'The real Wells people are here' - crowds stay away from coast
- Credit: Neil Didsbury
Last weekend’s sunshine saw people flock to Wells-next-the-Sea and police hand out scores of fines for lockdown breaches.
But on Saturday, the town was far more quiet.
With cooler weather and fish and chip shops closed, the town’s gulls and ducks had the normally bustling quayside largely to themselves.
Tony Bubear and partner Susan Rouse had ventured from nearby Fakenham for their daily exercise and were surprised how empty the streets were.
Mr Bubear, 74, said: “Visitors are probably not causing a problem, but without the fish and chip shops people aren’t going to come here anyway.”
Ms Rouse, 63, said: “We heard a woman who must have been a local saying that it was absolutely packed last weekend - heaving with people who shouldn’t have been here.”
George Lynch, who works at Arthur Howell Fish in Staithe Street, said plenty of second home owners were staying at their properties in Wells.
He said: "There are people who are blatantly staying at their second homes. But in terms of physical footfall it’s not particularly busy, it’s mostly local faces.
“I was led to believe the beach and Holkham was busy last week but not in the town itself.”
Arthur Howell, who owns the fish shop as well as a butchers and a bakery in Wells, said: “It has been exactly as it should be. The real Wells people are here. We’ve had a nice, steady flow of people come in who have supported us through this.”
Wells resident Eric Edwards said he thought there had been an increase in visitor numbers, although the town had stayed generally quiet.
He said: “There have been quite a few, I think. A lot of the town is second homes. If they can get a break, they will do.”
Gary King, who owns the nearby shops This and That and Country Garden, said: “Maybe there’s more who go down the seafront but the streets have been very quiet, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of new faces in my shops.”
Lucy Shires, North Norfolk district councillor for Happisburgh ward, said although some second home owners were breaking the rules by staying at their properties, this was not always the case.
She said some had been letting key workers, vulnerable people or rough sleepers stay at their second homes, and most wanted to do the right thing.
She said: “The majority of our holiday home owners are very conscious of our local communities and the guidelines and want to do what’s right.
“There is a minority, who are unfortunately giving the majority a bad reputation.
“We’ve got holiday home owners who have worked with the local authority to provide temporary accommodation [to rough sleepers or the vulnerable] over the winter months, which is extraordinary."
Ms Shires also called for more information from the government about how the rules around visiting second homes would change on March 29, when, according to the Roadmap, the message would change from ‘stay at home’ to ‘minimise travel’.
"The message has got to continue to be ‘stay at home’ until March 29, and then we have to make sure we’ve got very clear guidance,” she said.