By Philip Clegg.

Maybe! At the time of writing there are no restrictions being placed on accessing the hills and mountains of the UK. We’re all aware of the health benefits of walking, but we need to tread carefully.

Many of us will be going through a period of significant stress and having the opportunity for some open space, fresh air and natural beauty combined with physical exercise will do us the world of good. Caring for our mental and physical wellbeing is critical. The National Trust, for example, recognises the importance of this and has announced that their land is open and free for everyone to use.

Before heading out, though, take a moment to consider the risks and do what you can to minimise them. The NHS and emergency services are very stretched and Mountain Rescue cover may become much reduced (particularly with many team members having jobs in health care) so this is not the time to be pushing yourself to your limits. Spreading the virus to rural communities is also a significant consideration.

Here are some tips to keep yourself and others safe and to limit the likelihood of needing the emergency services:

• Abide by all government guidance and protocols on hygiene, social distancing and isolation.
• Keep your walks to areas you know well and which have minimal hazards: leave your first experimentation with rock scrambling or remote wild camping for another day.
• Limit unnecessary travel and walk closer to home where possible.
• Carry the necessary equipment to look after yourself: food, water, warm and waterproof clothing, map and compass, mobile phone etc.
• Tell someone where you are going, when you are coming back and let them know when you return.

Please don’t get stressed about going for a walk – that would rather defeat the point! Just take some sensible precautions and then enjoy, relax and breathe in the fresh air.

Later in the year we’ll be running navigation and hill skills courses in the hills of mid-Wales. You can join us here.

UPDATE – 23/3/20

This weekend has seen public crowding at parks, coastal areas, car parks and honeypot sites in the hills and mountains greatly putting at risk effective social distancing. The National Trust has now closed its parks and gardens and the government is issuing strong warnings about crowding in public spaces. It is very likely that the authorities will adopt much more stringent measures to enforce social distancing if people continue to congregate together.

If we are to continue enjoying access to the countryside we will need to be much more careful how we choose to climb our hills and mountains. There is plenty of upland to walk in and we’ll need to reduce the pressure on the iconic peaks such as Pen Y Fan or Snowdon. Go out at quieter times, avoid busy car parks and trails and don’t walk in groups.