The summer visitors to Rye are back – and with a vengeance! With most Covid-19 restrictions being removed on Monday, July 19, it is hardly surprising that, given the weather for the weekend preceding “Freedom Day”, so many people should jump the gun and descend on the town and on Camber.
But who can blame them? If ever there was a weekend to have a day by the seaside or to enjoy an ice cream while wandering round an ancient town, that was the weekend. It was inevitable, therefore, that the beach car parks would be full to overflowing early and the usual traffic chaos would reign from then on in Camber with cars being dumped (one could hardly describe it as parking) wherever the driver could find a space to stop. Roads were partially blocked and at least one emergency vehicle had difficulty getting through.
In Rye, car parks in the town centre were again full, and although the new street parking system seemed to be generally obeyed (with a few inevitable exceptions), roads with unrestricted parking were being well used. A check on Rye Hill at midday Sunday revealed a queue of vehicles stretching far up the hill, many, if most of which were attempting to reach Camber Sands.
One could not help feeling sorry for the cars’ occupants, many of whom had started out hours earlier looking forward to a day by the sea, only to have their hopes dashed within a few miles of their destination. Many must have diverted to Winchelsea Beach where even at 6pm on Sunday the road through to Pett Level resembled a car park and had to be negotiated with some care.
It is easy to criticise those who come and clog up our roads, verges and anywhere else they can stop on weekends such as this, but we should not be too quick to blame them. Rye and its adjacent beaches are a prime attraction for visitors and a source of livelihood to many of our citizens. This year it is inevitable that with travel to overseas destinations and holiday spots still being problematic, the “staycation” idea is going to be popular and therefore there is likely to be an over-abundance of visitors to town and seaside which will be difficult to accommodate at times, and needs to be addressed now before the school holidays exacerbate the problem.
Talking to drivers in several stationary cars on Rye Hill on Sunday, it was apparent that they had no idea of how crowded the area can get, and certainly were not expecting a long queue to the beach (from which they were now about to be turned away). Is there any reason why Rother District Council (RDC), presumably in conjunction with East Sussex Highways, should not put up mobile screens on major routes into Rye that would advise travellers of the conditions several miles ahead? RDC put out a notice by email fairly early on Sunday confirming that Camber car parks were now closed, but how many incoming motorists would have seen that – probably none.
And when visitors do finally reach their destination – be it Rye or Camber – there is the question where they can park. The current situation in Camber is clearly unsustainable and Rye, too, is going to have problems as the summer goes on.
The subject of the under-use of Gibbet Marsh has been discussed many times, yet there are still no easily visible signs to it from the centre of town, why not? It would be cheap and easy enough to do. And surely the time has come when out of town parking with a park and ride system needs to be seriously considered, possibly for Rye, but certainly for Camber. Can it really be so difficult to organise this?
Parish, town and district councils all seem to want to avoid the problem at all costs and pretend it doesn’t exist. But it does exist and will become intolerable for those of us living here unless our representatives, should they wish to be re-elected, start to exert pressure on the various authorities and agencies to take action now and stop hoping the problem will go away of its own accord. Because it won’t.
Image Credits: Carol Macdonald , Nick Forman .