The warm sunny weather over the Spring bank holiday weekend was predicted to bring out the crowds despite the lockdown and social distancing. The announcement, earlier in the month, that we may now travel any distance to exercise and can meet up with family and friends (albeit one at a time and still keeping 2 metres apart) had proved to be all the encouragement needed for thousands to forget Covid for a day, cast rules to the wind, and descend on Camber and Rye.
[Editor’s note: And they ignored the advice of our local MP Sally-Ann Hart, discouraging them from coming, and of Rother District Council leader Cllr Doug Oliver who said “large numbers of people on our beaches could risk a second spike in this deadly virus” adding “if any of our beaches become busy it will be impossible to social distance in many areas” and observing that “an influx of people on our beaches could put the district’s residents and visitors themselves at risk”
Our MP’s message on Facebook was probably blunter. “Please think twice…. we do not want all this hard work (by local people) put to waste when visitors come down to the beaches in our area and decide to ignore social distancing…. please respect local residents and follow the social distancing measures”]
It is hard to blame them. For two months we have been urged to stay home, not allowed to visit friends and family and, for those with children getting progressively more and more bored, it must have been difficult.
And so they came. The car parks filled early and by midday two police motorcyclists had closed the road to Camber, although it was re-opened later. With the car parks full, vehicles were parked wherever there was a spare bit of road or pavement. Yellow lines and private roads alike were disregarded. It was, said one Camber resident, “uncontrolled chaos”. Other than the two motorcyclists, there was no police presence.
On the beach itself, social distancing was a thing of the past and, as always, the majority of the crowds tended to gather between the two main car park access points on to the beach. For most of the day there was plenty of room going down towards the River Rother, but few thought to walk that far.
What about Rye? While it is true to say that there were fewer visitors than one would normally see on a bank holiday, there were certainly more people around the town than have been seen for some time.
Nowhere was this more true than Strand Quay, which, like Camber Sands, bore all the hallmarks of a typical summer holiday weekend. Motorbikes had not just gathered in their favourite spot in the Strand car park, but had filled it almost to overflowing. No social distancing here!
With their usual cafe opposite the Quay closed for the duration, the Kettle o’ Fish mopped up the demand for food and refreshments. With numbers inside strictly limited there appeared to be a permanent queue outside for the greater part of their opening hours.
Many residents of Camber and Rye will have heaved a sigh of relief at the end of the day, but the area’s economy does depend very largely on tourism and it is important that our visitors should enjoy their time here and not only want to come again, but tell their friends as well.
It is just a shame that the authorities – town, district and county councils together with the police – despite years of experience, are not better prepared to entertain our guests, allowing them to enjoy themselves, while at the same time allowing locals to avoid suffering unnecessary inconvenience.
Image Credits: Carol Macdonald , Shane Tiltman , John Minter .