Please read our guidance about what to expect when visiting and check which sites are still closed - Guidance and closures

COVID-19 coronavirus - information for everyone visiting a forest

Updated 21st May 2020

Thank you for your patience and support as we have safely re-opened as many car parks and other facilities in the nation’s forests as smoothly and swiftly as we can.  

We know that you want to visit your favourite forest more often; we do too but keeping you,  our staff and the public safe is still the top priority.  

Thank you, too, for a steady and sensible return to most of our sites. Please continue to respect us as we take difficult decisions to balance Government guidance, local communities’ perspectives, and the needs of our visitors.  

The majority of our car parks and other limited facilities are open, but please check to see which car parks are still closed before travelling.  Some of the things we are doing in the forests  include:  

  • cleaning touchpoints and toilets as often as we can following our new cleaning regimes.  
  • putting social distancing advice and guidance in place.  
  • checking paths are accessible.  
  • dismantling illegal mountain bike trails and clearing fly tipping.  
  • looking out for any wildlife that may have taken the chance, while it has been quiet, to build a home in an unusual place.  

Due to Government guidance on play areas, at this time we cannot reopen our play equipment and play areas. Please also note that many of our sites have limited facilities and things such as toilets and cafes may not be open.  We are supporting our fantastic business partners to re-open their services, in line with Government safety advice.  

When you visit the nation’s forests, we hope you will enjoy the space and fresh air with a safe, relaxing visit. Please remember that it is your responsibility to follow the new guidance on staying safe outside your home

Please think carefully before you visit and come prepared: 

  • Toilets and food outlets may not be open – bring your own hand sanitiser, food and refreshments.  

  • For the time being, BBQs are not allowed in any of our forests. The ground is very dry at the moment and they pose a fire risk. We have suffered a devastating fire at Wareham Forest in Dorset. Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said it had found the remains of 11 disposable barbecues in the area. 

  • See what walking and cycling trails there are and make sure you have suitable footwear and if you plan to cycle an appropriate helmet. 

  • Some forests may have new, temporary signs to follow or different opening hours. 

  • Plan for what you will do if the site is closed or looks busy and be prepared to go somewhere else less busy, or return home and visit another time. 

  • Keep roads clear and do not park on verges. Please respect our local communities and emergency services and park responsibly. 

  • Be kind. Be patient. This is a new experience for all of us. We need your help to make this work. 

Thank you for your support us as we are doing our best for you.  

Frequently Asked Questions 

Why are some of the facilities closed? 

Keeping you and our staff safe is still our top priority. We have started by opening as many of our car parks as smoothly, safely and swiftly as we can to help people spread out, avoid crowds and keep their distance. Some facilities such as toilets and takeaways are steadily opening in some forests where it is safe to do so. Please check our website before travelling to see what’s available. Other facilities such as play areas must remain closed according to Government guidance.  

Can I ride my bike or horse ? 

Public rights of way have always been open. Trails we have built need to be safety-checked so please accept that bike trails may be closed or altered, and follow any temporary signs.  

We welcome responsible mountain bikers and riders. Please follow the guidance on social distancing and where possible keep more than two metres apart from anyone you meet. Stop and wait for people to pass if necessary.  

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 cycle on routes you know well and that are well within your ability level. Read British Cycling guidance and The British Horse Society guidance on coronavirus for riders  
  

Can I BBQ?  

No, not at the moment. This is to help you keep your distance and prevent fires with the current hot, dry conditions. We have suffered a devastating fire at Wareham Forest in Dorset. Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said it had found the remains of 11 disposable barbecues in the area. 

Why is Westonbirt, The National Arboretum closed when other sites are open?  

Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is a ticketed attraction so must not be reopened according to the Government’s guidance.  

Why are some opening times different and why was the car park temporarily closed?  

We are working hard to help people meet their responsibility to, wherever possible, adopt the principles in the Government’s guidance: Staying safe outside your home. When we can, we are monitoring how many people are there and may need to close some car parks or facilities without notice.  

People aren’t social distancing – what can I do?  

It is everyone’s individual responsibility to, wherever possible, adopt the principles in the Government’s guidance: Staying safe outside your home. Do what you can to help yourself and others feel safe.  

The NPCC / College of Policing say in their guidance: “Government guidance is not enforceable, for example two-metre distancing”.  

Please be kind and patient with our staff and your fellow visitors. 

Why aren’t you making people social distance?  

We have signs on site to remind people and help them follow the guidance around social distancing. It is everyone’s individual responsibility to, wherever possible, adopt the principles in the Government’s guidance: Staying safe outside your home. Please do what you can to help yourself and others to feel safe.  

Will I still have to pay to park?  

Yes. We are a public body, but we receive much less public funding because we generate most of our income ourselves. The majority of our car parks are free and the money you pay to park in our larger sites is important to us. Like other businesses, coronavirus has significantly reduced our income. All the income we generate goes back into looking after and creating beautiful forests for people to enjoy and homes for wildlife.  

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 the money we generate 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 bring your own hand sanitiser.  

Will there be adequate hand washing facilities?  

Where possible we are opening toilets on our sites and you can wash your hands there, maintaining social distancing. However, there will be some sites open without toilet facilities. Check our website to see what facilities are available before travelling. Obviously out in the wider forest there won’t be hand washing facilities so consider bringing your own sanitiser.   

Will there be rangers on site to help me?  

To protect our staff and visitors and support safe social distancing our visitor centres and information points and ranger stations will remain closed.  We will have limited staff at some sites and their focus will be on managing site safety.  

Can I walk my dog in the nation’s forests?  

You are welcome to walk your dog in the nation’s forests.  

Remember It is everyone’s individual responsibility to, wherever possible, adopt the principles in the Government’s guidance: Staying safe outside your home. Do what you can to help yourself and others to feel safe.  

Before you come, please read our forest dog code.  

Read Kennel Club dog owners guidance