The closure of the visitor car parks serving the Mortimer Forest has been contentious from the outset. Forestry England has stood firm on this restriction despite protests from local people and myself. We did not accept that restricting access to a huge area of forest walking made any sense during a lockdown during which people were encouraged to exercise. Social distancing is the norm in the Mortimer Forest in the best of weathers. But the car parks were closed.
After Boris Johnson’s address to the nation tonight, we must now quickly reopen the huge recreational area of the Mortimer Forest. We need it to promote the physical and mental health of everyone who lives in south Shropshire and north Herefordshire. I have written to Forestry England asking for the car parks to reopened from Wednesday.
To Holly Pretious, Marketing and Communications Officer, West England Forest District, Forestry England; and Sara Pearce, Community Ranger, Marches Beat, Forestry England
Reopening Mortimer Forest car parks
Dear Holly and Sara
There has been a lot of lively debate in recent weeks over the closure of the car parks that serve Mortimer Forest.
To summarise. I hope not unfairly. Your position has been that you need to follow central government guidelines. The rules that apply to forests in Suffolk must also apply to forests in Sussex and in Shropshire.
Our position in Ludlow has been that given our low population density and the collapse of the visitor economy, the natural way we are socially distanced in the Mortimer Forest would be maintained in all current circumstances.
Our primary concern has been to maintain access to the Forest for local people with reduced walking abilities. It is a steep walk from the Teme up into the Forest and many Ludlow residents cannot easily walk though the paths of the Whitcliffe, which has large steps in many places. Residents can drive for two or three miles, park and then walk on less demanding slopes into the forest. In the freshness of the forest and away from the awkwardness of social distancing on the streets of Ludlow. This option has been denied during the lockdown.
The Prime Minister’s statement tonight has made it even more clear that people will allowed to get into their car to drive for exercise from Wednesday. Social distancing and keeping in family groups will apply. But travelling to exercise is now allowed, even encouraged.
I hope in the light of Boris Johnson’s statement, I hope you will reopen the car parks at Mortimer Forest by Wednesday.
The Mortimer Forest is an important community asset for Ludlow and north Herefordshire as well as being one of the most important wildlife resources in the Marches.
In these challenging times, we need to make as much use of it as we can.
Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow North