The Accidental Tourists

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

I've got to be honest, I have had enough, I want them all to get in their camper vans and their under-powered cars towing caravans that are too heavy for them and bugger off back to the crowded and congested cities from wence they came; and they can take their "We are on holiday, so we will go at our pace and sod everyone else." attitude with them.

I have always thought of myself as a decent type and whilst I acknowledge that we, particularly at this time of COVID Crisis should be endeavouring to be more conciliatory, kind, less impatient and more caring I am struggling with my levels of tolerance. It is not that I have become an overnight selfish person and as a result anti-tourist, far from it. In short it is a reaction to what I am experiencing from the increasing number of visitors that have been let loose on our community and the amount of time they have been let loose for. I said as much to Janet as she collared me coming back across the square as she leaned over the rail at the top of the steps of the old town hall building whilst having a crafty fag. Shouting from about ten feet away she forced me into conversation. "They don't move you know, they are just like some Jacobs, John and I used to have, they just ignore you, even with a dog I suspect." Befuddled as to what she was on about and raising my voice above the noise of the traffic I enquired, "Sorry Jan, who doesn't move. . . Jacob who?" "Visitors, look at them," she gestured towards the paper shop where a group of 6 or 7 non-masked, non-social-distancing Grockles had decided to have a meeting on the most narrow part of the pavement in the busiest part of our small town, "You have to walk around them you know, they think they are back on the Cost Del Sol and that we are the Spanish locals." "But it's pissing down Jan, not exactly Espana weather is it but I know what you mean." I replied, "It's like they have all contracted the dreaded 'Women shopping-in-pairs-disease, you know, the one where for absolutely no reason two women out together suddenly just stop walking and stand there just standing, something that invariably occurs in shop doorways or at the bottom or at the top of an escalator. By the way have you ever seen so many blokes up here wearing pastel coloured shorts, obviously they had booked foreign holidays but it all went pear-shaped and they had to swap Alicante for the Dales or Lakes!" She laughed loudly and sidled down a few steps closer as if to disclose a deep secret, "But Alan," she whispered, "regardless of their poncy shorts and dodgy shirts they are spending a lot of money in our shop, so hopefully my job is safe for the next few months at least, so a case of necessary evil isn't it? So stop moaning."

"Me, moan? It was you who started banging on about tourists Janet, but I am 'touristed-out,' and I don't mind saying so."

The conversation remained on topic for another couple of minutes before we both had to go, Janet back to the shop and me off to get my car to get back to work in Middleham. “Where are you parked?” She asked knowingly before disappearing back up the steps into the shop. “I bet it isn’t in the town car park, was it full?” and sniggering she was gone. Bloody tourists!

Crowds wathing Tour de france 2014 Col du Grinton
It's not that we are not visitor friendly, we have approximately 500k tourist per annum

Tourists journeying far and wide to UK Beauty Spots since the restrictions on Lockdown were lifted is nothing overly exciting in terms of newsworthiness. I mean, it is old news and I get that, after all it is not so long ago that we all saw the aftermath following the invasion of parts of Dorset and The Lakes in particular. So why bring the subject up again? Well apart from the odd soundbite and a few minutes of television VR from some residents in Bournemouth and Windemere, I don't think we got a real detailed picture of what the impact of such events on relatively small communities.

Up in the Dales, tourism is obviously vital to our existence, and in particular our retail and hospitality outlets, and I promise you that we do genuinely have an affection for MOST tourists and not only for the commercial benefits they bring to the region. After all we are a small community of 22,000 so having the opportunity to interact with people from so many different places both from the UK and further afield has to be a good thing.

I mention MOST tourists as my objections to the way some people behave are aimed fairly (I think) and squarely at a minority, unfortunately it is a fairly substantial minority that should be wearing ‘I-came-I saw-I-didn’t-give-a-toss, but-it's-OK-because-WE-had-a-good-time, BADGE.’

I mentioned earlier that I think of myself as fair minded. When my wife and I as holiday makers leave the Dales to go to our favourite haunts in Cornwall we do our utmost to respect not only the people and the places we visit but their way of life. I am not being righteous, pompous or sanctimonious I am just a believer that you should treat others as you wish to be treated. It is not something that some people take into account when vacationing up here. I see the Dales as an Island for want of a better description with relatively narrow arterial roads to vital resources such as hospitals and the our places of work. We expect visitors to take their time whether on foot or in the car because they are on a break, they are relaxing from the rigours of work, but I would ask all to remember that we as a community still have to work. Whilst we can live with following a towed caravan doing 40 mph for 15 miles before we get to the A1, 30 mph and below whilst they marvel at the passing scenery is beyond the pail.

When I stop my car at a junction with my daughter in the passenger seat and there is middle aged man peeing against a fence 3 yards away in full view, I get annoyed. When I drive the 8 miles to my doctors surgery to pick up a prescription in Aysgarth only to find I cannot park because of people having just dumped their cars on both sides of the road half a mile either way, I get a tad tetchy. I could go on and on but that would be boring and you have probably had enough already. Suffice to say there are many that just take the mickey at a significant cost to others.

I keep hearing the phrase "the new normal" and I am getting as sick of it as your probably are. However, like many other things following the COVID outbreak, maybe the new normal is not the intensity of visitors we experienced before all in one go during the summer. It maybe that we will have more numbers (as fewer will venture abroad) but more equally spread throughout the year. Who knows?

As I am being honest and forthright, two months of tourists is for us an inconvenience but a necessary one and you adjust your plans and lives accordingly to facilitate. Longer than that means you are more or less changing your own lifestyle to fit in with what you consider an intrusion. Living up here through the winter months and travelling to work, managing the landscape and the environment is a challenging time for Dales Folk and I guess we feel we deserve the area to ourselves with what is left of the decent weather, I know I think that way and I'm not a local but an "Incomer" having only been here for 26 years.

The North Yorkshire people are good people, too direct and abrupt sometimes but at least you know where you stand and I for one appreciate that kind of cancor.

We do our best to accommodate visitors to this wonderful place, we are not being arrogant or selfish in wishing for some "us time" either side of the harsh winter months, we only ask that you do your best to accommodate us locals in the same way.

See you next year x

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