Last Friday, July 31 I set off on a mission, my destination Camber Sands, my objective to witness at first hand what it looked like on a very hot day – a Fry-Day. I got stuck in traffic which started just after Skinners garage on New Road in Rye, and this was around 11 am. The queue continued all the way to central Camber, and it was slow moving – but at least it was moving.
After about 45 minutes I got through the worst and I parked up at Jurys Gap on the far side towards Lydd, left the car and started to walk back along the sea defences to see what was happening on the beaches. Unusually, the car park at Jurys Gap was full but, because there are no marked spaces, the gaps between the cars was much wider than in a normal car park, which prevented others from parking there. The height restriction on the main entrance didn’t seem to worry one driver though who damaged his top box as it was crushed under the barrier.
The soft verges at Jurys Gap are a magnet for parking and, despite the concrete bollards, the vehicles were squeezed between them, making the main road so much narrower as they were parked on both sides in places. A coastguard patrol vehicle took quite a time to negotiate through them despite its siren and blue lights flashing and, as for the double decker buses, well this was a different story – a difficult job driving to Rye at the best of times but today, a nightmare for the drivers, and a huge delay for the passengers having to wait.
The main beaches were absolutely packed, social distancing was difficult if not impossible, despite attempts by some of the visitors, the RNLI lifeguards were present, beach patrols too and, just out to sea, the lifeboat was keeping a close eye on swimmers. Thankfully all the toilets in the area were open, and a wrist band system for children who might get separated from their parents was in operation – but I did hear about one distraught mum who had lost her baby daughter and, fearing she had been abducted, she contacted the police, but they couldn’t attend for at least half an hour as they were also stuck in traffic. But the girl had been found wandering by two middle aged men who kept her safe until reunited with a hugely emotional mother. A happy ending to a story which could have ended so very differently.
In Camber village the parking was seriously problematic and I saw nobody policing it. Pavements were totally blocked in places by parked cars, and mums with prams were having to walk in the road between the queuing traffic to get past them, and tempers were fraying. But the vehicles just kept on coming, and soon the car parks were full, and pavements, verges and double yellow lines were soon filling up instead, and access between was getting more difficult. If an incident had occurred which required emergency services to attend you can imagine the outcome.
Looking at this logically, if you have been ‘holed up’ in lockdown or isolation for weeks on end and you have the opportunity to escape, why not head for the coast even though it was one of the hottest days on record. Living in a flat or confined space, who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to escape to the seaside for the day, and you can’t blame the visitors for visiting, that’s what visitors do – they also spend money and help the local economy, but at a cost.
I imagine the clear up operation at the end of the day was not a pretty sight, I saw many people just drive off, leaving their bags of rubbish behind them, litter and empty bottles everywhere. People openly urinating when they had to and showing a total disregard for the area, the local residents and other visitors.
It must cost the council to clear up the mess, but I can’t help thinking they have missed a trick. If a traffic warden or two were employed for the day, the fines they could have generated by issuing tickets to illegal parkers could have generated thousands of pounds and, if the carpark at Jurys Gap was to become a pay and display car park, there would be thousands more.
Whatever measures were supposed to be put in place to alleviate the problems, caused by such large numbers of summer visitors to Camber, they either didn’t materialise or didn’t work. Camber simply cannot cope safely with the numbers of visitors who want to share our amazing beaches.
Policing the main roads which lead to Camber is essential. Controlling the illegal or inconsiderate parking is also top of the agenda. But adding toilets at Jurys Gap and making it pay and display, should cancel each other out, cover the costs, and produce some additional income if managed properly.
Common sense seems to go out of the window when the sand and sea is within spitting distance, but the situation will not improve until action is taken.
Image Credits: Nick Forman , Rye News Library .