For those wishing to take the air, fear not for the rules on confinement have been clarified.
Driving to the countryside for a walk on the wild side – where more time is spent doing the latter than the former – is among a list of reasonable reasons for Britons leaving their home during the coronavirus lockdown, according to advice issued to police. It seems like a reward for good behaviour during confinement.
A document published by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the professional standards body the College of Policing says public statements made soon after the adoption of the lockdown regulations suggested members of the public could leave their homes only if “essential” to do so. The document categorically states it is “lawful to drive for exercise”. However, driving for a prolonged period for only brief exercise would “not likely” be a reasonable excuse. Driving a distance to Ashridge for a short walk for the dog would not be permitted under the rules.
The Privations of Lockdown
Should you meet another walker on any trip, social distancing should be adhered to – you can always get up close and personal with the flowering trees and plants – smell the violets or wild garlic!
The blackthorn has been saturated in white blossom in the hedgerows, but is now gone over – so we await may. The hawthorn to be precise, which flowers after leafing in May, whereas the blackthorn flowers before leafing. The woodland bird cherries are still in bloom, and of course the gorse which lives with a pleasant hum of bees. There are rarities at Ashridge like the cherry-plum in Pitstone car park and the wild pear at the foot of the Beacon – both gone over now. We can look forward to the spring flowering of the wayfaring shrub and guilder rose on Steps Hill.
Down at ground level you have the ubiquitous bluebells, with snatches of wood anemone and primroses in the woods, then wood sorrel and yellow archangel to follow, while the chalk downs might throw up a rare pasque flower or an early gentian – certainly lots of cowslips.
There is a joy of noticing something new each time you take your daily state-sanctioned exercise.
Regarding the NPCC document referred to above, it says this
”Driving to countryside and walking (where far more time is spent walking than driving)”
is deemed reasonable.
The other day on Northchurch Common, a car pulled up into a car park, a couple got out with two young children and walked across the road onto the common. At the same time a police van pulled into the car park, policeman got out, called over to the couple and had words with the man. It seemed a bit heated then they got into the car and left. I was nearby and spoke to the policeman to ask why he had sent them home. His opinion was that they should not be driving anywhere to exercise, they should walk not drive and help to keep traffic off the road, keep down accidents which would mean calling out the Emergency Services. His aim also was to stop people getting the virus. I mentioned that a few days before, Matt Hancock the Environment Secretary had been asked the same question about driving to somewhere to exercise, and he had said exercise was very important both physically and mentally, and saw no reason why they should not drive there.
The policeman said then they should put it in writing.
He also said that he had no time to argue with people, if they persisted he would give them a ticket and they could argue with the magistrate! , which he had done the day before to somebody.