Easter visitors are being urged to avoid a traditional North West visitor hotspot this Easter and take their festivities online instead.
Good Friday traditionally sees tens of thousands of people, mostly families, visit Rivington Pike, a popular landmark situated between Chorley and Bolton, for an Easter Fair.
But this year, amid fears the age-old tradition could make social distancing impossible in a time of coronavirus, landowners, councils, police and charities are urging people to stay away.
The aim is to protect people and their communities from the risk of spreading the potentially lethal disease. Because of the potential numbers, even taking a walk would be too risky that day, they say.
Instead, organisations are promoting a virtual Rivington Fair, with people encouraged to share, tweet and post their pictures of a Rivington-inspired home or garden party (respecting the lockdown restrictions) using the hashtag #RivEGGton.
And if they tag Rivington Terraced Gardens they could be in with the chance of winning a free family ticket to a future event there.
Rivington Heritage Trust’s Vanessa Ashworth said the idea of the competition was to help manage the inevitable disappointment that many local families were bound to feel.
“This has been an annual event for longer than many people could remember and families will have it in their calendar, especially in nearby communities like Adlington, Heath Charnock, Chorley and Horwich. We’re saying that, just for this year, it’s not worth the risk, even for a walk. Go online instead and keep the tradition alive until it bounces back, better than ever in 2021.
“We want everyone who loves Rivington’s Easter Fair to re-imagine the Pike festivities in their own way, making sure they stay within the confines of their own homes and gardens, with just the people in their household. Apart from the need to respect the lockdown restrictions, just about anything else goes; paint a backdrop of the Pike, build a model, have a picnic, roll an egg down your stairs – anything your imagination allows,” she said.
Police, councils and landowner United Utilities have given their blessing to the competition in a bid to encourage people to steer clear and stay safe. United Utilities also reminded people that the usual access points and car parks, as well as toilets, are all currently closed and that there will be none of the usual fairground attractions or food stalls.
United Utilities’ director responsible for health and safety and estate management, Paula Steer, urged people to avoid visiting Rivington altogether this Good Friday, amid fears that, even on paths, the possibility of social distancing would be impossible.
“It’s incredibly sad, but the risk of COVID 19 transmission means that heading to Rivington this year just would not be safe. This will be incredibly disappointing news to many, but we hope they will understand why.”
Superintendent Karen Edwards, of Lancashire Police’s Chorley and Preston division, said, in the run up to the Easter weekend, officers had had some issues with people coming from out of the area, to visit rural areas in Lancashire, which was not in the spirit of the legislation, and reminded people to follow government advice.
“I want to support the local community around places such as Rivington and beauty spots and urge people to make themselves aware of government information relating to the National Emergency. It is everyone’s responsibility to do all they can to keep themselves safe but also others.
“If excessive numbers of people visit rural areas it is impossible to maintain social distancing. This increases the risk of infection, in particular to vulnerable people in our communities. We are working hard with our communities and partners to help people understand the rules and guidelines and why they are important. We thank everyone who has complied with the legislation so far, you have saved lives and helped the NHS cope with this public health crisis. We really view enforcement as a last resort, however it may be necessary if people don’t adhere to government advice and stay home and stay local..
“We have additional officers on duty this weekend and we will be patrolling those spaces where we anticipate social distancing will not be adhered to, this includes open spaces, rural locations and parks over the Easter period. Please support each other, use your common sense, ask yourself if your journey is essential and adhere to the guidance. This will protect you, our communities and our brave colleagues in NHS who are working so hard to look after us all,” she said
Councillor Alistair Bradley, Leader of Chorley Council, which owns Rivington Pike, said: “The walk up Rivington Pike has been tradition for many years for residents across the Chorley Borough and beyond. However, this year we urge people to take a break from tradition and have fun finding alternative, safe ways of enjoying Easter that adhere to current social distancing guidelines. It’s simply not worth the risk of spreading coronavirus (COVID-19). Please stay home and save lives. We look forward to taking part in the tradition again in future years when circumstances allow.”
Bolton Council has also urged people to keep away from the Pike this year, particularly families from Horwich, who live so close. The council will also be closing George’s Lane, Colliers Row, Scout Road, and Walker Fold Road – access will be for residents only.
Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh, said: “We know that this a family tradition for many in Horwich and across Bolton but we would urge you to please stay at home. Right now we have a fight on our hands and the worst is almost certainly yet to come. We would urge everyone to follow the government’s guidance. If you stay at home this Easter, you will be helping to protect our NHS and saving lives.”
To take part in the Rivington Fair competition, upload your entry picture, photo or video to Facebook, Instagram or twitter, tagging @RivingtonHeritageTrust (Facebook) or @Rivingtontg (Instagram and Twitter) with the hashtag #RivEGGton before the deadline of 0900H on Easter Monday.
The winner will be announced via social media on Easter Monday.