‘Shame on visitors to Dunstable Downs - do they know how serious this is?’
Visitors to Dunstable Downs have been slammed by local residents, who were shocked by their disregard for social distancing measures during the coronavirus crisis.
On Saturday, March 21, and Sunday, March 22, groups of families and friends were spotted in close proximity to each other on the hills, with many parking on double yellow lines nearby.
Angry residents have now contacted the Gazette and spoken out on social media, blaming the visitors for contributing to the government’s latest measures, which, announced on Monday evening, include instructions to only leave home in order to exercise once a day, to travel to and from work where “absolutely necessary”, for medical needs, or to shop for necessities.
Mother Emma Everett, who shot a video whilst she was a passenger in her family car, claimed: “I was shocked. Even my kids were saying: ‘Why is everyone doing this?’
“It’s not even that busy in the summer.
“I’m just shocked that people could be that silly. They were flying kites, walking, having picnics. People were standing right on top of each other.”
Eyewitnesses allege that around 100 cars were double parked around the Isle of Wight Lane junction on the Sunday, despite the double yellow lines in the area.
A passer-by walking from Kensworth, who was keeping his two metre distance, told the Gazette: “It was shocking to see the disregard of the government’s advice against all non-essential travel, and the two metre rule.
“There was also a disregard of the double yellow lines, with cars parked on what is usually quite a fast bend, near a junction. I would say that this could cause a hazard.”
Speaking on Sunday, he added: “If it is true that this country is two weeks behind the disaster unfoldiing in Italy, then people need to get the message very quickly keeping their distance socially and only driving for supplies, and medicine.”
Meanwhile, on the Sunday, Emma and her family had been driving back from some private land that her mum Cath Turner, and stepdad, Kevin own in Whipsnade.
The family had enjoyed spending time together in the fields playing an archery game and eating hotdogs - all, of course, while Cath and Kevin kept their distance.
They were out for Emma’s son Benjamin’s 14th birthday, trying to make his day as special as they could, holding it somewhere that they knew would be isolated.
Now that restrictions have stepped up, Emma has advice for families when they take their daily exercise or walk to the shops.
She said: “If you walk around the streets you will see rainbows in people’s windows.
“School children have been drawing rainbows and putting them up, so when children go out for walks they can see where other children live.
“You could play a game to see how many rainbows you see. You could then go onto anything - red cars, black and white cats. Make it fun for them.
“We’ve got three rainbows and a Spiderman in our window!”
It was reported that on the Sunday, The National Trust had closed the car parks at Dunstable Downs, except the one opposite Isle of Wight Lane, which had an ice-cream van.
The Gazette contacted The National Trust for a statement about Dunstable Downs but did not receive a response before going to press.
A message on its Dunstable Downs and Whipsnade Estate website page states: “All our houses, gardens, parks, toilets, cafes and shops are closed from Sunday 22 March to further restrict the spread of coronavirus. Please note Dunstable Downs is closed, please do not travel here.”
Central Beds Council said it will be enforcing existing rules on vehicles parked on any single or double yellow lines where they are causing an obstruction. In line with the government decisions, it has now closed all play areas, to minimise the spread of Covid-19.
This includes play areas in parks, multi-use games areas, skateparks and outdoor gym equipment.
Signage will be up in all play parks to make people aware.
CBC leader Cllr James Jamieson said: “CBC is working hard to help our residents – this is our absolute priority. However, I cannot stress enough the important role every single one of us plays in helping us fight this disease.
“Everyone can do their bit by staying at home and following the guidance.”
A Bedfordshire Police spokeswoman, said: “We are currently awaiting guidance from the government as they prepare the legislation that will give police the authority to disperse groups of more than two people and those who refuse will face a fine. This is due to come into place on Thursday.
“In the meantime our police officers will use their communication skills to impress on people the importance of following the new rules.
“We will continue our day to day policing. If we come across people choosing to break these rules which are there to keep all of us safe, we will take action.”