People are being urged not to visit the nation’s woods and forests, as the lockdown to tackle the coronavirus pandemic takes hold.
Forestry England, which looks after 1,500 public forest and woods that receive almost 27 million visitors a year, issued a statement urging people to heed the Government’s advice to stay at home to save lives.
It said: “The Government has told everyone to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
“This is a very sad day for us, as we ask you not to visit the nation’s forests or do anything that would put the emergency services under extra pressure.”
Those people who live very close to a public forest or wood and are walking or cycling there as part of their permitted daily exercise should take extra care not to have an accident to not put extra pressure on emergency services, Forestry England warned.
Forestry and Land Scotland also urged people to make their walk or cycle a local one, saying; “Do not get into your car to travel to one of the woods we manage.”
The National Trust has also closed all its car parks, many of which allow access to the coast and countryside, after visitors flocked to rural spots over the weekend.
The move comes in addition to the closure of all the Trust’s gated parks and gardens, houses, shops and cafes, to help restrict the spread of Covid-19.
Director-General Hilary McGrady said: “Following the scenes we saw at the weekend, where visitors travelled to coast and countryside, it is really important that we do all we can to discourage travel, and ask people instead to stay local and observe social distancing as guided by the government.
“It is so important that people stay at home. We must all work together and not see a repeat of those weekend scenes.”
The UK’s national parks, including Snowdonia, which saw its “busiest visitor weekend in living memory” at the weekend, have also told people to stay away.
The RSPB has closed its reserves to visitors until further notice, with car parks, toilets and playgrounds shut to the public, on top of existing closures of visitor centres, cafes and shops.
A statement by the charity said: “Our efforts will now move to helping the millions of people spending time at home.
“We are determined to do our bit to try and help connect people with the amazing wildlife to be seen in gardens or from balconies or windows, and offer some hope and joy in these difficult times.”