An attempt by the National Trust to provide an open space for people to enjoy while still observing guidelines on social distancing seems to have failed spectacularly.
The Trust had announced that it was closing its houses but keeping its gated gardens and parks open, to give people a chance to enjoy fresh air and the beauty of nature, in the belief that we will need it more than ever.
But a huge volume of visitors yesterday (March 21) convinced bosses that it would not be possible to ensure that people maintain the kind of distance necessary to protect people from contracting coronavirus.
We should not blame these visitors for coming – but it could be claimed that they abused the offer by staying when it was clear that so many others had also turned up.
In any case, there seems to have been confusion about the situation, with disabled people complaining about the closure of car parks in gated parks.
The trust has waived car park fees for their open countryside areas, but the gated parks were supposed to be remaining open, with their car parks closed.
This site was contacted by a person who relayed a conversation with a National Trust representative about access to one of its parks.
In it, they said: “My elderly parents have been visiting the park twice a week since my mother had a stroke. They do not get out of the car… Simply sit in the park and watch the world go by. It is a source of great comfort especially to my mum who was robbed of so much by the stroke. They live locally but will be unable to access the park because my mother is virtually unable to walk.
“I understand that you need to take precautions but can you have a rethink and allow blue badge holders to access the car park please.”
The response: “In order to allow access to a select few we would need to have the gate manned all day from 8am-6pm as there is no digital way that we can self-select cars.
“In the current climate, we cannot put a staff member in that position. I am sorry that there is not more we can do.”
Were the car parks open or not?
Ultimately, it seems a moot point as cars were reportedly parked along access roads to National Trust parks and gardens as people queued up to get in – making a mockery of the Trust’s attempts at social distancing.
Publicity the Trust received when it announced that it would keep its parks and gardens open was positive.
This Site has been told that people with disabilities took a different view as a result of the apparent car park prohibition.
Perhaps the best way to look at it is as a genuine attempt to help that simply has not succeeded – partly because of the way people reacted to it.
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