Coronavirus and the Coast Path

This page is up to date as of Tuesday 2nd June. For the most up-to-date information and guidance please visit the Government website.

Our advice below is based on the latest information available and will be updated whenever there are changes. Please stay safe.

Our advice:

Whilst the Coast Path remains open for you to exercise and enjoy, we ask you to follow the advice detailed below for your own safety and for the safety of others. You can also find additional information links to the latest Government advice below. Thank you for your co-operation, by following this guidance we can all continue to enjoy the countryside safely during the pandemic.

  • Maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from anyone outside your household. 
  • Travel to the Coast Path by foot or cycle, if possible.
  • If driving, check coastal car parks at your destination are open before travelling. Some are still closed or have limited access.
  • Do not park anywhere that may restrict or block access, particualrly at beach locations where emergency services may be responding to life-threatening incidents along the coast.
  • Always swim or bathe within your limits and do not engage in dangerous activities such as tombstoning.  Lifeguards are not operating a full service at this time and we must work together to avoid putting unnecessary stress on the Coast Guard and other emergency services. 
  • Do not use BBQ's or light fires at this time. With dry, hot weather conditions like this there is an increased risk of wildfires.
  • Stay safe and act responsibly at all times to help protect others, our service workers and our precious environment.

To avoid putting unnecessary stress on local services, we urge holidaymakers, second homeowners and campers not to visit the south west at this time. We will update as soon as this situation changes. 

We will be doing all that we can to bring the South West Coast Path into people’s homes virtually at what is a challenging time for us all.

Official Government guidance:

Stay alert

We can all help control the virus if we all stay alert. This means you must:

  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Work from home if you can
  • Limit contact with other people
  • Keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • Wash your hands regularly

Self-isolate if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.

Read the Prime Minister’s address for the latest information.

Access to Nature and Footpaths

The government’s priority is to save lives and the best way to protect yourself and others from illness is to stay at home. However, exercise is still important for people’s physical and mental wellbeing so the government has said people can leave their homes for exercise. Exercise in greenspace has the added benefit of contact with nature, which we know is good for our well-being. Enjoying nature in our gardens, if we are lucky enough to have them, can be part of this. Greenspaces such as parks in towns and cities can still be used, and footpaths and other rights of way in rural areas remain open. Please though follow this advice:

·         Guidance on using green spaces and protecting yourself and others.

·         Guidance on using the Countryside Code.

The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others from people using Public Rights of Way and other paths and trails is considered to be very low as long as people follow the Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing. But if possible try to avoid using footpaths that may take you through a farmstead or other rural business where social distancing may be difficult.

Landowners do not have the legal right to block or obstruct Public Rights of Way. However, in very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using such routes, landowners may consider the following measures:

  • Tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.
  • Temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools.
  • Offering an alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so (you must gain permission from relevant landowners and make sure the route is safe for users and livestock) provided that the original right of way is maintained.

All our National Trails remain open including newly opened stretches of England Coast Path, however people must follow the Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing.

For the latest Government advice on social distancing check here

Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly 

Remember to be extra vigilant with cleanliness if you’re out walking the Coast Path at the moment. It may seem that you are limiting contact, but there are plenty of places for germs to hide. The virus could stay for up to two days on wood, so we would recommend wearing gloves, using antibacterial hand-sanitiser and washing your hands regularly and thoroughly.

Advice to farmers and land managers

Farmers, land managers and farm advisers all have an essential role in ensuring a healthy natural environment, essential for sustainable farming, is maintained now as always and we look forward to our continued work with you.

Natural England are working with the RPA on making vital payments to the rural community and helping customers submit their claims and applications. Natural England is adapting the way it gives advice to support farmers, land managers and rural businesses during these unprecedented times. Their advisers are able to give advice without always needing to visit, in particular where they have worked with the farmer before.

In order to enable land managers to develop Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship Scheme applications in time for the 1 May application deadline, NE staff are able to provide advice remotely (by phone or video call) on applications, so that schemes can be progressed in the absence of a site visit. We are also developing a range of processes looking at how to best use technology including remote sensing, digital solutions and virtual meetings to support Countryside Stewardship 2020 applications.

Natural England will be supporting Mid-Tier applicants through an off-farm advice programme whereby applicants can contact an adviser and book a clinic session. Applicants will receive advice on the options most appropriate to their holding and top tips on ensuring applications are correct.

Technical advice and support on Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) by remote/digital means is also on offer, including where farmers need to make Countryside Stewardship mid-tier applications. Please contact the CSF team as usual on 020 8026 2018.

Update for Members of the SWCPA

As a charity, we are working from home to help contain the virus and reduce the chances of it spreading within the team and those we work with. This is particularly important with projects such as our Connecting Actively with Nature walks which focus on those most vulnerable in society.  We’re moving all of our activities online including video and teleconferencing, for example we’ve moved our team and Board meetings from face-to-face to videoconference. Unfortunately we have had to cancel the AGM in June. Other site-visits such as the Coast Path Area Liaison meetings and face-to-face meetings are being postponed until the situation improves. We apologise for any disruptions to servicing memberships, donations, fundraising requests or responding to general enquiries during this time.

SWCPA Business Members

We have created a Business Member coronavirus support hub which you can access here.

On 17th March, the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP announced a £330 billion financial rescue package to support and protect businesses affected by COVID-19 including those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. 

This includes:

  • £330 billion of government-backed loans and guarantees that will be available from next week
  • A package of support for airports and airlines to be announced in the coming days by the Secretary of State for Transport
  • Stated Government actions are sufficient to trigger payments for those businesses with pandemic insurance
  • For the hospitality and leisure sector there will be a business rates holiday and a £25k cash grant per retail and leisure business for those without specific pandemic insurance
  • Strengthened support for people. In addition to the measures in the budget, mortgage lenders will offer a three-month "mortgage holiday" for those in financial difficulty due to the COVID-19 outbreak 

The new measures are in addition to the £12 billion announced to support businesses in the budget last week and follows earlier announcements this week by Government on travel and the need for people to practice ‘social distancing” to avoid spreading the virus. 

We’re currently looking into ways we can help businesses along the Coast Path during this period of uncertainty; if you would like to talk to us about specific business issues please contact Sarah Gunn at [email protected]

VisitBritain business advice on Coronavirus

Events on the Coast Path

The Association has postponed all upcoming public events until further notice including:

  • Couch to Coast in Ilfracombe
  • Couch to Coast Nordic Walking in Barnstaple
  • Come Walk with Us at Royal William Yard
  • Annual Golf Fundraiser (on hold for now)
    Annual General Meeting

If you have any questions about any upcoming events, please email [email protected]

Mass participation events

Photo: Jurassic Coast Challenge postponed

Sadly many of the mass-participation running and walking events due to take place on the Coast Path this Spring/Summer are being postponed or cancelled, this may include those still listed on our Event Calendar, so please check event organisers websites for more details or contact them directly for the latest information.

In the meantime why not put your training to good use and take on a solo challenge to raise money to help look after the Coast Path. Find out more here.

Published on: June 2, 2020