Countryside braced for invasion as lockdowns lift

As lockdown restrictions start lifting, the countryside is bracing itself for an influx of visitors, keen to enjoy the great British countryside.

While many will welcome the economic benefits of having tourists back to boost rural businesses, there are also concerns that farmers and land managers may face additional challenges.

Continued restrictions on international travel may mean summer holidays are focused on the British countryside once more and some fear similar unacceptable behaviour to that which they witnessed last summer.

The uplands are a particular draw for visitors and it is here that access issues are most sensitive with many species of ground nesting bird particularly vulnerable to insensitive access and irresponsible dog walking.

Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “Defra has said that it and other government departments are aware of the likely numbers of visitors to the outdoors as lockdown restrictions are lifted.

“As a consequence, it predicts increased demand for car parking and camp sites, use of toilets, rubbish, BBQs, possibly leading to more fires, issues with dogs, wear and tear on facilities and greater demands on anyone dealing with the public.

“Defra’s assessment that it is likely to be a very busy period for outdoor places from Easter onwards, particularly if the weather is dry and warm, and that the countryside and beaches will remain very busy until at least October.

“As with so many things in the countryside, access is a fine balance. Many parts of the rural economy rely on visitors yet, as we have seen, too many people can lead to real issues for communities and wildlife. With the exception of the most popular rural destinations, that is a balance that is largely kept in normal times, but as we are all only too aware times are not currently normal.”

He urged people to adhere to the Countryside Code while also looking at visiting destinations which are less traditionally popular but still just as attractive.

He added: “This will be (another) exceptional year and there is an awful lot of countryside out there which might not feature on Countryfile, but which is beautiful, accessible and a lot less crowded than honeypot destinations.

“Encouraging people to use parts of the countryside where they will have less impact must be a part of the response to issues we all know rural communities will face from next week and for most of the rest of the year.”

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