Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

Contacting us

In accordance with Government guidance the Howardian Hills AONB team will be continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future and will not be available on our usual office number. If you would like to contact us please email the relevant team member directly. Alternatively, email us at info@howardianhills.org.uk or ring 07715 009426 and we’ll respond as soon as we can.

 

Events, volunteers and meetings

All our events, meetings and volunteer activities remain cancelled or postponed until further notice. We hope to start limited volunteer involvement in habitat management work in September. Staff have been undertaking site visits where this has absolutely necessary, to continue delivering public services (e.g. the planning applications process) or to support local businesses carrying out countryside management work on our behalf. We are beginning to undertake more site visits but will only be doing this where we can comply with Government rules on social distancing.

 

Enjoying the AONB landscape safely

If you are able to get out then the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is available for restorative fresh air, exercise and mood-boosting, as long as you follow the latest Government guidance.

The most popular visitor attractions in the Howardian Hills are generally now open – places such as Castle Howard, Nunnington Hall and the Yorkshire Arboretum. Opening is however generally limited to the outdoor areas and booking systems are in place. Please check the sites’ respective websites for the most up-to-date information as it changes often.

Public Rights of Way are open and generally in a reasonable condition, but broken path furniture may be encountered as emergency repairs are still being prioritised by North Yorkshire County Council. You can report any issues to paths@northyorks.gov.uk. Please take photos to show what the problem is and attach them to your email.

Please bear in mind that villages in the AONB are still pretty quiet despite the easing of lockdown restrictions; they also contain a lot of people in the vulnerable and shielding categories. Villagers have been less used to coming into contact with other people, even when social distancing properly. This is now changing, but rural areas are generally more wary about the easing of restrictions so please bear this in mind. With few car parks, parking in villages may be inevitable – please respect local people, don’t block driveways and maintain good social distancing. When out in the wider countryside please don’t block farmers’ field gateways, leave any litter or light fires or barbecues. Wildfires can start very easily, spread unbelievably quickly during dry conditions, and cause damage to both property and wildlife.

Please observe the CORONAVIRUS Countryside Code at all times, especially in relation to keeping to designated Public Rights of Way, restraining dogs when close to livestock and closing gates. Please be mindful of the risks of spreading the virus to farm staff or local residents by maintaining proper social distancing. This is particularly important where paths go directly through farm yards and private gardens. Farmers are currently permitted to set up temporary diversions around farm yards, but these must be safe and useable and the official Right of Way cannot be restricted.

Please leave gates as you find them. If you want to minimise the risk of spreading the virus by contact with gate handles, stile posts, etc. you can tuck your hand up into your sleeve to eliminate skin contact, or use a glove or plastic bag.

Because the roads are still less busy than normal, lanes around villages have been popular options for walking. If you decide to do this, please take care and look out for traffic, particularly on bends, etc. so as not to be involved in an accident. If driving please drive with extra care, in case you find pedestrians in unexpected places.

If you are a landowner and are concerned about the use of Public Rights of Way (PROW) on your land then here is some Defra guidance on what you can and cannot do to reduce the risk of exposure to Covid-19. If you wish to signpost alternative routes that avoid farmyards and gardens then here is some suggested wording for signs but please ensure you have read and understood the guidance above before instigating any changes.

 

Supporting local businesses

Many local independent businesses across the Howardian Hills are still delivering produce and services while keeping everyone safe. Many of these are using existing or new networks of community volunteers to ensure that people who are vulnerable or in self-isolation still receive supplies. We are supporting our local communities and businesses during this difficult time and have been sharing details on Twitter as appropriate.

North Yorkshire County Council has created a new website to enable North Yorkshire businesses and tradespeople, who can work under Covid-19 restrictions, to share what they offer with customers who need their services. Visit the local business directory to find local businesses who have adapted their services during the Coronavirus pandemic. As restrictions ease businesses are adapting how they operate. There are many advantages to buying local, so if you started using a local supplier please consider keeping this custom going as lockdown eases. Your custom is always a lifeline to small local businesses, but now more than ever.

If you’re visiting the AONB please remember that the priority for food and drink in village shops still lies with local residents. Local shops generally still have queues outside, but they would be very pleased to serve you and all of them have a good selection of local produce, sandwiches, cakes, etc. If you’re having a picnic anywhere then please take all your litter back with you – it’s a fraction of the volume and weight once you’ve eaten and drunk it! Pop a carrier bag in your packed lunch box to make it easier.

Looking to the future

During this period of lockdown many people are finding more time to be able to connect with local nature and wildlife, either during their walks/cycles/runs or in their gardens. If you want to share any images of wildlife you can do this on Twitter using the hashtag #wildhowardian

Please stay safe and follow the Government guidance of STAY ALERT, CONTROL THE VIRUS, SAVE LIVES.

The Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team

Updated: 10 July 2020

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