Frequently asked questions
Are your forests open during the England-wide national lockdown?
The most important action we can all take to fight coronavirus is to stay at home, to protect the NHS and save lives.
Government has said that you can exercise once a day in a public outdoor space in your local area. Our forests have an important role in supporting people’s wellbeing by providing outdoor space for people’s daily exercise and therefore we are keeping car parks and toilets open, while reminding visitors they must be responsible and follow the national guidance. The government rules are clear that recreation or leisure activities such picnics or social gatherings are not allowed, and you should minimise the number of journeys you make.
If you are considering visiting one of our forests, please review whether the government guidance allows this without unnecessary travel before making your journey and check what is available onsite before you arrive. If you need to travel, you should walk or cycle where possible, and plan ahead to avoid busy times and routes on public transport.
This is a challenging time for everyone, and we will do all we can to keep our forests and facilities accessible for local outdoor exercise once per day, while keeping our staff and volunteers safe and supporting our partners and onsite businesses.
Please help us all stay safe by following the rules. You must stay at home if you have coronavirus symptoms or are self-isolating.
How far can I travel to visit one of the nation’s forests?
The government rules say that you should minimise time spent outside your home, but you can leave your home to exercise. This should be limited to once per day, in local green spaces wherever possible, and you should not travel outside your local area. Therefore if one of our forests is in your local area you can visit to exercise only. Recreation or leisure activities such picnics or social gatherings are not allowed within government rules and you should minimise the number of journeys you make.
If you are considering visiting one of our forests, please review whether the government guidance allows this without unnecessary travel before making your journey and check what is available on site before you arrive. If you need to travel, you should walk or cycle where possible, and plan ahead to avoid busy times and routes on public transport. If our sites and facilities become too busy, we may have to close them to help keep our visitors and staff safe. Please be prepared to return home and visit another time.
Please help us all stay safe by following the rules. When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we reduce the spread of the infection. You must stay at home if you have coronavirus symptoms or are self-isolating.
Can I book a parking space in advance?
We do not have a booking system for parking spaces. Please plan accordingly – our forests are quieter at the beginning and end of each day. Be prepared to go elsewhere if the car park is full. Remember that government has specified that you can access outdoor spaces once a day for exercise, but that this should be done locally and only travel when necessary. Read the guidance for more details.
Are onsite cafes and food outlets open?
Where they are open, cafes and food outlets can offer a takeaway service only. Please be aware that outdoor seating will not be available in line with government guidance.
Please be aware that outdoor seating located near to a cafe/restaurant offering a takeaway service, or seating elsewhere that would normally be used for picnics, will not be available for use, in line with government guidance to support social distancing. Recreational or leisure activities such picnics or a social meeting are not allowed within government rules.
Please check the individual forest web pages for full details of facilities and opening times at the forest you want to visit.
Why are some of the facilities closed?
Keeping you, our staff and volunteers safe is our top priority. Our onsite facilities, such as cafes, food outlets and businesses are open where possible, safe to do so and where allowed within the national lockdown guidance. Please check our forest pages before travelling to see what’s available where you are planning to visit.
Will there be adequate hand washing facilities?
Although most of our toilets at our larger sites are open, there are some sites without toilets. Out in the wider forest there are no hand washing facilities, so it’s a good idea to bring your own hand sanitiser.
Why was the car park temporarily closed?
Where we can, we are monitoring how many people are visiting and we may need to close some car parks or facilities without notice, to help maintain social distancing. Please be prepared to return home and visit another time.
People aren’t social distancing – what can I do?
We are working hard to help people with social distancing and we are reinforcing the government’s messaging around only visiting us if it involves travelling a short distance within their area. We also have signs on site asking people to follow the rules.
If we are concerned that people are significantly breaching the restrictions, we will pass information to the police.
Will payment be cashless?
Where possible we are operating cashless payment. The best option to avoid having to use car park machines is to buy membership online and print your car park pass before you leave home. By buying membership you are also supporting your forest as your money goes back in to looking after the forest and everything in it.
Where we can we are cleaning our car park machines but you must come prepared to wash your hands if facilities are available and/or bring your own hand sanitiser.
Will there be rangers on site to help me?
To protect our staff and visitors and support safe social distancing, some of our visitor centres, information points and ranger stations may be closed. Where we have staff on site their focus will be on managing site safety. Please check our forest information pages before travelling to see what’s available.
How can I visit Westonbirt, The National Arboretum?
In order to keep visitors, volunteers, staff and the local community safe, the number of people who can visit Westonbirt, The National Arboretum at one time has been limited. To visit you must book a ticket in advance. This includes members of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum - although they will not have to pay for the ticket.
Can I ride my bike or horse in the nation’s forests?
This is not a time for challenging yourself. It is important to avoid injury and reduce the pressure on our staff and the emergency services. Please follow the guidance on social distancing and stop and wait for people to pass if necessary. Our trails need to be safety-checked so please accept that some bike trails may be closed or altered, and follow any temporary signs.
Let someone know where you are going and wear appropriate protective equipment such as a helmet. With our health and emergency services under such intense pressure please only ride routes you know well and that are well within your ability level.
Is Go Ape still running activities?
All Go Ape adventures remain temporarily closed. More information is available on the Go Ape website.
Are the Gruffalo Spotters trails open?
Some of our sites installed the Gruffalo Spotters trail before the national lockdown restrictions. In most of these places the trail remains accessible along with other walking and cycling trails. Local visitors are welcome to use the Gruffalo trail if it forms part of their once-a-day exercise, but the associated Gruffalo packs are not available at the moment. Please continue to follow social distancing guidelines and if the trail looks busy, come back another time.
At some sites where crowding has become an issue, we have temporarily removed the Gruffalo spotters trail. Please check what is available before you visit.
We will install the Gruffalo Spotters trail at other participating forests later in the year. You can sign up to receive family activity updates straight to your inbox. Find out more on our Gruffalo Spotters website page.