The Lake District National Park Authority held a Visitor Poll on the 30th and 31st of May. They asked interesting questions.
Before your visit which of the following things did you do?
Use the LDNPA website to check how busy areas were. 35.5%
Plan your destination AND end up at that destination. 38.7%
Plan your destination AND change your plan enroute. 55.1%
Use social media to research your visit. 43.4%
Bring a picnic and refreshments. 42.2%
Bring a BBQ. 25.8%
Bring alcohol. 70.3%
Then they asked them; before your visit, which of the following things were you aware of.
Not all car parks are open. 58.2%
Not all toilets are open. 70.3%
Most shops are closed. 74.6%
Most food businesses are closed. 39.5%
Local people are worried about visitors not respecting social distancing. 86.7%
You should take your litter home. 34.4%
You should follow the Country Code. 12.5%
You should check how busy areas are before you arrive. 59.4%
Then they asked them, in normal times would you have been in the
Lake District Today? 80% answered no they would have been somewhere else.
Finally they asked them, what was your main reason for visiting the Lake District today?
We love the Lake District. 13.5%
We wanted to cool off in the water. 12.2%
We wanted to take exercise. 9.8%
We wanted to meet family and friends in a safe environment. 18.8%
The lockdown has been lifted. 8.2%
The thing we’d normally be doing is closed. 15.3%
Family gathering to celebrate Eid al Fitr. 3.3%
Other outdoor destinations were too busy. 9.8%
Passive aggressive responses such as ‘why not’ or mentioning Dominic Cummings 4.2%
Motorbike was gathering dust. 4.9%
Now there has been a move to get more tourists into the Park, but also to reach out to people who don’t normally visit. It looks like this weekend they’d inadvertently succeeded.
The Park also produced a weekend summary which highlighted problems.
- Visitor numbers increased by an estimated 40% on the peak of the bank holiday weekend.
- Anywhere with access to water was rammed.
- It’s worth noting that it was busy in some areas. It was not however an old fashioned busy day in the Lakes. The towns are mostly very quiet.
However there were ‘issues’ which the summary highlighted.
The Park staff normally collect 10 bin bags of litter per week. (Obviously this does not include the litter people have very correctly deposited in bins.)
On this weekend they collected 138 bags of litter picked up off the ground.
The Park staff normally dispose of around 3 pieces of human waste from their car parks in the average month. In this one weekend they disposed over 100 pieces of human waste. Many of these in car parks where there was a toilet that was open.
There were large numbers of BBQ’s, camp fires and similar found throughout the weekend in spite of people being asked not to light them and there being a fire risk.
The Park Rangers and other organisations found over 200 overnight campers in the park during the weekend. On Islands, shores, mountains and car parks. That’s just the ones they found.
Car parks in the Rydal area were at capacity by 9am on both days. Terrible parking problems in the surrounding areas. The Park staff did put out cones and signs but it was a losing battle. The whole Coniston area was bad. East of the Lake was the worst anybody had seen. The road was virtually impassable for much of the day. The standard of parking was frankly appalling.
Windermere and the shores around it were intensely busy with inconsiderate parking closing resident access. People couldn’t get in or out of their homes.
With regard to Buttermere, Derwentwater, Borrowdale, Wasdale & Ennerdale, Bassenthwaite, and the shores of Ullswater.
These areas were simply the old problems of terrible fly parking, but with increased numbers of people. The people there had less respect for the natural environment than pre-COVID19 visitors. Roads became impassable for much of the day.
So, having read the survey and the summary what have we learned? Well up until now, the Lake District appears to have attracted a selection of visitors who have been largely educated in how to behave. Perhaps we never realised how well behaved they were. Also it shows how a large part of our urban population doesn’t really understand the rural environment and frankly doesn’t particularly care whether they inconvenience people or not, provided they get a decent place on the lake shore. Indeed it is entirely possible that the old saying, “I wouldn’t trust them to sit the right way on a lavatory” might well be literally true in some cases.”
What can we do about it? Well traffic and ridiculous parking is something that we could tackle. The roads are so crowded you literally couldn’t get in to tow people away. If you clamped them it might actually make things worse. Swamp the area with wardens handing out fixed penalty parking tickets? Serious fixed penalties, given these people are blocking not merely the access of other visitors but also the access of emergency vehicles.
Alternatively they could perhaps stop traffic on a road and authorise a tractor with a silage trailer to go through to clear the passage with the emergency vehicle following behind.
I think there is going to have to be a tourist tax. Cumbria has a population of fewer than half a million. Yet Cumbrians are providing the police, car parking and toilets (even if not all the tourists know how to use them) for about 20 million visitors.
Or we could just cut tourist numbers. You want to come to Cumbria, book ahead, without a booking you get turned back as you try to leave the M6?
Or perhaps we could just ban their cars? When you pay your council tax in Cumbria you get a disc you can put on your car and that allows you into the county. Everybody else comes in by public transport or parks in a ‘park and ride’ car park near the motorway junction?
Some or all these ideas are probably impracticable, but we cannot go on like this.
Somebody I know who was out on the fells recently commented, “I despair at the large groups of lads shouting at each other, playing music on their phones and tripping each other up and causing rock slides. One group said I was ‘organised’ because I was able to tell them where they were and which direction they needed to go as I had a map. People are wandering around between Styhead tarn, Great End, the bottom of Piers Gill and Broad Crag with no idea of where they were and no idea of how to figure out where they were. ‘How long till Sca Fell Pike…and is this the way’ I was asked by three separate groups.
Smart phones have a lot to answer for. There is no familiarisation with maps at all now for many people. Drop a pin in on Google maps and magically the car finds itself there. Phones have GPS, but an OS or BMC map won’t go flat. The phone is mainly there to instagram and facebook as people show where they are and what they are doing.
I also can’t remember finding cans of lager in the hills either. Around camp sites and roads and near pubs etc, but not at 3,000 feet.”
It’s not just Cumbria that is going to suffer, the other National Parks will doubtless get more visitors. And don’t try going by road, apparently there’s been a boom in caravan sales.
From car dealer magazine.
“One campervan dealer told us he had sold a month’s worth of stock in the first week back after the lockdown while Auto Trader has reported caravan advert views up 18 per cent and motorhome adverts up 17 per cent.
Meanwhile, auctions are selling to the trade and well above predicted prices with bidding ‘frenzied’ among dealers scrabbling to replenish stock.”
I don’t know where you were hoping to get to, but frankly it could be quicker walking.
What do I know?
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