Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice on accessing green spaces safely

Advice on using green spaces and protecting yourself and others from coronavirus.

England is in a national lockdown. You must stay at home, leaving only where permitted by law, and follow the rules in this guidance. From 8 March, some of the rules will change.

The government’s COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021 explains how restrictions in England will be eased.

You should minimise time spent outside your home, but you can leave your home to exercise. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.

You can exercise in a public outdoor place:

  • by yourself
  • with the people you live with
  • with your support bubble (if you are legally permitted to form one)
  • in a childcare bubble where providing childcare
  • or, when on your own, with 1 person from another household

This includes but is not limited to running, cycling, walking, and swimming. Personal training can continue if participants are from the same household or support bubble. It can also continue if it’s one-on-one, although this should only take place in a public outdoor place, and not in someone’s private home or garden.

Children under 5, and up to 2 carers for a person with a disability who needs continuous care, are not counted towards the gatherings limits for exercising outside.

If you (or a person in your care) have a health condition that routinely requires you to leave home to maintain your health - including if that involves travel beyond your local area or exercising several times a day - then you can do so.

Public outdoor places include:

  • parks, beaches, forests, countryside accessible to the public including rights of way
  • public gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them)
  • the grounds of a heritage site
  • public playgrounds

Outdoor sports venues must close. This includes sports grounds, tennis courts, golf courses and swimming pools. Parks or village greens that have freely accessible sports equipment (such as football goals) do not need to close.

Travelling to green spaces

You should exercise in green spaces locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your area if necessary.

If you need to travel, you should walk or cycle where possible, and plan ahead to avoid busy times and routes on public transport. This will allow you to practise social distancing while you travel.

Avoid car sharing with anyone from outside your household or your support bubble. See the guidance on car sharing.

If you need to use public transport, you should follow the safer travel guidance.

Before travelling, you should check if facilities are open to visitors (for example, car parks and toilets). Do not park on verges or block gates. This restricts access for other vehicles.

Attractions

Animal attractions (such as zoos, safari parks, aquariums, animal attractions at a farm, wildlife centres) must close.

Indoor attractions at venues (such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks) must also close, though outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open for outdoor exercise. You can use toilets if they follow guidance for being safer public places during coronavirus (COVID-19).

Respect other people and protect the natural environment

Read signs and respect the measures that local authorities and site management have put in place to help ensure social distancing.

When in the countryside, follow the Countryside Code. You should:

  • take all of your litter home
  • keep dogs under effective control and on a lead when you are around farm animals - read further guidance for pet owners
  • leave gates as you find them and follow instructions on signs
  • use footpaths and follow signs where they suggest alternative routes

Wildlife, including nesting birds, may have moved into new areas. Land managers may have provided extra protection for wildlife. Be vigilant and comply with these protective measures so that you do not disrupt the local wildlife.

If you own or manage land

You should read:

You may need to take a different approach if you’re managing land in the countryside.

You should clean gates and stiles, if possible.

You can display signs at access points to remind the public to take hygiene precautions and wash hands regularly.

You should consider tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.

You do not have the legal right to block or obstruct public rights of way or open access land. However, where large numbers of people are using such routes, you may:

  • temporarily display notices to encourage the public to use alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools
  • offer an alternative route around gardens and farmyards where it’s safe to do so - you must gain permission from relevant landowners and make sure the route is safe for users and livestock, and you must maintain the original right of way
  • put up signs warning people where footpaths are narrow and it is difficult to follow social distancing guidelines
Published 1 June 2020
Last updated 13 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated guidance following the 4 January announcement of a national lockdown.

  2. Updated with guidance on accessing green spaces and overnight stays in tier 4.

  3. Updated with guidance from 2 December 2020.

  4. Updated with guidance on accessing green spaces during lockdown.

  5. Updated with links to local COVID-19 alert levels.

  6. Updated guidance on meeting other people.

  7. Updated with changes that apply from 4 July.

  8. Updated with guidance on reopening of animal attractions.

  9. Clarified guidance for zoos and other businesses that keep animals (not normally domesticated in England) for exhibition to the public.

  10. First published.