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Lake District locals erect fake signs to keep tourists away

Angry villagers near a popular beauty spot have barricaded themselves in with makeshift roadblocks and plastic fences in a bid to fend off hoards of tourists amid the coronavirus crisis.

Residents living in the Lake District, in Cumbria, are putting out traffic barriers and industrial waste bins across roads – which is against the law – to stop walkers accessing parts of the national park.

Farmers in the area have also set up fake signs in a bid to keep visitors walking past their houses.

One sign in the village of Seathwaite, within the national park, claims there is ‘No entry due to coronavirus’.

Another on the outskirts of nearby Keswick tells visitors the whole town is closed and to ‘come back when we are open’.

Angry villagers in the popular Lake District, in Cumbria, have barricaded themselves in with makeshift roadblocks and plastic fences in a bid to fend off hoards of tourists amid the coronavirus crisis

Farmers in the area have also set up fake signs in a bid to keep visitors walking past their houses. Peter Edmondson (pictured), 65, is classed as a high-risk for coronavirus and is concerned about tourists walking near to his home

Farmers in the area have also set up fake signs in a bid to keep visitors walking past their houses. Peter Edmondson (pictured), 65, is classed as a high-risk for coronavirus and is concerned about tourists walking near to his home

The push-back from locals comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson eased coronavirus lockdown rules, allowing people to drive unlimited distances to take exercise.

But some residents are still living in fear of Covid-19 – particularly with Cumbria having one of the worst infection rates in the country, despite it being one of the most sparsely populated counties in England.

It has pushed the more concerned among the residents into taking extreme measures – including blocking off roads, which is an offence under the Highways Act.

Residents in other popular tourist areas, including St Ives, Cornwall, have used similar tactics to deter visitors, such as blocking up pathways.

In Keswick, a tiny hamlet in the Lake District National Park, with around a dozen homes, is at the base of one the main trails to England’s highest mountain Scafell Pike.

Mr Edmondson has put up a sign near to his home saying ‘No entry’ and urged visitors to ‘please stay away’

One sign in the village of Seathwaite, within the national park, claims there is 'No entry due to coronavirus'

One sign in the village of Seathwaite, within the national park, claims there is ‘No entry due to coronavirus’

Another on the outskirts of nearby Keswick tells visitors the whole town is closed and to 'come back when we are open'

Another on the outskirts of nearby Keswick tells visitors the whole town is closed and to ‘come back when we are open’

In the summer thousands of walkers park along the road to scale the famous peak.  

However villagers are scared the tourists could bring the coronavirus with them – and have erected the barriers to protect the vulnerable and elderly.

Pete Edmondson, whose family have run the farm in Seathwaite for 104 years, is classed as high risk.

Is it illegal to block off a road in the UK? 

Wilfully obstructing a highway is an offence under the Highways Act 1980.

The law states: ‘If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine.’

The maximum fine for this offence is currently set at £1,000.

If the person responsible is convicted of the offence and the obstruction can be moved, but continues, a court can demand that it be removed.

If the person still does not comply, they are guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of an unlimited value. 

The 65-year-old is missing part of his lung and suffered pneumonia as a child.

He said: ‘As soon as the coronavirus started we put up signs and barriers to stop people coming through the farmyard.

‘But people have no respect, they’ve been taking no notice whatsoever. It’s really upsetting.

‘I find it very threatening, it keeps going through my mind that if I got Covid-19 it would kill me.

‘There’s no consideration or respect for people who are at risk.’

Mr Edmondson says walkers are coming through his yard, and touching gates and styles without washing their hands.

‘We can’t close a public right of way without permission, but you must understand that this is our home,’ he added. 

Another local, who did not wish to be named, said they had had people from the Midlands knocking on their doors in the middle of the night last week.

She said: ‘It was because they were lost.

”We don’t want people like that coming through the farmyards. It’s simple as.’

The reason we’ve got the barriers is to stop walkers coming through the yard.

‘We’ve rerouted the footpath. You can still come and walk, we can’t stop that now since Boris Johnson did his new announcement.’ 

Tourism bosses in the Lake District are also concerned about the relaxation of lockdown.

Another sign reads 'residents only' and 'valley closed, GO HOME'

Another sign reads ‘residents only’ and ‘valley closed, GO HOME’ 

They’ve urged Brits to stay out of the national park and only exercise locally, despite the new rules.

Richard Leafe, Lake District National Park chief executive, said: ‘Please don’t travel for the moment to the Lake District because of the impact that you will have on the local communities here.

‘Cumbria already has a fairly high incidence of Covid, so there is real concern on the ground about large amounts of people coming back.’

The tourism boss also warned against daytrippers hiking and climbing in the fells.

‘The further you go away from the road, the more likely you are to need to be rescued if you are unlucky enough to have an accident,’ Mr Leafe added.

‘That involves bringing out our volunteer mountain-rescue teams and putting those people at risk themselves – many of whom work for medical services in the NHS.’

Mr Edmondson says walkers are coming through his yard, and touching gates and styles without washing their hands

Mr Edmondson says walkers are coming through his yard, and touching gates and styles without washing their hands 

‘So I’d really encourage people to exercise locally if they can.

‘The National Park will be here, and we will invite people back as soon as it is safe to do so.’

The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), who are the coordination body for law enforcement in the United Kingdom, told the MailOnline it expects more visitors to beauty spots following the government changes to lockdown laws.

A spokesperson said: ‘Forces will be assessing the impact of a likely increase to footfall in town centres and beauty spots in the coming days and weeks, alongside any crime intelligence they receive.  

‘We can generally expect to see more movement and activity from the public going forward and much of this will be lawful under the regulations.

‘Police officers will use their discretion and judgement in all situations and will engage with people, encouraging them to return home if appropriate.’

‘Officers will respond appropriately and will investigate concerns made by communities.

A block stopping people going down a pedestrian-only street in St Ives, Cornwall, asking them to use an alternative route instead to avoid vulnerable people

A block stopping people going down a pedestrian-only street in St Ives, Cornwall, asking them to use an alternative route instead to avoid vulnerable people

The spokesperson added: ‘We understand that this is a challenging time for everyone and want to assist members of the public in navigating what the recent changes to the regulations now mean.’ 

Meanwhile bosses at the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) have urged tourists to ‘be conscious’ when visiting beauty spots.  

CLA President Mark Bridgeman said: ‘We fully recognise that the nation will want to make the most of our beautiful countryside following lockdown restrictions being eased.

The push-back from locals comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson eased coronavirus lockdown rules, allowing people to drive unlimited distances to take exercise. Pictured: Rannerdale Knotss in the Lake District

The push-back from locals comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson eased coronavirus lockdown rules, allowing people to drive unlimited distances to take exercise. Pictured: Rannerdale Knotss in the Lake District

‘Those using the countryside should, especially under current circumstances, be conscious that it is also a place of work where the land, livestock, machinery, wildlife and environment must be respected.

‘Following advice from Defra and Public Health England, we urge the public, when on their daily exercise, to maintain social distancing requirements, keep dogs away from livestock and leave gates as they find them.’

‘We are also calling on the public to be pragmatic and avoid hot-spot tourist areas that are particularly busy this time of year. It’s important that we all act responsibly and check car parks, for example, are open before travelling.’

Cumbria is one of the worst infection rates in the country, despite it being one of the most sparsely populated counties in England. Pictured: A Herdwick sheep at Rannerdale Knotts in the Lake District

Cumbria is one of the worst infection rates in the country, despite it being one of the most sparsely populated counties in England. Pictured: A Herdwick sheep at Rannerdale Knotts in the Lake District

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