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Trust could shut nature reserves amid coronavirus social distancing advice

PUBLISHED: 09:43 23 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:13 23 March 2020

Hickling Broad. Picture: James Bass

Hickling Broad. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

Some of Norfolk’s nature reserves could be closed to visitors after concerns at the number of people who are heading to them during the coronavirus outbreak.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) said it was considering shutting some of its reserves, in the light of government advice over social distancing.

With pubs, gyms, restaurants and cafes closed as the government encouraged people to stay inside, unless for essential trips, there was concern over the weekend at the number of people still out and about in Norfolk.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said he will be thinking “very, very actively” about what steps to take if people continue to gather in large numbers in defiance of calls to stay apart.

He said the government had always followed the scientific advice when it came to access to open spaces - but warned people needed to observe the guidance that they should not gather in groups and remain two metres apart.

“What they have always said so far is that the health benefits for the whole of society of keeping the parks and playgrounds open if we possibly can outweigh the epidemiological value of closing them,” he said.

“But of course looking at the way people behave and the way they are responding, we keep that under constant, constant review.

“If people can’t make use of parks and playgrounds responsibly, if they can’t do it in a way that observes the two-metre rule then of course we are going to have to look at further measures.

“The general principle should be that we should all as far as we possibly can stay home, protect our NHS and thereby save lives.”

NWT had closed its visitor centres and hides, as well as cancelling events, but it had kept its nature reserves open.

However, the charity said it was now thinking about whether to shut those too.

In a statement, the trust said: “Following a review of the number of visitors to our nature reserves this weekend, and in support of government advice, NWT is now considering closing some of our nature reserves, including some car parks.

“While we of course want to give people the opportunity to enjoy nature, it is vital we prioritise the wellbeing of our staff and play our part in helping to stop the spread of the virus. Meanwhile we continue to ask you to stay local and ensure you follow distancing and isolation as appropriate.

“Time noticing nature in your garden or other outdoor space can also help relieve stress and improve mental wellbeing. We’ll be sharing fun activities for families to enjoy and our fantastic webcams. Do look out for more in the coming days.

“Norfolk Wildlife Trust would not be able to carry out the important work we do for wildlife without our supporters and we thank you all for your continued support and understanding during these exceptional times – and wish you all well.”

Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserves include Foxley Wood, Cley and Salthouse Marshes, Hickling Broad, Ranworth Broad and Scarning Fen.

MORE: Norfolk MP tells Londoners to stay out of second homes in Norfolk


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