A country park has urged people to only visit for essential items from its farm shop after reports emerged over the weekend of visitors flouting social distancing rules.

Aldenham Country Park came in for some criticism at the weekend after a numbers of drivers were seen heading to the park and customers were spotted queuing for food and drink at a kiosk.

There were some accusations on social media that the country park management was "ignorant" of the government rules on social distancing while others called for the whole place to be closed down, after suggestions a cafe was open.

But the country park has already undertaken a host of measures aimed at keeping the site as empty as possible, and late on Sunday, the country park wrote on Facebook that the park is currently "strictly" open for the pick up of food boxes from the farm shop only, adding the police have been helping to enforce social distancing measures.

It turned out the queue of customers spotted on Sunday was for a takeaway kiosk and not a cafe, which is independent of the country park.

Following discussions between the kiosk owner and park, the kiosk has now closed, although a new sign on the kiosk states that it had been "operating strict social distancing" policies, and neither the police or country park management had any issue with the owner selling items.

Watford Observer:

This notice has been put up at the kiosk after a decision was made to close it. Credit: Councillor Pat Strack

Country park director Tim Waygood said: "On Sunday, we had problems with a few people parking up in the driveway/outside our car park and thinking it was okay to walk in and have a picnic.

"There are public footpaths through the park so we can’t legally stop people using these unless the government closes all footpaths.

"We have regular police patrols helping us. However there are very few people coming.

"The takeaway kiosk is an independent business and he has been open on advice of the police that what he was doing is okay. Despite this, we have asked him to close and he has agreed to."

Since the tighter restrictions were introduced by the government, there has been a notice displayed on Aldenham Country Park's website which explains only the farm shop is open to visitors.

Other action the park took in March was to postpone all of its events and camping, as well as close the SEND indoor pavilion, indoor play area, and farm kitchen cafe.

The car park remains open only to those visiting the farm shop for essential items.

Aldenham East ward councillor Lucy Selby raised concerns with the country park.

She told the paper: "I did have concerns which I raised on behalf of residents who had been in touch. But I know Aldenham Country Park are doing everything they can and have imposed additional measures.

"It is important we all abide by the rules made by Government. It is a difficult time but we do not want a further lockdown. We must maintain social distancing so that we can fully enjoy our open spaces in Hertfordshire as soon as possible."

However, the lack of custom does come at a cost for Aldenham Country Park, which is not-for-profit community interest company.

The income it receives from visitors helps pay for care of the park's animals, farm, and educational and care services.

If you can help Aldenham Country Park in these testing times, visit https://aldenhamcountrypark.co.uk