People enjoying this week’s hot weather at Staffordshire’s country parks should use common sense, observe social distancing at all times and stay safe.
That’s the message from Staffordshire County Council regarding use of its country parks across the county.
Not only are people asked to keep complying with the Government’s social distancing rules, but to follow the countryside code and not to go swimming in open water.
Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Communities, said: “Our country parks are beautiful places and we want people to enjoy them now that people are able to travel for exercise.
“But it’s everyone responsibility to use common sense and observe the rules and spirit of social distancing and stay at least two metres apart in potentially busy places such as car parks so that we don’t risk another spike in Coronavirus cases.
“The sites can become very busy and we would ask people to find another place if a car park is crowded and not to park on road verges, or block access that may be needed in an emergency.
“If we cannot ensure people’s safety we may have to consider whether it is safe for car parks to remain open.”
Visitors to county council country parks are asked to keep dogs on leads to help comply with social distancing and consider wearing gloves for handling gates and other ‘touch points’.
And after prolonged dry weather through April and early May, despite the odd downpour, people must not have barbecues, light fires, or dispose of cigarettes carelessly as there remains a strong risk to people, property and wildlife from fire.
Gill Heath also warned against the dangers of open water swimming at Chasewater and elsewhere.
She said: “Temperatures are forecast to be in the 20s this week and we know there is always a temptation for people to cool off in open water.
“No matter how confident someone is about their swimming ability I would urge them not to swim in open water.
“Water can cause cold water shock in even the strongest swimmers and there can be strong currents beneath the surface, as well as weeds, branches and other obstructions that you can be caught in.”
Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Abi Brown is also urging people not to go swimming in open water.
She said: "We have had some tragic accidents in recent years at local lakes and I think from a city council point of view, it wouldn't be something that we would encourage residents to do at this time.
"There are plenty of other ways of getting exercise safely within Stoke-on-Trent that don't require you to potentially put your life or others of other people in danger."
Country park toilets are closed while extra hygiene and social distancing arrangements are put in place and visitors should plan accordingly. Visitor centres, cafes and children’s playgrounds will remain closed for the time being.
Government guidance says that people may now drive any distance to visit publicly accessible outdoor spaces and that they can sit and rest there with members of their household or with one person from another household - though they must keep at least two metres apart.
To ensure social distancing public gatherings of more than two people are still banned. Full guidance can be found https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing#visiting-public-places