Covid-19 for walkers 25-Oct
Covid19 / Coronavirus and walking in the United Kingdom
Max 6 people. Avoid popular paths / destinations. Wales is on lockdown. Organised groups require additional measures.
Last Updated: 25-Oct-20
Official guidance :
Northern Ireland •
Maximum number of people who may walk together outdoors
||6, or no limit with extra measures
||15, or no limit with extra measures
||6 from 2 households
||30 only with extra measures
The "extra measures" for groups include a formal risk assessment (NI), written "event delivery plan" (England), a formal contact tracing system (England, Scotland), and a covid19 compliance officer (Scotland).
- You must not leave home if you have been told to self quarantine, or if you have any of the covid19 symptoms
- You must follow social distancing guidelines when spending time outdoors (2m, 1m with other measures, e.g. a mask)
- [23-Oct] Wales is on lockdown. No tourism. "Exercise should be... from home or as close as possible.. this should not involve ... driving"
- [23-Oct] Many areas of England are in tier 3 - check before travelling. Tier 2 just prevents socialising indoors. The higher of where you are and where you live applies. You can still travel to Scotland, but avoid the 'central belt'. Check before travelling.
- [15-Oct] Meeting inside (e.g. in a pub, car-sharing) is banned for people from different households from or in areas in tier 2 or 3 lockdown (i.e. the highest of where you live or where you are applies).
- [22-Sep] The stricter measures (e.g. pubs close at 10pm) announcement did not change the meeting outdoors, or outdoor walking group rules.
- [13-Sep] A 6 person (outdoors) limit was introduced in England. In Scotland its 6 from 2 households.. In NI its 15. There are higher limits for organised groups with formal measures.
Advice for everyone
- You can now travel any distance to go for a walk, and stay overnight once you are there.
- Check for local lockdowns and parking restrictions before travelling
- You should avoid public transport if possible
- Avoid honey pot destinations and popular paths. Have a plan B if your first choice is too busy.
- Choose routes to avoid narrow paths where social distancing is hard (think Striding Edge or a canal tow path)
- Use a mask when 2m social distancing is not possible - at pinch points on the path, trailhead car parks, toilets
- Be covid19-aware in toilets and in touching gates/styles (hand sanitiser!)
- Be considerate in social-distancing from other people on the path
- Keep dogs on leads where there may be other people or livestock
- Be considerate of local people (especially those working on the land) who may feel threatened by outside visitors
- Landowners may re-route public footpaths away from their houses and farmyards during the pandemic. Respect this if possible.
- Walk within your ability (so as not to put your rescuers in danger).
- Rescue might take longer than normal (check weather, waterproofs, bright clothing, map, compass, charged phone, spare battery)
- Only plan trips that can be cancelled at the last minute without loss so you don't feel the need to take chances with self-quarantine / covid19 symptoms
Advice for organised walking groups
Mountaineering Scotland (recommended), has detailed advice and a sample group event risk assessment.
- England: Groups that use extra measures are exempt from the "rule of 6". These includes a written event delivery plan and a contact tracing system.
- Scotland: The limit is 30 with a covid19 compliance officer and contact tracing system (i.e. exempt from the 6 person / 2 household rule)
- Wales: The limit remains at 30.
- NI: The limit remain as 15 unless a formal risk assessment has been carried out.
- Consider the risk profile (e.g. age, health) of your members
- Take details for contact tracing, and keep for 21 days.
- Don't share maps, etc.
- Masks are not mandatory outside in fresh air but maintain social distancing from one another during the walk as much as possible.
- Masks are advisable in honeypot areas / pinch points / trailheads.
- Everyone should bring a mask in case there is an accident and help needs to be given to another person (breaking the 2m rule).
- Be covid19 aware when socialising after the walk After a few beers, people forget about social distancing.
- You should not car share. If you do, open windows and masks advised. Car share is banned for people from or in areas of stage 2 or 3 lockdown
- When not walking (travelling to/from the walk, during lunch, socialising afterwards) the lower 6 people size limit applies!
