Enjoying Oxfordshire’s countryside safely

People wanting to exercise in Oxfordshire’s great outdoors are being given helpful advice on doing it safely.

The Government recently reviewed its coronavirus restrictions meaning that more people will be thinking of visiting Oxfordshire’s beautiful countryside and green space areas.

County Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet member for Environment said: “We know that people are looking for the best and most enjoyable ways to get outdoors and experience nature's beauty, but you still need to be cautious to protect yourself and those who live and work in the countryside and green spaces.

“If you intend to visit anywhere in Oxfordshire, please plan carefully, respect the countryside and others around you, take care to follow social distancing rules, and have consideration for the farmers and other land managers who care for these areas.

“We also want to highlight water safety – with the weather being warmer there will be a temptation to try swimming. I really want to urge people to look at the advice and facts and hidden dangers associated with swimming in rivers and lakes.

“There are many areas where, with care, you can enjoy your exercise safely. The main thing is to keep safety in mind at all times.”

The Government has published Frequently Asked Questions on what you can and can’t do, along with guidance on enjoying the benefits of being outside, while protecting yourself and others. There’s also videos on Twitter and Facebook.

If you are planning a visit to Oxfordshire green spaces, countryside and public rights of way:

· Please remember that 2m social distancing and hygiene rules still apply, even outdoors and in the countryside.

· Pay attention to your safety. Coronavirus restrictions have meant that less path and countryside maintenance work is being carried out, so do take care.

· Plan your route in advance and try to visit less popular sites. Where possible, check online to ensure that the car park you plan to use is open, and bear in mind that some paths will be narrow in places.

· Consider walking or cycling to your chosen destination and ensure you follow Government advice on traveling safely if you use public transport.

· Always follow the Countryside Code.

· Even on a warm day, the temperature of a body of open water can remain very cold. Jumping into water can result in a cold-shock response. Find out more about water safety here.

· The Oxfordshire countryside is a living, working landscape. Please don't block gates, passing places or paths which are often in day-to-day use by our farmers and local residents.

· Most local businesses will still be closed. This includes restaurants, cafes and most shops. Therefore, plan ahead by checking online and consider bringing food and drink with you.

· Toilet facilities may be closed. If this is important to you, please check before you travel.

· Dispose of your rubbish considerately and, take it home. Litter spoils our lovely countryside for others and can also be a danger to wildlife.

· Keep dogs under control and pick up their mess, don’t release sky lanterns and don’t have barbeques or bonfires.

· Tread carefully. During lockdown, nature has reclaimed space! Please be very careful not to disturb wildlife. This might include ground-nesting birds, wildflowers, or animals that may have moved into areas unexpectedly during lockdown.

Be kind, be patient, be safe. We are all adjusting to this situation. Please think about others to ensure a safe, welcoming place for everyone.