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Latest Update on Covid19 Virus and Walking Holidays - Updated July 20th

 

July 20th - Updated Information for Customers Walking in the UK

 

'Uk eases lockdown restrictions & Walking Holidays resume from 1st August'

We hope this latest update finds you, your families and your communities well. We send our best wishes to you all from here in Cornwall as we head back towards normality across the UK. England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are now removing Covid-19 restrictions independently of each other but all sharing the general trend of allowing hotels, B&B's and inns to open up during July, provided they follow government regulations to protect staff and visitors from infection.

 Quick Links

Latest Update and Statement 29th June 2020

Keeping in touch with Encounter Walking Holidays

Should I walk this year or next year?

What will be different on a Walking Holiday this summer?

New Quotes and Bookings for 2020 and 2021 season

Official Advice and Updates on travel to and within the UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Showery Tor Cornwall

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Latest News on Walking Holidays and Covid-19 - 

It's with relief that we can confirm that Covid-19 rates across the UK continue to drop and are now at low levels. Throughout the UK shops and high streets have re-opened. For overseas walkers restrictions on quarantine on arrival have now been removed for the majority of countries. The official position from the UK Government is on this link but be aware that it changes all the time

There are no restrictions at all on local footpaths and National Trails where the space and freedom feels great after months of lockdown - we know because we have been out walking them! Holiday accommodation in SW England reopened to visitors on 4th July and this includes inns, hotels, B&B's and campsites. There are some changes on how these operate which you can read about below but anyone who wants to walk here will be able to as long as they are flexible about the accommodation and facilities in the overnight stops. Restaurants, cafes and pubs are all able to open with some restrictions in place so they may not be as full as usual but they are open

Planning the walk

We are starting to run walking holidays again from August 1st - we delayed by 3 weeks to give accommodation time to adjust to reopening and so that any issues could be resolved before our walkers arrive. We are busy providing quotes and taking new bookings for walking holidays from August onwards and August and early September are already getting very full due to a big increase in enquiries from walkers who want to get out after being in lockdown.

Keeping in touch with Encounter Walking Holidays at this time  -

As advised by the Government most of our staff are still working remotely at home to avoid any chance of spreading the virus to each other and as such we are only just re-opening the office phones lines on July 20th. We have 2 or 3 staff back in our office now so you should be able to speak to us Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4.30pm on the main office number 01208 871066.  It is still helpful though if you can email questions to us in the first instance on info@encounterwalkingholidays.com

Please be assured that from August our Out-of- Hours Emergency Messaging Service will also be staffed 24 hours a day as usual for when walkers are on holiday with us.

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 Should I walk this year - or wait until next year ?

Map on a cliff Many of you will be wondering if you should re-book your walking holiday for August to November 2020 or wait until 2021 - the following information is provided to try and help you make the right decision. You can read the official latest Government information on the virus and restrictions on this link www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-action-plan 

However the real question you should be asking is 'what will a walking holiday be like in 2020' and most importantly 'will I enjoy it ?'

Our Summary - Your walking adventures on the trails will continue as they always have done and when walking it will feel like you are a world away from Covid-19. However, overnight accommodation and facilities will have some restrictions and changes (you can read about them in detail below).

Those of us involved in supporting tourism and walkers are very keen to see people return to share our beautiful spaces but we all know we have a duty to you and to those who live here to protect everyone as far as possible against the dangers of Covid-19. 

Our areas in the South West and Wales have thankfully been the least affected by the virus so you are not going to be on holiday in areas that have had high numbers of people affected but remember you will often have to travel here often through larger cities such as London which have seen higher exposure but are now deemed to be under control.

Golden CapCome and Visit us if -  you are keen to get out into nature on the trails. If you are able to adapt to any changes which may be needed to keep your holiday on track such as a change in accommodation.  If staying in hotels and pubs with some restrictions does not worry you as long as you can get to eat, drink and relax. If you consider yourself a tolerant and flexible person with a wanderlust to travel and explore... whatever the historical context...then go for it !  You will find you get that experience walking the trails that you signed up for and you will find a welcome at night from people who respect the need to keep you healthy, happy and on track with your adventure.

Consider postponing till next season if -   you are nervous or frightened by the presence of Covid-19 in Europe. If you find taking precautions and observing restrictions upsetting, annoying or just tiring. If you are more inspired by the accommodation, attractions and restaurants than the walking or scenery. If having less contact with owners and proprieters or having to change planned accommodation at short notice would upset you. If so, then there is nothing wrong with deciding to postpone until next year when things will be easier. We understand that walking holidays are not cheap so you will want to get the best experience you can. For 2021, we all hope that Covid-19 is no longer such an issue and we would encourage you to wait for the experience you want if you are not comfortable with the potential for disruption this season.

What charges are there if I postpone the walk due to Covid-19?  If you decide you do not want to take up your walking holiday because of issues related to the virus then you would normally lose your non-refundable deposit and have to try and reclaim that from your insurance. However we recognise these are really difficult times for travellers and insurance companies are being less than helpful. So, if you cancel at the point your balance payment is due (4 weeks before arrival), you can move your holiday to a date later this year or next year. There is a £50 per person re-booking fee which covers us for the time we have already spent on the original booking and on un-booking and then re-booking with new dates for your accommodation. This charge also helps to offset any costs we incur with the accommodation from your cancellation.  This is a far better solution for you that losing a full 25% deposit and it allows you to be flexible and most importantly to make the right decision about when to walk based on the experience rather than financial loss.

What actual issues will there be for walking in 2020 ?

A short video from Visit Cornwall to help explain some of the issues-

Exmoor Coast PathThe Trails - First the good news - you can expect the trails to be as stunning as ever and if anything quieter than usual. Annoyingly we had great weather during lockdown but because of that the trails are in great condition underfoot, have been walked continuously by local residents and are now being managed and maintained as usual by the local authorities and their partners.  You can expect to find all the usual feelings of peace, space and freedom. Social distancing is no problem when walking - when you meet someone coming the other way if the path is a bit narrow one of you will step off to the side, say hi and you can safely pass each other.

Gates and stiles do mean you touch things other walkers have ahead of you, it's now accepted the virus does not live long in the outdoors but having hand sanitiser or gloves are options if you are concerned. Most of us walking tend to just make sure we wash hands or sanitise before starting and once ending the walk to avoid the small chance of any cross-contamination from gates on the route. Public toilets are re-opening and the Government guidelines are that these are kept clean for users protection, as usual most people will tend to use the toilets in cafes, restaurants and pubs that they visit. Public toilets are being opened by the local authorities in the main towns as well but this is taking longer than for private venues so we do advise bringing hand sanitiser with you and using it when entering and exiting facilities. As time passes the scientific wisdom seems to be that its much harder to pick up the virus outdoors and as such walking on what are already remote trails is a very safe activity.

Fern Pit CafeEating and Drinking Take-away cafes and kiosks have been open for some time now on particularly in the coastal path regions and from early July all pubs, restaurants and cafes have been encouraged to reopen.  Things are a bit different - those using sit-down cafes, pubs and restaurants will need to give their name and contact number on arrival. Seating arrangements will be set up so there is at least 1m and preferably 2 metres between customers and from the end of July we are asked to wear face masks when shopping. 

We finally have been able to enjoy the table service from pubs that continental Europe has had and for now the very British occupation of queuing four deep at the bar is outlawed.  Many places will expect you to use a credit or debit card, ideally using "contactless" payment, rather than cash.

You will want to check ahead if you are relying on a particular place but we are providing the details and phone numbers in your itinerary for options during your walking day. We will make sure you have the email contact for every nights accommodation and information about booking evening meals where you are staying. Where these are not provided (such as in a B&B) we are asking your hosts in advance to give us information about the local alternatives they recommend so you can book ahead if advised to.

You will need to keep to social distance rules when using their services, currently these are that you stay at least 1 metre away from anyone else you are not travelling with and if possible 2 metres. Either way, eating and drinking places are all working on their social distancing rules and moving tables to make sure you are kept as safe as possible.  Public toilets are re-opening at last but these are more of an issue to manage so we do advise bringing hand sanitiser with you and using it when entering and exiting facilities.

