“Unmanageable” beaches, chaotic parking, and overcrowded village – making social distancing impossible – are proving an unwelcome side effect of this summer’s staycation response to coronavirus.
As more Britons abandon summer holidays abroad, fearing being forced to quarantine on their return, greater-than-expected crowds have led to problems at home.
Britain’s coastguards had their busiest day for more than four years on Friday, as the UK recorded its third hottest day ever.
A body was found after a 15-year-old boy went missing in a lake close to Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock on Saturday, around the same time as a person was recovered from water near Porthcurno in Cornwall.
Local authorities have warned that beaches are becoming “unmanageable” due to large numbers of visitors, raising fears around keeping people safe in the water.
The total number of incidents recorded by HM Coastguards on Friday was 329, including 232 callouts for coastguard rescue teams, 129 for lifeboats, 22 requiring aircraft, and three for a hovercraft. Many calls were about people being cut off by the tide, missing children and swimmers getting into difficulty.
Julie-Anne Wood, of HM Coastguard, said: “Yesterday was a beautiful day weather-wise in much of the UK. It was less beautiful a day for those who got themselves into trouble and had to be rescued.
“We completely understand that people want to enjoy the coast. We also know that even the most experienced swimmer, paddleboarder and walker can be caught out by currents and tides respectively. We would really ask you to check and double check the tide times (put a timer warning on a smartphone to remind you), be aware of things like rip currents, and make sure you have a means of contacting us if things do go wrong.”
Thanet council said the area’s four beaches, which include Margate Sands, were struggling to cope with the influx of visitors.
Leader of the council, Cllr Rick Everitt, said: “It’s an irony that seaside towns have spent years complaining that people no longer visit them because they go abroad. We’re getting greater numbers than we’ve ever seen since package holidays became a thing.”
“It’s a bit of a balancing act for us, because we don’t want to say, ‘don’t come’, as we know small businesses around our seafront are desperate for the revenue.”
Meanwhile, badly parked cars left by daytrippers near the Peak District village of Cressbrook led to the 173 bus service being suspended (see pictures below).
There was anger in the village after Hulleys of Baslow, which has been operating in and around the Peak District since 1921, was forced to scrap the service.
In a notice posted on its Facebook page the firm stated: “This is it. We’re beaten. We’re just far too busy to be fighting battles like this.
“If any tourists parked in Cressbrook Dale are reading this, your inconsiderate, selfish actions have just lost a village it’s only public transport. We’re truly sorry, but every time one problem is solved another replaces it. We cannot devote any more time to this.”
In Cornwall, residents at popular resorts have reported being “too scared” to go food shopping because of visitors crowding narrow streets and ignoring social distancing.
Locals have described some Cornish resorts as being “absolute madness,” and “Benidorm on steroids”, with street marshals being recruited to give social distancing tips in some of the busiest hot spots.
Claire Harris, 37, from St Ives, said her family was “too scared to go food shopping”. She said she had banned her children from the main shopping street and harbour front because of the crowds and that her friends had taken similar steps.
Vicky White, from Newlyn, said: “It makes me very uneasy to go out with my two young kids. The pavements have been bustling. It is sad for residents to not be able to enjoy where they live.”
Royden Paynter, the harbour master at Mousehole, added: “Suddenly we’ve been hit with a stampede. Everybody is a bit more stressed this year, they don’t move out of your way”.