ENPA SAYS, “THANK YOU FOR STAYING AT HOME”

The following is a press release issued by Exmoor National Park Authority:

Exmoor National Park was a much quieter place at the weekend following updated Government coronavirus guidelines stating that people should stay local and use green spaces near their home.

Teams from Avon & Somerset and Devon & Cornwall police backed by National Park Rangers worked together to reinforce the message that the public should stay at home and not travel to countryside beauty spots for exercise or any other non-essential reason.

The response follows extraordinarily high numbers of visitors across the UK’s 15 national parks last weekend, triggering concern that people travelling to them en masse could spread the virus.

Dan Barnett, Access & Recreation Manager, said: “We’re extremely grateful to everyone for foregoing their visits to the National Park over the weekend and until restrictions lift. The importance of these places for people’s health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated and we fully appreciate the sacrifice many are making to protect fellow citizens.”

The Government have been clear that public rights of way should remain open for local people to exercise. Anyone accessing the countryside from their own home must keep at least 2 metres apart from other people, sanitise hands regularly and wash them on return.  Dogs should be kept under close control, on a short lead or at heel.

The law in England does not allow the National Park Authority to close any part of the public rights of way network for COVID-19 reasons. Anyone with concerns about public access can contact the National Park’s Ranger team for advice at info@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk or 01398 323665.

Dan Barnett added: “Public rights of way that cross working farms or are close to people’s homes can cause concern for those self-isolating there due to age or ill-health. This is understandable and we ask that people are extra vigilant with their hygiene in these areas. As always spring is lambing time for many of our farmers, so please take care to close gates behind you and always keep dogs on a lead near livestock or moorland where birds may be nesting.”

The National Park Authority are only available to inspect rights of way where there are emergency or safety issues at this time.  Issues can be logged online at Explore Somerset (roam.somerset.gov.uk/roam/map) or by contacting the National Park’s Ranger team. For up-to-date Rights of Way advice see: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/out-and-about-essentials.

SOMERSET WILDLIFE TRUST LAUNCHES #WILDLIFEWINDOW SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN TO LET WILDLIFE HELP OUR WELLBEING DURING SELF ISOLATION AND SOCIAL DISTANCING

Somerset Wildlife Trust has launched a social media campaign called #wildlifewindow across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to encourage people in Somerset to share the wildlife they see outside their windows and in their gardens, as well as share positive actions they are taking for nature while at home during the covid-19 outbreak.

With so many people now working from home, self-isolating or social distancing, the campaign #wildlifewindow aims to continue to get people to connect with nature and wildlife, even though it is currently more difficult to go outside, and demonstrate that their spaces, large or small, are homes to wildlife where they can make a difference. Somerset Wildlife Trust hopes this will help keep morale high, reduce feelings of isolation by allowing people to communicate with a community of other wildlife-lovers, and reduce the feelings of being ‘trapped’, bored or like they can’t do anything to help wildlife when indoors.

They want you use the hashtag #wildlifewindow across the social media channels in order to share what wildlife you can see out of your window whilst in isolation, or what you are doing for wildlife while at home or in your garden – whether that’s getting around to making that hole in your fence for hedgehogs or putting water out for the birds.

Head of Communications, Kirby Everett said, “Evidence shows that connecting with nature helps people feel happier and healthier, improving both physical and mental wellbeing. We hope that by encouraging people to enjoy and value the wildlife on their doorstep and through their window, the current distancing or isolation measures will be easier to withstand and may even create a great sense of community online in a difficult time. We also hope that it might lead to positive changes in terms of how people value of nature after isolation ends, and also drive more people to act for it at a time it needs us the most.”

As at 18th March (please check the Trust’s website for latest info) Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserves currently remain free and open to all and are excellent places to unwind with wildlife, get fresh air, clear your head and exercise away from any crowd, if you are not in government advised self-isolation. However, they do recommend you take sensible precautions, taking into account the health and safety of yourself and others if you do choose to enjoy the reserves during this time.

Somerset Wildlife Trust will be sharing the #wildlifewindow images and posts they receive, as well as hoping to share short videos, images and interesting wildlife facts to keep us all entertained. You can follow them on Facebook on Somerset Wildlife Trust, Twitter on @SomersetWT and Instagram on @somersetwt.

Photo by Ben Hall.

NEW SOLAR LITTER BIN TRIAL FOR NORTH DEVON

A smart bin is being trialled in North Devon in a bid to reduce littering in the district.

Barnstaple High Street is the first location for the solar-powered bin, which can take up to seven times more rubbish than a standard bin as the waste gets crushed and compacted several times a day, using only energy from the sun.

Even when it’s not a sunny day, infrared technology means that energy can be collected without direct sunlight so the bin will still work. The units are sealed to stop birds and vermin getting in and can be opened using a foot pedal or by the handle on the pull-down door. When the bin is full a sensor sends out an email, so that it can be emptied before it overflows.

North Devon Council’s Lead Member for Environment, Councillor Netti Pearson, says, “This trial is at a fairly low level with just one bin at present, but we will be monitoring its progress to see what difference it makes. We will place the bin in busy areas, and position it in tourist hotspots over Easter, to see how well it works.

“Smart bins bring many benefits, such as lower carbon emissions as they need to be emptied less often, so refuse collection trucks make fewer journeys. The advantages are clear – they cut down on littering, save time and money on collections, deter vermin and best of all they use renewable solar energy.”

Local ward member for Barnstaple Centre, Councillor Robbie Mack, says, “Barnstaple High Street gets a lot of traffic – and therefore a lot of rubbish! Currently, the bins here are emptied daily. A bin like this should mean less risk of overflowing and littering in the High Street, and we all want to see less litter. I’ll be interested to see the results of the trial.”

The bin will also be trialled in other locations in North Devon during the six-week trial, and if it proves successful more of them may be rolled out across the district.