and therefore difficult to socially distance.
• Please be aware that our local farms are under great seasonal pressures during this time and we would encourage you to respect their needs by keeping dogs on leads and follow all designated foot paths and bridleways to keep yourselves and farm animals safe.
• During the lockdown period, nature has had an opportunity to thrive and we ask you to look after nature by being extra cautious. Please stick to footpaths and bridleways so as not to disturb ground nesting birds and other wildlife.
• We encourage you to continue supporting local during this time of transition and want to highlight all the wonderful products and services available on our doorstep in the Surrey Hills. Take a look at our list of businesses offering home deliveries, online support and services, gifts and inspiration.