Guidance to path users and landowners on how to get the best balance so people can get their daily exercise while also keeping everyone safe.

The best way to protect yourself and others from coronavirus is to stay at home.

However, exercise is still important for people's physical and mental wellbeing, so you can leave you home for exercise once a day.

Public rights of way provide a great place to exercise, but some go very near to people's homes and to working farms and stables. At this time of year, farm animals and wildlife are rearing young, so it can also be a sensitive time when particular care is needed.

Please consider using local paths and parks closer to home and avoid extra travel. Also consider if you might choose routes away from residential properties and farm yards.

Advice for public rights of way users

When using public footpaths and bridleways for your daily exercise, please:

  • avoid non-essential travel - use routes nearby - you can view your area: Search for a public right of way
  • go out alone or with members of your household
  • keep the recommended distance if you encounter other users, farm workers or landowners - 2 metres apart
  • no gatherings of more than two people - no group activities or events
  • leave gates as you find them - some landowners may tie gates open at this time to avoid the need for path users to touch the gate
  • consider using any alternative routes suggested that enable you to avoid going near houses and working farm or stable areas
  • hand wash or sanitise when you return home
  • many wild animals are now rearing young, as are livestock on farmland - stay on paths and keep dogs on a lead around livestock and away from other people or dogs
  • follow The Countryside Code .

If you encounter a problem when using the path network

Please report it to us:

We will try to respond to the more serious issues within our normal time scales, but this may not be possible as our staff may be needed to support vulnerable residents.

Advice for landowners

The council and DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) are aware of the concerns raised by landowners that the use of public rights of way that run through gardens, farmyards and schools is increasing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus to residents and farm workers.

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.

Closing public rights of way

What cannot legally be done, unless the government changes the law, is the closure of any part of the highway network. To do otherwise could be a criminal offence.

What landowners can do

In very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using public rights of way, landowners may:

  • tie gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate
  • temporarily display 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. The signage should be advisory and not act as a deterrent to legitimate usage of the path network. A notice must not imply that there is any doubt about the use of the existing right of way. The council has produced a notice which you can use:
  • offer 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. If a landowner offers an alternative route, they must ensure that it is safe to use and that the existing right of way is maintained so that users with differing abilities have a choice. The council has produced a notice which you can use:

These temporary measures must be lifted as soon as social distancing measures are relaxed.

More information and to request printed copies of the posters:

Guidance from DEFRA

Guidance from DEFRA to stakeholders includes further notes on legal considerations.