Dorset Council has issued advice on public rights of way during the Covid-19 crisis.
It points out that Dorset has almost 3,000 miles of rights of way criss-crossing the county, giving access to the countryside via footpaths, bridleways, trailways and cycleways.
These provide a very useful resource for people under the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions to complete their one form of daily exercise, while social distancing. Maintained by Dorset Council and landowners, the authority says these paths should not be blocked or obstructed and cannot legally be closed to the public.
Many of these paths cross agricultural or forestry land. ‘So, if you are using them be mindful of the restrictions, keep to the Rights of Way, ensure gates are closed, dogs are kept under close control and on leads where required and you clear up after your dog – taking your dog’s waste home with you to place into your household dustbin. Dog’s faeces can carry germs that are harmful to livestock,’ says a spokesperson.
‘Travel for exercise is not essential travel and you should use paths that you can access from your home. Where rights of way pass close to, or through residential and agricultural properties, it is important that the existing Government advice regarding social distancing and hand washing is followed.’
If there is a particular problem with people gathering on rights of way or cycleway/ walking trails, then the police should be informed, says the council. They have the power to disperse any groups behaving in such a way.
Councillor Ray Bryan, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: ‘We are incredibly lucky to have easy access to miles of countryside. But please use with care. Always follow the countryside code and government guidance for coronavirus (COVID-19).’
Dorset Council says it is working with Dorset Police and other agencies to take any further actions necessary in the event of any changes to legislation or Government guidance, however, at this time there are no plans nor legal means to close public rights of way or the cycleway/ walking trail networks for COVID-19 related reasons.
Information about where to walk, ride and cycle can be found at https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/countryside-coast-parks/rights-of-way/rights-of-way-map-where-to-walk-ride-or-cycle.aspx
The countryside code can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code
information about the Coronavirus and restrictions https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus