Enjoy Oxford’s great outdoors – but do so safe safely and considerately

Published: Tuesday, 19th May 2020

Get out and take exercise, but do so safely and with consideration for others is Oxford City Council’s message to those looking to enjoy time outdoors.

Government advice is that the public should continue to spend as much time at home as possible, to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. 

However, unlimited exercise is now permitted and after weeks of restrictions, together with a scorching weather forecast, it is anticipated that more people will get out and enjoy Oxford’s many fantastic open spaces.  Oxford City Council has been working hard to ensure facilities are available, but with safety paramount.

What facilities are open?

The city’s parks, nature sites, waterways and network of bicycle routes are open for all.

Wimbledon may be cancelled, but the council’s outdoor tennis courts have reopened. Outdoor basketball courts, multi-use games areas and outdoor table tennis are available – if played with members of your household or one other, maintaining 2m social distance.  Toilets facilities in the main parks have reopened, with regular cleaning taking place.

Outdoor gym equipment and children’s play areas remain closed due to the risk of surface contamination.  Leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools also remain closed.

The council and its partners, including the emergency services, stress that safety and prevention of the spread of the virus must still be the highest priority for all.

What to be aware of when exercising outdoors?

When exercising outdoors, the public are urged to think carefully about where to exercise and the routes they take. The city’s parks and open spaces, including places such as Shotover or Port Meadow are excellent places to exercise, where there is plenty of room to maintain distance. However, narrow areas – particularly some parts of the canal and river towpaths – make it very difficult to maintain 2m distance, so consider alternative routes.

Avoid handling gates and railings where possible, or use a sleeve. Avoid touching your face and wash your hands after exercise.

Care and consideration for others is important; slowing down, allowing room for people to pass and being considerate of those also trying to use the space or who live nearby.

While watersports such as canoeing and paddle-boarding are allowed on the canal and river, wild swimming remains a concern. Despite warm weather, water temperatures remain cold and can cause shock.  Hidden hazards can cause fatal injuries. Remember the Wild Water Code, don’t put yourself at risk or create unnecessary pressure on the emergency services.

“Exercise and time spent outdoors is essential for our mental and physical wellbeing and never more so than during this stressful time.

“We have fantastic outdoor spaces in Oxford and we want people to enjoy them. Take your time to explore our award-winning parks, open spaces, waterways and nature sites. We’ve opened up leisure and sports facilities wherever we can.

“With fewer cars and improved air quality, there has never been a better time to enjoy cycling, with so much to explore in the city and surrounding countryside.

“But there remains a very simple message: Enjoy your exercise safely, maintain your distance and be considerate of others.”

Councillor Louise Upton, Oxford City Council’s Cabinet Member for Healthy Oxford

The government coronavirus website contains further guidance on the phased return of sport and leisure activity and on social distancing rules.