Of all the battlegrounds to have emerged during the coronavirus crisis – PPE equipment, testing, when and if schools should reopen – it looks increasingly likely that one of the bitterest will be fought out at a local level. The controversy as to whether beauty spots across the UK should be open to all as the warm months arrive has only grown since it was effectively authorised by the loosening of lockdown restrictions in England last week. And what began as mutterings among residents about visitors heading to places that aren’t yet ready to receive them has begun to “bloom” into deliberate obstructionism.
In recent days, placards and barricades have started to appear in parts of the Lake District – where a continuing high rate of infection and a large potentially vulnerable elderly demographic has elevated concerns about further transmission. Messages scribbled onto boards include “no entry”, “please stay away”, and – in one specific case – “Keswick is still closed. Please come back when we are open”. This “informal” lock-out has even included “impromptu” road blocks – with plastic barriers blocking routes to popular sites.
Peter Edmondson, who runs a farm in Seathwaite, has erected signs asking people to stop entering his land, even though his property abuts a public path. “We can’t close a public right of way without permission,” he says. “But you must understand, this is our home.”
Mr Edmondson, 65, suffered pneumonia as a child, and is missing part of his lung. “I find it very threatening,” he explains. “It keeps going through my mind that if I got Covid-19, it would kill me. But people have no respect. They’ve been taking no notice whatsoever.”