Travel restrictions end Monday
Exmoor National Park expects 2021 will see large numbers of day visitors – with the pressure ‘particularly acute’ during the Easter holidays.
From Monday, the stay-at-home message from the government ends, but retail, hospitality and outdoor attractions won't open until 12 April at the earliest.
With families or groups of up to six people able to travel, the National Park expects people to travel from further afield than they would normally do starting from Easter.
A visitor management plan is being put in place to cope with the influx. In a report to the Exmoor National Park Authority, Rob Wilson-North, head of conservation and access, said: “This reality provides Exmoor with some great opportunities but will also require effective management to help ensure all visitors have a positive experience and that Exmoor’s special qualities are protected.
“During 2020, visitor numbers were unusually high, and there were significant numbers of people who had not visited Exmoor before. This, against the context of the pandemic, caused extra pressure on the ground here on Exmoor, though thankfully such dramatic scenes as those on Dartmoor, Snowdonia and the Lake District, did not occur.
“The combination of lockdowns, changing government guidance, good weather and new visitors meant that the pattern of visits to Exmoor and where people went, changed rapidly requiring a dynamic, reactive response.
“Exmoor’s approach was to close its National Park Centres, keep open its car parks and public facilities, with extra safety measures in place, and to double its weekend presence on the ground by redeploying staff."
Mr Wilson-North says they have tried to learn the lessons from 2020 and are building an approach that is fundamentally based on last year’s, but which builds in more resilience.
He added: “We anticipate that, without positive intervention, many people, particularly campers and motorhome users, may arrive without pre-booked accommodation, only to find that none is available, and we intend to use a website and social media presence, as well as leaflets, temporary signage and face to face engagement to manage these issues in 2021."
The park is currently progressing several options including recruiting a seasonal member of staff and using casual staff to support the core ranger team and will also consider using other staff who can be temporarily re-assigned to assist on the ground at peak times if required.
The core message of the plan is that Exmoor is here for everyone, help us keep it special, they are ready to welcome visitors and are working in partnership to manage the pressures and that we’re here to help so let’s work together.
Messaging will focus around asking visitors to plan their visit to Exmoor well in advance (and have a Plan B), to act responsibly and respectfully, and to be careful to leave no litter.