One of the area’s popular walking spots is Dersingham Bog. Picture: Ian Burt

People are being urged to use their “moral compass” when it comes to visiting West Norfolk beauty spots for exercise during the latest national lockdown.

 With debate in the national press and some confusion around what constitutes “staying local”, Superintendent Lou Provart this week said travel should be for essential journeys only.

Although beauty spots are open, he asked people to consider whether their journey was essential before heading out.

The officer, responsible for policing the West Norfolk and Breckland areas,  said people had a “moral obligation”  to exercise from their front door and not to travel further afield.

His advice follows a weekend in which Norfolk police officers fined 31 people for breaching Covid restrictions and gave out 96 warnings.

The fines were predominately issued at coastal areas to people mixing households and who had travelled some distance to exercise.

These included people who had travelled from Hertfordshire and Essex to Horsey to see the seals, six men in Great Yarmouth playing football on a recreation ground and a man who had five people from different households in his car.

The previous week, a Northamptonshire couple were fined after travelling 120 miles to see the seals at Horsey.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Julie Wvendth said: “We did see an increase in enforcement activity this weekend, particularly in our coastal areas.

“We are almost a year into this pandemic and the public are fully aware of what is expected of them and consequently our approach to enforcement must take this into account.

“We will always seek voluntary compliance in the first instance through our continued approach of engage, explain and encourage and every case will be assessed on its own merit. 

“However, where this interaction fails and people continue to ignore rules, we will be left with no other option but to use the powers available to us.

“The overwhelming majority of people in Norfolk are making great sacrifices to adhere to the regulations so it is only right that those who blatantly ignore them and risk the health of others are dealt with. 

“This includes people who travel into our county for non-essential purposes and in contravention of the guidance to stay at home or stay local.”

A force spokesman said dedicated daily Covid patrols would target town centres, coastal areas and beauty spots.

Supt Provart said the government guidance was to stay in your village, town or city and officers would be asking people whether their journey could be classed as “reasonable”.

“Take it as read and stay at home. The virus, at the moment, is at its most prevalent, our hospitals are under significant crisis, we are asking people to use their moral compass when it comes to visiting local beauty spots.

“Legally, you may be able to drive there, but we all have a moral obligation to play our part and do all we can to ensure this pandemic ends. Just stay local,” he said.

When asked if it was reasonable to travel from King’s Lynn to the coast for exercise, the police chief said exercise should “start and finish from your front door”.

“Open you eyes to what you have around you and appreciate your local walks,” he said, also urging cyclists to adhere to the “spirit” of the guidance and keep within their local area.

There have been calls nationally for the “stay local” rules on exercise to be made clearer and Prime Minister Boris Johnson was criticised this week for a seven-mile bike ride.

Outdoor spaces such as beaches, parks, forests and playgrounds remain open for exercise which can be with one other member outside your household, but must be for exercise and not socialising.

The guidance says travel if you have a reasonable excuse but stay local.

Covid infection rates nationally remain high and government advisors have warned of continued high numbers of  deaths in the fight against the virus as the vaccine continues to be rolled-out.

In West Norfolk, figures provided for January 13 for the previous seven days showed a slight fall in the number of people who tested positive for Covid to 692, a rolling rate of 471.  

For the same period, the number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test increased by 16 to 34.