Museums and attractions -  These are all preparing to open up from July onwards some with restricted days of opening, some you may need to book online in advance so that the numbers of visitors are kept at the right level. We include all the contact details and website addresses for the main attractions and Museums on your routes so you can arrange this in advance.

All are required to undertake a risk assessment to minimise any Covid-19 issues.  You are likely to find one way systems, markers for social distancing, contactless card payments rather than cash and lots of sanitiser points which you will be encouraged to use.

Bus Info Transport and Taxis  -  Local transport has been running since June here with trains and buses initially reserved for key workers but now being opened for use by anyone who does not have the use of a car. You will find trains and buses are quieter than normal as there will be restrictions on the number of passengers so that there is better social distancing between passengers. It's important to book tickets in advance for trains but this has always been the case as it's a lot cheaper as well.

Currently it's a requirement that we should wear a mask when using public transport so make sure you bring one though you can buy them in the shops here if you forget.  Taxis are allowed to operate but may ask you to sit in the back to distance as much as possible and put your own luggage in and out of the taxi.

We provide taxi numbers with our itineraries and will review these when issuing your walking itineraries.  We will be checking on ferries if you are on the coast path to make sure these are running and if not, we will advise how to continue without them. Note that, as with any public transport, ferries will expect you to wear a mask whilst on board. Email us if you want an update on any travel issues.

Luggage Transfers SWLuggage Transfers  - These are ready to start again from 4th July. The only difference here is that the drivers will use sanitiser spray on the handles of your luggage to avoid any chance of cross contamination as they move them so you may notice the handle feels a bit damp if it's just been dropped off.

Accommodation providers this year will store your luggage at reception rather than take it to your room, again to minimise the numbers of people touching your luggage and to avoid having the luggage transfer staff coming into the premises when they don't need to.

Clearly, getting a ride with the luggage transfer vehicle is not possible at this time but you can take a taxi and we provide options each day.

Female WalkersAccommodation  - The main change is with your hotels, inns and B&B's. These are all required to undertake a risk assessment to make sure they have measures in place to keep their guests and themselves as safe as possible. Everyone is keen to get back to what they do best which is looking after their guests and a lot of thought and planning is going into making sure that there is as little disruption as possible whilst balancing that with keeping you and others safe. Most accommodation providers are providing information on their websites on how they are protecting you and their staff. What is done will depend on the type of accomomdation and the shared spaces it has but the following is an idea of things you will notice in many places.

Expect some of the following - Reduced numbers of guests meaning less rooms available - Markings for one-way systems in areas of the building which are narrow - Contactless "card" payments rather than cash - Later check in times and earlier departure times to allow for more cleaning time between guests - No daily "maid room service" instead room service items left outside your room -  No "help yourself buffet" breakfasts, instead order the night before - Staggered times for meals to avoid crowding in dining rooms - Swimming pools, spas and shared areas like lounges may remain closed - More options for eating in other areas such as your room, outside on a terrace or patio - No escorting on arrival to your rooms and you will need to collect and return your luggage to/from reception - Plenty of hand sanitisers and a lot of cleaning going on!

Insurance  - This has been a thorny issue all round the world as many companies advised they would not insure against Coronavirus as it was not a "named" disease. The main issues are if you bought your insurance before March you will generally find that you are covered.  If you bought insurance after March its likely to rule out any claims under Coronavirus from cancellation or disruption but still allow cover for medical issues if you contract the disease on your holiday. The better policies will also include cover for Coronavirus if you contract it before just before you are due to travel but this is less common - the main thing to do is check. Do buy insurance even if Coronavirus is not covered, all your other potential medical issues will be (twisting an ankle on the path), luggage insurance, cancellation for other reasons etc. It is a requirement that you have insurance for your holiday to cover you if you have to cancel suddenly - we realise this is difficult when Covid-19 is the issue but its still important to insure yourself for everything else as normal. 

We all hope by 2021 we will be in a situation where Covid-19 infections are either a thing of the past or managed by vaccination rather than isolation.

What do us walkers need to do?

