SCORES of people ignored Government advice on social distancing as they visited Exmoor in huge numbers yesterday (Sunday).

National park bosses are pleading with visitors to heed the official advice to keep two metres away from others during the Coronavirus crisis.

There were "unprecedented numbers of visitors" for the time of year on Exmoor.

Some local restaurant and cafe owners were forced to stop offering takeaways over concerns that social distancing advice was not being followed.

Campsites and caravan sites are also reported to be busy, and people are taking out long-term lets at holiday cottages.

Sarah Bryan, chief executive of Exmoor National Park, said: "English National Parks are in close contact with government over the evolving coronavirus strategy.

"We understand people’s wish to spend time in beautiful places like Exmoor at this extremely worrying time, when all other sources of respite are few and far between.

"But with people’s lives and livelihoods at stake, it's vital that government guidelines around social distancing are strictly followed to slow the spread of the virus and protect our local communities and NHS services.

“The National Park Authority has offered help to local agencies to respond to the crisis and ensure the needs of vulnerable residents and those in self-isolation are met.

"We are also working closely to support local businesses – many of which are small-scale providers – to help them cope with the inevitable economic impact of cancelled events and lost custom.

“Past experience of foot and mouth disease and the blizzard conditions of 2018 that left whole villages cut off shows the incredible resilience of Exmoor communities, who are already pulling together to support one another.

"We now need visitors to do the same by adhering to government restrictions around unnecessary travel and instead seeking opportunities to connect with nature closer to home.

"We look forward to welcoming them back here when circumstances allow.

“Exmoor is not the only area experiencing this problem - other visitor destinations across the world have also been overwhelmed.

"This weekend the Australian government were forced to close Bondi Beach following major over-crowding.

"We continue to monitor the situation extremely closely and are ready to take further steps if required to do so by government.”