A south Shropshire town was flooded with visitors causing parking chaos and with many failing to follow social distancing adding to fears that coronavirus could be being imported into a place with a high proportion of elderly and vulnerable people and away from large medical centres.

There are fears that the experience of Church Stretton over the late May Bank Holiday weekend could be a sign of things to come throughout the area, especially with people having to change from their usual summer holiday routine and stay closer to home.

With the summer season now here and restrictions eased there is growing concern about the number of people converging upon tourist spots in south Shropshire.

The late spring Bank Holiday brought a large influx of people into the Cardingmill Valley.

As a result, there was parking chaos in some places.

Despite warnings from the National Trust in the press and on social media, that the ‘honey-pot’ venue of Cardingmill Valley, on the edge of Church Stretton, would be limited to one-third capacity (140 cars), it did not deter visitors in their thousands.

That capacity was reached by 10am on Bank Holiday Monday.

Some of those refused entry to the Valley were abusive to the National Trust rangers and then proceeded to park, wherever they could in town. When the car parks were full, many parked regardless of the interests of residents.

An estimated 400 cars parked in residential streets, on double yellow lines, blocking pavements, driveways, and side roads, preventing disabled residents and families with pushchairs from leaving their homes and denying access to emergency vehicles.

For the first time ever, the pavements and verges from Church Stretton all the way to All Stretton were packed with cars.

With the easing of the lockdown prior to the Bank Holiday weekend, Church Stretton anticipated that there would be a significant influx of visitors.

That was why the Town Council requested more police patrols and an increased presence from parking enforcement officers from Shropshire Council.

Over the Bank Holiday weekend on Saturday and Sunday, there was an increased number of visitors, but it was of manageable proportions. However, a sunny Bank Holiday Monday was an entirely different proposition.

While the majority sought to exercise some social distancing, there were exceptions of groups of visitors blocking access to the local supermarkets and being abusive to staff, when challenged to observe the rules and stay apart.

Such were the numbers crowding into the Valley on foot, it was not always possible to exercise social distancing and there were examples of members of different households socialising together both in town and in the Valley.

Knowing of the likelihood of such numbers, most residents were careful to keep their distance, but this was not always possible when surrounded, for example, in the supermarkets.

“In this community, with many elderly residents, such thoughtless visitor behaviour is rightly seen as risking increased cross-infection,” said Councillor Bob Welch, Mayor of Church Stretton.

“It is clearly untenable for a small town like Church Stretton to be expected to accommodate such numbers, especially at a time of risk

“It is imperative that other National Trust sites and countryside venues are opened before long to cope with the pent-up demand.”

There has been concern in Ludlow about visitors risking bringing Covid-19 to the town and with it a potential second spike.

Whilst there has been a general call for the town to reopen and for the market to trade again, town councillor Vivienne Parry, who also represents Ludlow south on Shropshire Council, is concerned that people from other areas like the West Midlands could spike a new outbreak in a town where there is a very high proportion of elderly and vulnerable people in the at risk category.