Councillor describes 'horrible' situation as thousands descend on Derbyshire beauty spot
An estimated 10,000 people flocked to Dovedale’s famous stepping stones over the weekend, causing havoc for residents and creating significant barriers for emergency services.
The well-known tourist attraction on the Derbyshire and Staffordshire border has become a ‘pinch-point’ for larger gatherings of people during lockdown – a situation which has worsened with lockdown being relaxed.
Accounts from locals and emergency services and photos on social media show dozens of vehicles parked on both sides of the road on the Derbyshire side of the valley through the village of Thorpe.
This created significant access issues for locals and emergency services, with traffic jams queuing from the village for three miles back to the A515.
Images shared online also showed large amounts of rubbish left behind by visitors – much of which was gathered by concerned residents.
Social-distancing guidance was seen to be flouted on a large scale, with people crossing both directions of the stepping stones at the same time and gathering in numbers on the banks and footpath.
Coun Richard FitzHerbert, who represents the area for Derbyshire Dales District Council, said events at the weekend were ‘horrible’ and access was not possible for emergency services.
He said: “It was a horrible, horrible situation at the weekend.
“It is a number of contributing factors, the releasing of lockdown, parking and good weather with people rushing to one of the prettiest places in Derbyshire.
“It is a shame that they are contributing to spoiling one of the prettiest places in Derbyshire.
“Double-yellow lines should be tried on the Derbyshire side – there are hedges and double-yellow lines on the Staffordshire side which prevent people parking up.
“Whether double-yellow lines would work on the Derbyshire side, I don’t know. But I think they’ve got to be tried anyway. However, people could easily just park in the fields anyway.
“I am very concerned for residents. It doesn’t matter how many police we get down there if there isn’t anything to enforce.
“I know they are looking at maybe enforcing parking on the Derbyshire side.
“I really hope it isn’t repeated again this week and this weekend.
“It is often busy but it has never been that busy before and it is all covid-related.
“Emergency services couldn’t get down there for most of Sunday (May 31), it was crazy.
“To me it’s a case of handling this unfortunate situation as best as we can and do a bit of educating.
“But as it’s looking at the moment, if the weather’s like it was this weekend this coming weekend, we could face further problems.
“It doesn’t matter how many police you put there, it was an impossible task.”
Shura Prince, manager at The Izaak Walton hotel, close to the stepping stones, added: “It’s driving me mad.
“I couldn’t get out of my drive yesterday to take my parents some food in Hartington.
“Traffic was backed up all the way to the main road – the A515 (three miles away).
“People don’t care, they are leaving so much litter as well.
“At a guess over the whole weekend I’d say there were over 10,000 people, Sunday was probably the worst.”
A resident living close to the attraction said: “These are unprecedented times and we know people have limited options when they want to leave the house. It is either the countryside or the beaches and there are no pubs, clubs or shops, so we understand.
“But what has been inconsiderate is the parking, a lot of people are parking recklessly and trying to park as close as possible.
“I hear the police are going to try and enforce parking measures.
“People were parking on both sides of the hill (on the Derbyshire side, close to Thorpe Cloud) – it wouldn’t have been possible for fire engines to get through.”
Ashbourne Police’s safer neighborhood team tweeted yesterday to say: “Please consider if you really need to travel to the Peak District at this time.
“Significant numbers have attended Dovedale over the weekend and the infrastructure at present cannot cope.”
Insp John Troup of Derbyshire Police, who is in charge of policing in the Derbyshire Dales, said: “During the weekend we received reports of long queues of traffic along the narrow roads through Dovedale and Thorpe, as people attempted to visit the beauty spot to enjoy the sunshine.
“Worryingly, there were also a number of barbecues people had brought with them to the area.
“Our officers have been out and about on patrols talking to people, explain the rules and encouraging them to change their behaviour to reduce the risk to public safety and health.
“We would echo the advice of our partners, including the Peak District National Park, Derbyshire County Council, Derbyshire Dales District Council and Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service.
“This includes asking people to take responsibility for their own actions by parking safely and sticking to social distancing guidelines.
“Many facilities remain closed, litter should be taken home and to not have barbecues or campfires which can easily get out of hand and have devastating consequences.”