Camber heats up

The police, keeping a careful eye open in Camber in May, seemed overwhelmed a few days later. However at the height of the "season" there is a mini police station in the building behind the car.

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.

Camber car park fills up ……

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.

How safe was this queue in Camber during the comparatively quiet weekend ?

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.

Social distancing seemed to be observed by the empty lifeguards hut at Camber on Tuesday – but was it on Wednesday ?

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 .


  1. It is hard to believe the bias of this article. There were few going for a walk on Camber beach on Saturday 16th May and social distancing was not an issue. Visitors are confining themselves to the beach, car park toilets and the local cafes who choose to serve them (!). Other than that, there is not a lot for visitors to touch on the beach which could potentially spread a virus (if they had it) – dog leads excluded! Rates of infection in London are currently the lowest in the country while rates have been increasing in other parts of the country including the south east! Please do not create a them and us situation as the local economy depends much upon visitors and second home owners and this type of ignorance simply breeds more damaging ignorance. People are responsible for taking precautions for not spreading the virus wherever they are, I.e. masks and gloves where needed, rather than cutting themselves off in artificial regional or other bubbles as the country slowly moves out of lockdown.

    • Well said ! Eloquently & succinctly put. I live in a beautiful spot and as much as I appreciate it during the quiet times I do understand that these places are for sharing not for claiming as ones own.

      • Do visitors to your beautiful spot leave substantial quantities of litter (including broken beach umbrellas) which you have to pay the authorities to clear away?
        The amount of detritus left on Camber Beach at the end of a hot day is quite spectacular.
        I do not live in Camber but fully understand the frustration of those who do.

  2. The point is that many visitors are not behaving responsibly. Parking and double parking on verges is illegal as is parking across villagers vehicular access. Residents of Camber village are entitled to expect visitors treat them and their village with respect, especially in these difficult times. I have known Camber for nearly seventy years and know it’s economy was thriving before these mass invasions became the fashion. Tourism must be managed to allow residents to continue with their normal lives in the summer.

  3. The issue of tourist invasions is separate from the issue of the corona virus issue and how visitors are being viewed in general at the current time. However, it is agreed that tourists descending en masse is an ongoing and serious issue for local residents. A good start would be for an obvious police presence on such days and for local traffic enforcement to ensure they are ticketing ALL those who are parking on double yellow lines — if the authorities have little appetite for enforcing the rules, it is no surprise that the visitors keep on coming!


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