National Trust forced to shut down all sites as large numbers of people flout social-distancing advice and flock to Yorkshire and Dales

The National Trust has closed parks and gardens across the country after a weekend when many people ignored Government pleas to self-isolate in the battle against coronavirus.

Sunday, 22nd March 2020, 5:05 pm
Updated Sunday, 22nd March 2020, 5:08 pm

The sunny weekend weather resulted in crowds flocking to parks and gardens despite the nation being urged by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stay at home and help alleviate the pressure on the NHS by preventing possible spreading of the virus.

A decision to close the parks was made on Saturday evening ahead of Mother's Day, which the Trust feared would attract even more people to its parks.

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The Royal Horticultural Society, which runs Harlow Carr Gardens, has also announced that has shut completely as they too experienced large numbers of people attending their gardens across the country.

The National Trust initially said it would only close down houses, cafes and shops but keep parks open. However, it says "all of our gated gardens and parks" will now remain closed until further notice.

On Saturday, coastal resorts were packed and the Yorkshire Dales National Park chief executive David Butterworth told the BBC that visitor behaviour "beggars belief" as social distancing guidance was flouted.

The National Trust has taken the decision to shut down all of its sites in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

He added: "The number of people coming to the area and acting so irresponsibly at a time of national crisis cannot be acceptable. If people chose to come here and ignore government advice regarding social distancing, then I would suggest they do not travel to the Yorkshire Dales at all and stay at home."

His views were then backed up by Director general of the National Trust Hilary McGrady who said there was little choice but to close down their sites until further notice.

“Despite our desire to keep our outdoor spaces open, the health and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and visitors has to be our top priority," she said. “Having observed the numbers visiting our properties today (Saturday) I am no longer convinced we can maintain social distancing over Mother’s Day when numbers are likely to grow, and beyond.”

The National Trust has made the decision to close all of its sites after crowds flocked to the Yorkshire Dales this weekend.

Ms McGrady added that the Trust would be taking measures to ensure that people did not lose their connection with nature.

“We know that people are likely to need space and fresh air in the coming weeks and months and we will do all we can to provide access wherever possible,” she said.

“Over the coming weeks our digital platforms – our website, social media feeds, podcasts and video – will become even more important, ensuring the places of nature, beauty and history that we care for on behalf of the nation can remain open for business virtually while we are temporarily closed.

“We will also be ramping up our efforts to help people connect with nature wherever they are and to find moments of joy in the world around them.”

Information on which National Trust outdoor places are open can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk