IT is amazing quite how quickly things change in our new coronavirus-dominated domain.

As more and more events became cancelled, and social distancing was recommended; many people thought escaping to the countryside would be one of the few outlets - fresh air, open space, and beautiful scenery - there was even some rare pleasant weather

But alas - despite the fact only essential travel was advised -  many, many people clearly thought alike, and suddenly National Trust properties which had tried to keep their grounds open, and National Parks such as Exmoor found themselves suddenly swamped with visitors.

Usually an area like Somerset would be welcoming visitors with open arms, but in this unusual time they are being urged to stay away.

In normal times people would be encouraged to get outside and go walking rather than stay inside - but these are far from normal times.

After the country went into lockdown on Monday evening, Exmoor National Park Authority has issued a plea for people to protects rural communities and follow Government advice, to avoid travel and remain at home wherever possible.

ENPA said in support of the government measures, the National Park was shutting its public car parks and toilets.

The Government's unprecedented advice states that for the next three weeks at the very least: "Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or for holidays."

Sarah Bryan, chief executive of Exmoor National Park, said: “All travel to the National Park for recreational purposes must cease now to allow the full focus of the National Park Authority, and frontline services, to be directed at protecting our communities.

“We are a deeply rural place, with grocery shops and hospitals few and far between. What happened at the weekend with people flocking to the area was utterly irresponsible and has left food isles stripped bare for our largely elderly population, who are themselves very vulnerable to the illness. As people are out enjoying themselves, our communities are shouldering the risk.

“This is clearly unacceptable and so to discourage further travel, we are closing our public carparks and toilets. We ask that people are considerate in not travelling to the area while we complete this vital task and very much look forward to the day when we can extend them a warm Exmoor welcome once again.”

Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger echoed the sentiment, saying that caravan parks in the area should shut up shop, and appealed to second-home owners with properties in areas such as Exmoor to stay away.

He said: "My constituents have been increasingly concerned about the additional risks visitors to the county are presenting.

“At the moment we are very fortunate in having a relatively small number of coronavirus cases in Somerset helped, no doubt by the fact that we have relatively few large centres of population.

"However the efforts and precautions we have taken are at risk of being undermined if irresponsible visitors from outside the county keep arriving.

“And second-home owners who decide the country is a safer place to be at the moment are going to have precisely the same impact."