MOUNTAIN rescue leaders have pleaded with walkers and cyclists to think twice before travelling to the Pennine moors - despite lockdown restrictions being eased.

Rangers and rescuers are expecting the likes of the West Pennine Moors, including Rivington Pike, Holcombe Hill and Pendle Hill to be magnets for hikers and families this weekend.

But members of one mountain rescue team, Bowland Pennine, which covers part of the West Pennines, and the Forest of Bowland, are encouraging walkers to be sensible.

A BPMRT spokesman said: "We know that many of you will be desperate to get back onto the fells, and may have been happy to hear Boris Johnson announce that it is now okay to drive any distance to exercise. The announcement came as surprise to us, and to other local organisations."

Team members have outlined why they feel such a move would jeopardise the safety of their squad, who will be called out if anyone gets into difficulties.

The spokesman added: "We are all volunteers, we all have ‘day jobs’, and we all have families who we need to protect.

"People may be infected but not be showing any symptoms, likewise for our rescuers.

"We need to presume that any casualties have the potential to infect us, and so we will be wearing personal protective equipment, socially distancing where possible and limiting the number of rescuers attending a call-out. These measures may well impact on our response times.

"We all want to return to our fell-walking, running and mountain biking, enjoying our beautiful countryside and the health benefits that exercise brings, but we ask you to please think twice about travelling to the area at the moment."

Team leader Kevin Camplin has even produced a video, which is being shown on their Twitter feed - @BPMRT - in a bid to dissuade people from travelling to the moors.

Officials at Rivington also say the car parks there reopened on Friday, including Lowerhouse, which is managed by the Rivington Heritage Trust.

A spokesman added: "Please respect social distancing rules. Parking on verges and in front of gates can block access in an emergency so do park responsibly or choose another destination."