What can you do in Kent from March 29 and what does 'stay local' mean after lockdown?

From Monday the government's order to 'stay at home' will end and be replaced with a new message to 'stay local'.

With Easter and the school holidays on the horizon, we look at the new rules coming into force and what they mean families in Kent can and can't do in the next two weeks:

The government's stay at home message is being replaced with 'stay local'
The government's stay at home message is being replaced with 'stay local'

Meeting family and friends

From March 29, to coincide with the break up of schools for the Easter holidays, outdoor gatherings will be permitted. This will include groups being able to meet in private gardens.

They must be limited to either six people, known as 'the rule of 6', or people from two households, which will make it easier for friends and larger families with multiple children to be able to meet outside.

Children will count towards the 'rule of 6' but if two households are meeting and the numbers belonging to those two households increases the gathering to more than six people, this is within the rules. All limits around social distancing and physical contact remain in place however and going indoors is still not yet allowed.

Those who are in a support bubble will continue to count as one household, enabling you to meet with one other household from Monday outside.

But families must also play close attention to other restrictions that remain in place when making arrangements to meet others including limits on travel and overnight stays.

Families will be able to ditch the zoom calls in favour of outdoor meetings from March 29
Families will be able to ditch the zoom calls in favour of outdoor meetings from March 29

Kent Police, which has issued 2,588 fixed penalty notices for a breach of the rules since the first lockdown began last March, says it is crucial people stick to each stage of the guidance as things change. Assistant Chief Constable Claire Nix said: "The Government has made it clear that we must take cautious steps out of lockdown and although being able to meet and hug our family and friends is just on the horizon, we are not out of the woods yet so it is important we follow the planned steps carefully and safely.

"Next week, as of Monday 29 March 2021, gatherings of up to six people or two households are due to return outdoors and in private gardens. Outdoor sports facilities will reopen too.

"As we approach this milestone combined with the warmer weather, it is important we remain focussed and don’t become complacent to the rules. The Government’s roadmap applies to everyone and should be followed, it is the key for us all to get back to a normal way of life and we seek everyone’s support in continuing to follow the rules."

Six people from different households or more than six from just two households, will be able to meet outside from March 29
Six people from different households or more than six from just two households, will be able to meet outside from March 29

Travel

The current ‘stay at home’ order will end on March 29, which is being heralded as one of the biggest changes to the current lockdown.

Government guidance states that people should still continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible. People who do travel are also asked to avoid the busiest times and routes.

Restrictions to limit people's movement do remain in place however including campsites and self contained holiday lets remaining closed until at least April 12.

Holidays abroad also now banned, with fines of £5,000 for anyone caught in breach. Exemptions to this travel ban are there for work, study, moving house or attending a major family event such as a funeral.

Fresh guidance from Monday will instead be for families to minimise their travel or 'stay local' until the next round of restriction are eased, which will be no earlier than April 12.

Families will no longer be asked to 'stay at home' but what does it mean to 'stay local'?
Families will no longer be asked to 'stay at home' but what does it mean to 'stay local'?

What does 'stay local' really mean?

The government has not yet issued any advice or indicated exactly what it means to remain 'local'.

In Wales, the guidance has been for people to stay within a five mile radius of their home, in Northern Ireland it's 10 miles for exercise and in Scotland outdoor socialising, recreation and exercise can start and finish at a place in your local authority area or up to five miles from its boundary.

But no such limit in terms of distance has yet been issued for households in England by the government.

When asked how Kent Police would be enforcing these changes, the force explained the 'stay local' advice was a government directive and directed our inquiry to the Home Office for additional clarification.

The government message is that people should 'continue to minimise travel wherever possible' after March 29, which is contained in its published routemap out of lockdown available to read here.

Tourist attractions like those owned and run by English Heritage are asking families to only make local visits until April 12
Tourist attractions like those owned and run by English Heritage are asking families to only make local visits until April 12

With the four-day bank holiday and Easter school break days away, attractions in Kent that are reopening from March 29 - such as English Heritage's Dover Castle - are asking people to only make 'local visits' to their sites until restrictions are eased further next month.

A spokesman for English Heritage explained: "The government is asking everyone to minimise travel until April 12, so until that date we expect our sites to be visited by locals only.

"We do have Easter Activities running at some of our sites during the school holidays, a fun trail-led quest with a chocolate prize at the end, which allows families with children to enjoy a bit of outdoor Easter fun in a safe way, which remains compliant with the regulations.

"From April 12, as non-essential retail and other hospitality venues are able to open, we are expecting visits from those outside of the immediate local area. However we always recommend that anyone thinking of visiting an English Heritage site checks the latest advice before they travel." Scroll down for more details on what is reopening in Kent from March 29.

Tennis courts and organised outdoor sport will also resume
Tennis courts and organised outdoor sport will also resume

Sports and other activities

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to reopen from March 29.

Adults and children will also be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.

Parent groups will also be allowed to meet outside for the first time this year, with a limit of up to 15 parents. Children have not been included in the numbers when it comes to restrictions on these types of groups meeting outdoors.

Go Ape is reopening from March 29
Go Ape is reopening from March 29

What is opening in Kent?

From March 29 a number of attractions and facilities in Kent, which have stayed closed through this current lockdown, will finally reopen.

Watersports centres are amongst those given the go-ahead to welcome back visitors again and sites in Canterbury, Halling and Maidstone's Mote Park are amongst those which have opened booking lines for activities such as paddleboarding and kayaking.

Dover Castle has also opened its booking site to allow families to pre-book their visit for the Easter holidays whilst Go Ape centres at Leeds Castle and at Bedgebury Pinetum will begin opening their treetop activity courses from March 29. Further details on booking your visit is available here.

Some Easter holiday camps to ease the pressure on working parents and help boost children's confidence and social skills are also permitted to run through the school break.

Other attractions including Diggerland in Medway and the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch light railway are getting ready to open from April 12 when it is hoped restrictions will be loosened again to allow for further travel. Tickets for these dates however are already available to book and families should not delay if they wish to make arrangements to visit.

Leeds Castle, Hever Castle and National Trust sites will also continue to welcome pre-booked visitors, as they have done throughout lockdown, in line with the latest government guidance.

National Trust properties in Kent are welcoming pre-booked visitors during Easter
National Trust properties in Kent are welcoming pre-booked visitors during Easter

A spokesman for Kent's National Trust region said: "In line with government guidelines, we're delighted that we'll be able to welcome visitors over the Easter holidays and into spring. In Kent, we will be running Easter trails from March 29 while stocks last.

"We ask that anyone planning a visit, does so within their local area and would remind people that property tickets must be booked in advance via nationaltrust.org.uk. The best thing is to check local property pages for up-to-date information before visiting."

To read the government's full routemap out of lockdown this spring please click here.

Read more news from across Kent here.

For more family-related news and events happening across Easter visit www.mykentfamily.co.uk

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