- When in a pub/café, their rules apply, not the outdoor group rules.
- Plan for group members who refuse to be Covid19 compliant
Our club's policy
- walks are chosen bearing in mind: a) train departure times (i.e. avoid busy times), b) circular walks for drivers, c) narrow paths, d) popular areas
- contact details taken - anyone who refuses may not walk with the group
- split into sub-groups with a strict maximum 6 people each at the start
- sub-groups asked not to cross-mix later while socialising or travelling home by train
- Use eye protection (i.e. wrap around glasses) and a face mask at pinch points.
- When entering a pub or café, visually check their covid19 compliance as some places aren't serious. Too many people? Not enough ventilation? Staff (& the chief!) not wearing masks? Tables too close together? Too noisy (e.g. TV or background music on, causing people to shout, and breathe out more)? If at all unsure, give it a miss.
- If OK, ideally sit outside. Use a mask when going to the toilet.
- Bring a sandwich so there is always an alternative.
Guide to Face Masks and Eye Protection
Consider graded face masks and glasses if you are car sharing, or using public transport for an extended period.
- Look for 'P3' (or 'FPP3', ~ 'N100' ) grade dust masks or "Type IIR" ( "EN 14683 Type IIR', ~ 'ASTM F2100') grade surgical masks, both of which use electrostatic capture.
- Dust masks are designed to protect the wearer against incoming contamination. P1 is worst, P3 is best. N95 (US) and KN95 (China) are similar to P2 (EU).
- Surgical masks are designed to protect people around you against outgoing contamination, except for the 'R' in Type IIR, which is (bodily fluid) splatter resistant.
- There are 2 styles of graded dust face mask, with and without a one-way breathe out filter valve. The 'valve' helps you breathe out, but doesn't protect people around you as it doesn't filter your outgoing breath. Valveless masks are more uncomfortable to use, but do protect people around you. This is why surgical masks do not have valves.
- P3 grade masks protect again particulates (e.g. water molecules containing covid19), not virus or fumes (e.g. fire smoke or cigarette smoke) which are much smaller. For that, follow the Amazon link, and search for a paint fumes full face respirator mask (i.e. like a WW2 gas mask). Respirator masks are much more comfortable to wear as they have better breathe-out valves than disposable masks, but do not protect the people around you.
- The gold standard is a full face respirator with a fan (and a battery pack) blowing air through a filter creating positive air pressure. Expect to pay over £100.
- Wash your hands before putting on or removing a mask to avoid contaminating it.
- To disinfect and reuse a disposable mask, store it in a paper bag for 5 days (US CDC guidelines). Both dust and surgical masks are damaged by washing. Dry heat (to 160C) is the only home alternative.
- All masks, even ungraded ones, help you stop touching your face.
- There is no published evidence on the effectiveness of masks in protecting people from covid-19. Empirically, they are what medical staff in 'red zones' used, and survived.
- There is some evidence that wearing eye protection (e.g. glasses, wrap-around style sunglasses, goggles) helps. In China, people who use glasses were less likely to catch covid19.
Where to buy
I've used the 3M valved mask, its more comfortable to wear than a disposable valved mask. Of course, being valved, it doesn't protect the (non mask wearing) people around you.
Screwfix is good for safety goggles. Recommended even if you don't use them for covid19. During lockdown, there was an increase in DIY / gardening / craft eye accidents.
B&Bs, Airbnbs, and hotels are now all open (but not backpackers / hostels). In smaller places the owners will want to speak to you about your covid19 compliance before booking, and social distance from you when you arrive.
That each nation has its own policy does not help. Ministers make announcements, but the Government websites (which are obfuscated and contradictory anyway) aren't updated until a few days later.
The rules need to be simple and clear. Wading through and trying to decipher the 4 nation's covid19 websites for the outdoor leisure, and outdoor group rules wasn't easy! Do they think every member of the public, and every single walking/cycling/etc. group is going to do that...