Great Britain

Lake District eerily deserted as it closes to visitors for first time during coronavirus lockdown


WILLIAM Wordsworth famously wandered lonely as a cloud.

But if he had been in his beloved Lake District this weekend he would have been even lonelier.

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For the first time ever the beautiful lakes and awe-inspiring peaks have been closed to visitors as part of the UK-wide lockdown to beat coronavirus.

Police issued stern warnings to tourists to stay away amid fears that they would continue to flock to the fells to enjoy their one bout of exercise a day.

The Sun visited the Lakes over the weekend to see whether those warnings had been heeded.

And in a sign of hope that the nation is coming together to defeat the deadly virus we found the entire region to be eerily deserted.

The traditionally heaving car parks and well-trodden mountain paths were empty and the normally packed pubs and busy boat trips were all shut.

The National Park is Britain’s second biggest tourist spot after London and attracts 19million visitors a year.

GHOST TOWN

But the entire region now feels like a ghost town – and the locals are delighted.

In Keswick, the pretty market town on the banks of Derwentwater, there was a hardly a soul around.

The only people I encountered were locals either popping to the shops for vital supplies or enjoying their Government-sanctioned one exercise a day.

Hotelier Nick Tebbs, 57, has lived in the town for 35 years and has never seen it so quiet.

He said: “It is really strange. Keswick is busy all year round and would normally be packed today but there is no-one around at all and we are really pleased about that.

“There was a genuine sense of fear last week that people were not listening and were still visiting us.

“Everyone here was terrified that the virus was going to be brought into the area by people from outside desperate to get out and about because of the lockdown.

“Last weekend the town was heaving and the locals were all concerned.

“But through the week the message has started to sink in. It has got quieter and quieter and it’s now deserted.

“Obviously there is a concern for businesses and the local economy, but for now, people know that we have got to stick together to beat this diseases.”

Down by the lake, the jetties which are usual thronged with people hiring rowing boats or taking trips around the lake on skippered vessels, were silent.

The main car park was cordoned off and a council van was parked across the entrance as an extra deterrent to anyone unwise enough to try and flout the restrictions.

'SO QUIET'

The police were out and about enforcing the lockdown in a polite but firm manner, with officers from neighbouring forces being drafted in to assist their Cumbria colleagues.

At one point we were stopped by an unmarked car after an ANPR check revealed our number plate was not registered locally.

The officers revealed they were stopping anyone from out of the area to check why they are in the Lakes.

Anyone not on legitimate business is advised to leave and is also liable to a £30 on the spot fine.

Happy with our explanation that we were there to check on whether the public were respecting the lockdown, the officers allowed us on our way as we drove south from Keswick to Grasmere.

The A591 which hugs the banks of Thirlmere is normally a busy road but we didn’t pass a single car.

Dove Cottage in Grasmere, the house where Wordsworth was living in 1804 when he wrote his famous poem ”I wandered lonely as a cloud”, is closed just like all local attractions.

A member of staff who was tidying up in preparation for a lengthy shutdown said: “It is so quiet round here at the moment you can hear the birds singing, which is good. No-one knows long it will go on for but we don’t have a choice.”

Further south, Bowness on the banks of Windermere, England’s biggest lake, is always one of the Lake District’s busiest spots.

Car parking spaces are like gold dust as foreign tourists, coach tours and day trippers pack the town to enjoy award-winning ice cream, boat trips on the lake and browsing in the gift shops.

But yesterday, the only visitors were a couple of swans, a flock of Canada geese and some noisy seagulls.

The hotels are shut with many having erected heavy bollards across their car park entrances to ram home the message.

The bars, restaurants and cafes are all closed and all of the National Park car parks are shut following the row last weekend after thousands ignored the stay at home plea and flocked to the countryside.

On the back of that, Cumbria Police issued their own warning that the Lake District was closed for business.

Cumbria Temporary Chief Superintendent Rob O'Connor said: "Last weekend we saw significant amounts of tourists travel to the Lake District, and my message is really simple, the Lake District is closed.

"We do not want to see people travelling to the Lakes. The Government guidance is clear.

”It does not mean on nice days you can drive into the Lakes and go walking, or ride your motorbike to Devils Bridge at Kirkby Lonsdale.

As we headed home we passed a large matrix sign by the side of the one of the main roads into the area which informs drivers: “Lakes is closed.”

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With all of the various warnings ringing the in their ears, it appears that the public in this part of the world have finally got the message.

As Cumbria Police’s traffic cops tweeted: “Nice to see the public adhering to the government's advice to stay indoors.

"Checks of Ambleside, Grasmere, Buttermere, Derwentwater, Whinlatter & Keswick. Not a camper, rambler or dog walker in sight.”

Dozens of drivers flock to Strathclyde Park as motorists ignore coronavirus lockdown order

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