‘Don’t travel’ plea from the Surrey Hills

21st May 2020

The Surrey Hills AONB is currently receiving a higher than usual amount of visitors to the area.

We want to re-iterate our message that this is not the time to travel to visit the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Many public facilities and car parks remain closed or require booking in advance. 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.

Any visitors to the Surrey Hills are being urged to check the situation with car parks and toilets before travelling and, if deciding to travel, be considerate to the local communities by parking sensibly, ensuring litter and other waste is taken home, and maintaining social distancing.

We’ve set out some key guidance points for accessing the Surrey Hills over the coming weeks;

• 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.

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.”

The National Trust are undertaking a phased re-opening programme with many of their houses, gardens and parklands remaining closed. They have started to re-open countryside carparks across England. In order to help with social distancing measures they have introduced a booking system at some of their larger carparks. Click here to find out which carparks need to be booked in advance.