On Wednesday, May 20 Camber (and the South East) experienced not only the hottest day of the year so far, but also visitor levels in line with a typical summer bank holiday – despite a fairly quiet start when the lockdown was eased last Saturday.
And reactions from Rye News readers who have made comments varied widely between “enjoying a bit of normality” to feeling “scared and really let down” – and to being “put at risk by I’m alright Jack outsiders” as many of the visitors will have come from London, which has experienced the highest death rates in the country from the pandemic.
However on Saturday, May 16 Camber’s Central Car Park was open (but full, and with a long queue) and so were the loos – but not overwhelmingly so. The Western Car Park was then shut, but Rother District Council’s coastal officer thought he might have to open it.
The BBC South East evening news featured film of cars lining both sides of the approach road into Camber from Rye with barely enough room for two cars to pass each other – let alone large vehicles like buses or ambulances:
In particular the film showed a female police officer in a small space between two cars nose to tail talking face to face to members of the public without observing the required “social distancing”.
And while one member of the public commented to Rye News “there’s plenty of room to enjoy a bit of normality” another said people “were packed on the beach like sardines”, and the crowds could be seen from Rye Harbour – which was quiet by comparison.
On Saturday, though, numbers were comparatively low compared to the two clips shown above. And on Sunday the weather was supposed to be better, and in fact it was good – but windy. However, as Camber Sands is seven miles long, it is often windy. Monday was the same, and Tuesday – a much brighter day, with less wind – brought in more people in cars. And then came Wednesday with heatwave temperatures forecast.
People were social distancing over the weekend, but in a very haphazard way, and on the beach it was very evident that there were small groups staying away from each other. However at the Marina, with queuing for food and drinks, this was not really the case despite the weekend’s low numbers.
The Kit Kat however, had bought in signs of where to stand apart, and it was monitoring this with a great deal of attention. The toilet block was open and certainly being well cleaned. The ladies WC had a four in and out policy, after which the cleaners did a wipe down. The men’s WC was three in and out before a wipe down, and the WC for the disabled was thoroughly cleaned. That may not have happened on Wednesday.
It was pretty obvious at the weekend that most people were aware of the need to distance themselves, but the circumstance of being on a beach is a mindset that can mean that people, and children especially, can forget.
Walking dogs on that stretch of the beach is not allowed now. However, when a visitor picked up a local resident’s dog lead (which was meant to be helpful), it did mean that a detoxing and heavy wash was necessary when getting home.
And that is why villagers (and some of Rye News’ commentators) do not want others to come down to Camber, as visitors touching fences, gates and similar objects are all possibly spreading the virus – and one death in six in the whole country from the virus has happened in London. “The virus doesn’t move. People move it” , as is frequently reported in the media, and if we stop moving, the virus stops moving.
[Editor’s note: RNLI recruitment of lifesavers this year was interrupted by the lockdown and there are currently no lifesavers on local beaches]
Image Credits: Carol Macdonald .