Despite warnings from the National Trust in the press and on social media last week, that the “honey-pot” venue of Cardingmill Valley, on the edge of Church Stretton, would be limited to one-third capacity (140 cars), it did not deter visitors in their thousands. That capacity was reached by 10.00am.
Some of those refused entry to the Valley were abusive to the National Trust rangers and then proceeded to park, wherever they could in town. When the car parks were full, many parked regardless of the interests of local residents.
An estimated 400 cars parked in residential streets, on double yellow lines, blocking pavements, driveways and side roads, preventing disabled residents and families with pushchairs from leaving their homes and denying access to emergency vehicles. For the first time ever, the pavements and verges from Church Stretton all the way to All Stretton were packed with cars.
Town Council Requested Assistance
With the easing of the lockdown prior to the Bank Holiday weekend, Church Stretton anticipated that there would be a significant influx of visitors. That was why the Town Council requested more police patrols and an increased presence from parking enforcement officers from Shropshire Council. Over the weekend on Saturday and Sunday, there was an increased number of visitors but it was of manageable proportions. However, a sunny Bank Holiday Monday was an entirely different proposition.
While the majority sought to exercise some social distancing, there were exceptions of groups of visitors blocking access to the local supermarkets and being abusive to staff, when challenged. Such were the numbers crowding into the Valley on foot, it was not always possible to exercise social distancing and there were examples of members of different households socialising together both in town and in the Valley.
Risking Cross Infection
Knowing of the likelihood of such numbers, most residents were careful to keep their distance but this was not always possible when surrounded, for example, in the supermarkets. In this community, with many elderly residents, such thoughtless visitor behaviour is rightly seen as risking increased cross-infection,
Councillor Bob Welch, Church Stretton Town Mayor warned “It is clearly untenable for a small town like Church Stretton to be expected to accommodate such numbers, especially at a time of risk. It is imperative that other National Trust sites and countryside venues are opened before long to cope with the pent-up demand.”
Mayor, Cllr. Bob Welch