Not much that you are not already doing in your own homes. First of all enjoy yourselves of course, celebrate finding the freedom and space of the great outdoors which we have been denied for so long!  Be mindful and respectful of the accommodation providers who after having a very difficult time earlier in the year now need to do more work than usual to keep you all safe. Make sure you follow their instructions and observe their social distancing rules so your hosts do not feel you are putting them and other guests at risk.

Be patient and tolerant when you arrive off the path into places with other people and understand that things are returning to normal but with some new social rules. Whilst our accommodations in general have not asked for guests to wear masks it is required on public transport and in shops and it's always possible rules may change. For that reason please make sure you bring some masks with you whilst Covid-19 is still an issue.

Hand WashingBe aware of your own health, if you feel unwell before your holiday do not come. You may be asked at some accommodation to sign a short statement to confirm you have not had any symptoms when you arrive to check in. Of course we hope no-one gets the virus whilst here but if you become ill with mild Coronavirus symptons you will be asked to check out and return to your home base if you are well enough to do so. You should contact your insurance company to see if they will assist you in the first instance and let us know about the situation at Encounter Walking Holidays.  If you are too ill to travel then the local authority will be informed and they will assist with the situation and you may be moved to recover in their isolation accommodation. In the event of you being seriously ill, remember in the NHS we have one of the best healthcare providers in the world with none of the barriers to treatment that some other countries have - all will be treated the same here whether its a minor issue or something worse.

Wales Coast PathObserve the current social distance rules and any requests from your accommodation and food and drink providers. Wash hands and use sanitiser frequently and make sure you avoid coughing or sneezing over others.  These are all things we realise you will already have been practicing in your own areas or countries - so please continue here.

Lastly make the most of your walk and that fact that once again we are able to enter these wild spaces whenever we want to escape the bustle of the modern world and perhaps also hold a thought for those who are unable to join you ...for whatever reason.

New Quotes and Enquiries for later this year and 2021 season - NOW is the time to start your planning !

Cadair Idris After months of rather soul-destroying work cancelling walks and holidays, we are all delighted at Encounter Walking Holidays to be back to our normal duties now planning, quoting and booking walking holidays for later this Summer and Autumn and for next year, 2021. There is a lot of interest in the UK for walking holidays in late summer and autumn.  So if you are planning to get a break from the stifling world of virus lockdown then send in your quote request now. We will work on a plan with you, get a quote drawn up and then you will be in a position to move fast to book once you decide you want to walk. Use the enquiry form on this link to tell us what you want to walk and when and you can put down any questions or queries you have for us to answer.      

For 2021 we have talked to all our accommodation providers and are pleased to announce we have opening bookings 2 months early for next season (2021). We have a large number of loyal customers who have asked us to move their cancelled walks from this year over to next year and we are  busy re-booking these along with new requests and enquiries for 2021.  So once again send in a Quote Reqest Form and we can help plan and start the process for a personalised walking holiday quote.

If you don't know where to walk use our interactive map to view the options by clicking here or email us for ideas telling us what sort of things would be in your ideal walking holiday.

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Official Advice on Travel to the UK and where to get it

Keep an eye on the advice from your home country for up to date advice on issues in the UK or contact us for an update on the local situation here.

You will find the latest official advice from your Government on travel and staying healthy on these websites.

UK -  www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

USA - www.travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/UnitedKingdom.html

Canada www.travel.gc.ca/destinations/united-kingdom

Australia - www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/europe/united-kingdom

If you want more up to date information about what the UK Government is currently doing to deal with the virus this can be found on this link. This is updated regularly and is the "official" UK position - www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-action-plan  

You can contact us at any point if you want to know the latest local situation in the walking regions or have any worries or questions about your forthcoming holiday - email us on info@encounterwalkingholidays.com

Once in the UK, we advise walkers keep up to date with national news programmes and follow local advice. We will be ready to help you once you have started your holiday if any restrictions prevent your holiday running as planned and we will take responsibility to help you through any issues that arise.

Finally all of us at Encounter Walking want to thank all those in the NHS and other organisations who have selflessly put themselves in danger to look after the rest of us.

Covid 19Love the NHS sheep

 

 

 

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Quick Links

Latest Situation in the UK www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-action-plan 

South West Coast Path Association information on Walking the Coast Path www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/newsapp/article/347/