To stem the rapid spread of Covid-19, Sligo County Council has decided to limit access to beaches and other amenities in the county.
An appeal has been issued to the public to adhere to these new measures to help stop the spread of the virus, and we are all asked to play our part to protect society and to follow these steps to help prevent the health services from becoming overwhelmed.
This does NOT mean that we cannot exercise, nor does it mean that we cannot walk. On the contrary, there is no change to the 5km limit that we have been asked to adhere to, so we can all exercise within that range of our homes, but in areas identified as having seen groups congregate, these restrictions will be in place for the coming weeks.
So what are we allowed to do. These are some of the questions we have all been asking, and, to the best of our abilities, we will try to answer some of them here. If any new information comes to our attention, we will update this on our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter.
- Can we still visit our local beach, if we live within 5km of it?
The straight answer to this is Yes. The public car parks at beaches like Rosses Point, Strandhill, Mullaghmore, Enniscrone and elsewhere are currently being blocked off and parking is not permitted at these locations. However, if you live within 5km of the beach, there are currently no limitations on you continuing to walk there. You may have to park (considerately) some distance away, but you can still walk the beach. However, people are reminded that under no circumstances can you visit a beach that is more than 5km away from where you live while the current restrictions apply.
- I live in town – is my local park open?
Currently, Yes, but this may change. The advice from Sligo County Council is not to visit your local park at peak times. In particular during the recent spell of dry weather, there has been a very significant surge in numbers using our public parks at Cleveragh, Doorly Park, Mitchell Curley Park, as well as elsewhere in the county. Not only are walkers using the parks, but runners and cyclists have also been availing of them, and keeping a safe social distance has become problematic. There have been examples of people congregating along the pathways, leading to restricted spaces for other members of the public to pass by. And since the public health advice is that people should remain a minimum of 2 metres from each other, this is very difficult to do on a path in a public park at a time of increased use. So, if you decide to use the park, do so at off-peak times like early morning or late afternoon, but the overall advice is to avoid parks while the incidence of spread of the disease remains high.
- Forests walks – are they still open?
Yes. Some restrictions are in place at Barnaribbon, also known as the Ben Bulben Forest Walk, because of narrow road access and limited parking. All of the other local forests remain open for now.
- Should I wear a mask while walking?
If you walk on any narrow access routes like footpaths, paths in parks or anywhere that you are likely to pass in close proximity to other members of the public, then the advice is Yes. But you don’t need to wear the mask all the time while getting your exercise. Once you get past areas where you are likely to come into close contact with people, you should be able to remove the mask. But we do advise you to keep your mask with you while you walk, and have it near to hand, so once you enter an area where access narrows, you can get your mask in place quickly without having to remember which pocket you put it into. Remember that you should only touch the mask’s elastic handles, not the face cloth itself, and the more you handle the mask by putting it on and taking it off, the likelier you are to spread germs, and which could heighten the chances of spreading the virus.
- How long will the current restrictions apply?
The Government will ultimately decide when national restrictions will be eased, and this will advise local decisions made in relation to the opening or closure of public spaces, but we can take it that we are looking at least until the end of January, and possibly further, before any easing of restrictions takes place. In the meantime, use common sense when walking. These restrictions in Sligo are being put in place to protect public health, so any minor inconvenience we encounter by not being able to visit our favourite place must be countered by the impact these decisions will have on the greater good of our communities and in helping those dealing with the disease in our hospital wards. So, let’s roll up our sleeves for the coming weeks – and maybe longer – and hopefully by the time the restrictions are eased, the vaccine will be much more widely available, and we can finally see the graph turn back again in our favour.
Some walking tips to help during the pandemic.
• Walk only within 5km of your home.
• Walk at an ‘off-peak’ time of day when you are less likely to meet other walkers, like early in the morning or late afternoon.
• Choose a number of walks – looped or linear, and vary these, a different walk every day will help maintain interest in what you see.
• Walk alone, or with members of your bubble.
• If you have a pet, ensure that it is kept on a lead – and clean up after it!
• Wear a high vis top. It’s still dark, in particular in the mornings and evenings, so stay visible, especially along country roads. A head torch is also a good idea and will draw the motorist’s attention.
• During the cold snap, wrap up well. As it’s only 5km, you shouldn’t need a back pack, but ensure you have enough layers to stay warm. A brisk walk will also help with getting the circulation going, which will help aerobically.
• Try to get out for 30 minutes every day, even when you don’t feel like it or the weather is inclement. Your head and your heart will thank you for it. We must try to stay positive during these challenging times, our mental health must be protected as much as our physical health, and it’s a fact that exercise helps on both fronts.
If you have any questions or comments for the Sligo Walks team, please feel free to connect with us via our social media platforms, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.