Coronavirus crisis: Car park closed at Heartwood Forest in Sandridge after social distancing breaches

PUBLISHED: 13:10 27 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:10 27 March 2020

Crowds at Heartwood Forest in Sandridge.

Crowds at Heartwood Forest in Sandridge.

Archant

The car park at Sandridge’s Heartwood Forest has been closed to stop people flouting the social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus crisis.

Crowds at Heartwood Forest in Sandridge.Crowds at Heartwood Forest in Sandridge.

Families have been flocking to the popular tourist destination, taking advantage of the spring sunshine during the government lockdown.

At times over the last few weeks so many vehicles have descended upon the site that owners the Woodland Trust were forced to open an overflow car park.

Although the National Trust has closed its parks and gardens across the UK, the Woodland Trust is keeping its own sites open during the pandemic.

But following concerns about congesting crowds, the car park at Heartwood Forest has now been closed.

Crowds at Heartwood Forest in Sandridge.Crowds at Heartwood Forest in Sandridge.

Woodland Trust chief executive Darren Moorcroft said: ‘Woodland Trust sites remain accessible to the public in line with Government advice, that physical and mental health benefits of being able to be outside safely is something they recognise as a positive thing.

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“However, we continue to urge all visitors to maintain social distancing, and are aware that some of our larger more popular sites attracted a large numbers of visitors this weekend. To help manage this we have closed the car park at Heartwood Forest until further notice. We advise that people carry out recreational activities as locally as possible.

“We will keep the access to our sites under constant review and in line with Government advice.”

Crowds at Heartwood Forest in Sandridge.Crowds at Heartwood Forest in Sandridge.

But some Sandridge residents believe closing the car park will put villagers at risk of infection.

Karen Jackson asked: “What is Woodland Trust going to do to protect the village from hordes of people parking up in the village; walking through the village and putting residents at increased risk (many of them elderly) and preventing them from being able to safely step outside for fresh air due to many people milling around?

“Closing the car park alone causes a bigger knock on problem - it’s a knee jerk reaction for which the wider implications have not been thought through thoroughly. In effect it encourages people to park up in the village and surrounding areas which is irresponsible at best and will be a nightmare for service vehicles, ambulances, delivery vehicles etc as well as residents.

“The Woodland Trust should either shut down their permissive routes completely or re-open the car parks to avoid a huge negative impact on the village at an already difficult and worrying time!

“It’s far from ideal, at least with a crowded car park in the middle of Heartwood, but everyone who is there has made a conscious and informed choice about being there and being exposed to crowds of people. Local residents should not be placed in danger – either close Heartwood completely OR re-open the car park.”


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