Well Happy New Year everyone!
Although not entirely unexpected by most people the timing of yesterdays announcement from Government was perhaps something of a surprise…
Blashford was closed today, as the initial guidance on the law that will have come into affect by the time most people read this, was that “wildlife reserves” must close. The Wildlife Trust today, however, received clarification from DEFRA that the term wildlife reserves had been used in respect of paid attractions showing and exhibiting wildlife only, as rather than nature reserves as it had been interpreted initially. Indeed the term “wildlife reserves” has now been removed from the “Stay at Home ” guidance, which you can find in full here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home
So, the good news is that the Trusts nature reserves, including Blashford Lakes, will, for now at least remain open 🙂
We are however only open for local visitors to take their permitted exercise and, as such, and until such a time that the current restrictions are relaxed, although the Centre car park will be open daily 9am-4.30pm as normal, the Centre, portable toilet facilities and “Welcome Hut” will now be closed and the hides will remain closed to all visitors. In addition our brilliant volunteers have also been stood down from wardening, site survey and conservation tasks for the time-being.
We will continue to maintain an on-site staff presence to ensure the safety of visitors, as well, of course, to ensure the continued appropriate use of the nature reserve in such a manner that the wildlife conservation priorities of the site are not adversely affected by “rogue” visitors.
We will also monitor the use of the site generally, to ensure that our remaining open does not encourage breaches of the new restrictions by visitors.
With this latter point in mind we must emphasise that the new guidance is very clear on what is and isn’t permitted by way of exercise. Our interpretation of this is that it would clearly be acceptable for visitors to walk to Blashford Lakes from home and that it would also be acceptable for visitors to drive to the nature reserve by car (or cycle or use the bus) from up to a few miles away (for example places between, and including, Ringwood and Fordingbridge). We do not however, believe that it is appropriate for visitors to travel from further afield at this time – and that ideally they should only do so from within walking distance of the site.
The guidance is also very clear that visitors to the nature reserve should visit for outdoor exercise ONLY. We have therefore bought in the self-guided trails that so many visitors have been enjoying since restrictions were eased following the first lockdown…
We also understand that bird watching and photography is not permitted as part of our daily exercise.
Where as grabbing a picture with a “point and shoot” camera or phone, or pausing to scan a lake or the tree canopy with a pair of binoculars, I’m sure is probably fine, setting up a telescope or DSLR and tripod anywhere other than your own garden would not appear to be acceptable within the instruction by Government to Stay at Home (and if doing the latter in your garden, do bear in mind that the neighbours may well wonder what on earth you are up to!).
So, although not closed as such, Blashford must, for now, sadly, be effectively closed to most people and open only to very local visitors until such a time as the Government deems it safe for us to open the site to all again.
If you are lucky enough to live nearby and you do visit, please do pay attention to, and respect, the one-way routes and social distancing signage around the nature reserve. They do work and they will help keep you, us, and our other visitors safe.
The Trust will, as I wrote earlier, be monitoring the use of it’s estate over the next few days and weeks and, if it is apparent that the lockdown guidance is being flouted, or if the law changes, we will review our stance accordingly, and it may be that the decision is taken to close Blashford Lakes to all visitors.
I don’t think, and very much hope, that it will not come to that.
In the meantime, as always, for updates on opening, general news on what’s happening on the nature reserve (or generally in our busy lives. Lockdown home-learning with three young children is looming largely in mine right now!) do keep an eye on the website, this blog, or on our personal social media accounts:
and on Instagram:
Best wishes to all of our visitors, stay safe, and we look forward to seeing everyone again on the other side!
Thanks Jim for the update regarding the reserve. We look forward to visiting again when we can.
Stay safe Angela &Ralph
Sent from my iPhone
HWGA! Glad to see you can stay open.
My nearest supermarkets are all about 10 miles away and I usually go to the Waitrose in Ringwood for my weekly shop so would it be acceptable for me to combine a visit to Waitrose with a walk at Blashford on the way to or from Waitrose once a week? If so I’d also love another of the bird boxes if there are any left. I’ve got one for the nuthatches that visit my garden (they will do so more frequently when Vine House deliver some bird seed) and was thinking of one for smaller birds. I have old pear and apple trees so thought I could wire them to those. Any tips on how to do this and what sort of wire to use?
I do hope you don’t get too many rogue visitors but at least there will be a few people about to keep an eye on things,
Thanks Caroline – pleased to report that everyone seems to be behaving themselves so far, but the cold nights are probably helping that regard!
To answer your questions, we aren’t actually putting out any “sales stock” at the moment as that would not see to be appropriate under the circumstances, and even if we were we do not currently have any bird boxes in stock – we have placed an order with our volunteer supplier(!) so you have the option to wait until lockdown is eased and hope we’ve got some in again, or, alternatively, if you wanted to get it in-situ before the bird nesting season starts, I should look elsewhere. Although it wouldn’t benefit Blashford directly, a purchase from Vine House Farm would at least benefit HIWWT – https://www.vinehousefarm.co.uk/bird-care/nest-boxes
As for visiting, I really can’t say! I’m not sure that a visit from 10 miles away is strictly within the guidance of the law as it stands, but if you had to pass Blashford on your way to / from your weekly shop it would not seem unreasonable to take your daily permitted exercise here. If you had to detour to do so, I’m not so sure it would be the right thing to do, but, at the end of the day, it is not what I think that matters, but rather whether or not you think you could justify it to a police officer if you happened to be stopped on route!
Take care, and hope to see you soon, Jim
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) have emphasised what the law actually says: ‘Regulations which officers enforce and which enables them to issue FPNs for breaches, do not restrict the distance travelled for exercise.’
So whilst it is eminently common sense to stay local and do everything we can to restrict the spread of the Covid-19 virus, it’s not actually illegal to travel for exercise (or any other reasonable excuse).
Thanks for your message. I have not scrutinised the actual law that has been passed so will stand corrected and have updated this blog post by changing “law” to “guidance” instead. I have also removed the part which said that angling is not permitted as this has subsequently been rescinded by Government. I won’t get into the rights and wrongs of whether most forms of angling can possibly be construed as exercise, albeit very good for mental health and wellbeing, here!
Irrespective of any of the above the guidance is also very clear that “If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local – unless it is necessary to go further, for example to go to work. Stay local means stay in the village, town, or part of the city where you live.” so although travelling further may not be an actual breach of law if you are right, it is most certainly not what is expected, and most certainly not something that the Trust will be encouraging visitors to do to, so other than the amendments highlighted above the post remains valid and true.
Hi Jim, Bob and Tracy, and so it continues. Thank you all for all your stirling work in managing to keep things open. I look forward to visiting again and volunteering again when things improve. Stay safe everyone xxx