Tourists turn quiet Peak District beauty spot into giant car park

People living in the peaceful village of Wetton in the Peak District have spoken out about their frustration at cars blocking roads, anti-social behaviour, drug use, and litter due to an influx of tourists. Residents say that Covid lockdowns and social media promotions have led to an increase in younger people and families visiting the nearby attraction Thor’s Cave.

A local farmer has had to open one of his fields for visitors to park in to cope with the rush as tourists regularly spill out from a tiny car park onto surrounding narrow roads. These are used by locals to park outside their homes, and some have resorted to placing traffic cones and markers outside their homes in the village, near Ashbourne.

Disputes have also flared up due to cars blocking the passage of haulage and farming vehicles. This comes as the National Park Authority are expected to approve improvements to the walking route up to Thor’s Cave on April 8, which village inhabitants have said would make the problem worse.

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The authority has said that the improvements are being made to ensure people’s safety rather than to attract more visitors to the village.

Diane Hackett, 50, landlady at the Royal Oak Pub relies on more customers for business. However, she also thinks they can cause issues for the village.

She said: “Having people visit the area is a godsend for us. Some people in the village don’t like the level of tourists we get here but it’s good for trade.

“More parking would help because the farmers can often not get through the roads. But improvements to the Thor’s Cave trail do need doing because it’s so muddy up there and people fall causing lots of accidents.”

Diane Hackett, 50, landlady at the Royal Oak pub in Wetton
Diane Hackett, 50, landlady at the Royal Oak pub in Wetton

Greg Lucas, 58, is from Brighton, but has a longstanding relationship with Wetton. He has been visiting his mother in Wetton for over 30 years.

He said: “The demographic of people visiting has completely changed since the pandemic started. Walkers used to park outside the toilets, but people now even come from Manchester and Liverpool. They come here to fly drones and take a selfie.

“God only knows why they come to see a big cave. I think it’s the zeitgeist – the mystical quality of the place. It’s like something out of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. The change is unbelievable and the cones stopping people parking look awful outside of peoples’ houses.

“I think there’s a divide in the village and the park authority needs to manage the situation more. If you look at walking trails in places like Germany, there is plenty of parking and lots of benches and bins.

“It’s a really bad combination to have farm traffic, as it changes to more of an emphasis on haulage and leisure, and people blocking the roads. People need to remember that it’s still a working village. More yellow lines would send a message.

“I know what my mum would say. She thinks it’s nice to have people here, just as long as they don’t make too much mess.”

Steve Martin, 69, is a retired van driver who lives on the main road through the village. He said he has had confrontations with tourists obstructing roads.

“I said to this one guy you can’t park there because the milk truck needs the room to pass through. He was quite abusive. But at the end of the day you can’t stop people coming here.”

A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: “We are inundated with people parking on this road when it’s a nice day out. I don’t want it advertised anymore. The village has turned into a car park.

Without the traffic cones villagers fear Wetton would become completely clogged up with cars
Without the traffic cones villagers fear Wetton would become completely clogged up with cars

“But you’ll always get people coming here from all over the place because it’s such a beautiful part of the country. What we need is more parking but planning permission for an expansion wouldn’t get passed unless it was screamed.

“There’s also a big litter problem. I spend a lot of time going round picking it all up. You also spot lots of nitrous oxide canisters around.”

A local living on the same road, who also wanted to remain anonymous, said she had formally objected to the National Park Authority’s plans for accessibility improvements. She said that without the traffic cones outside her house there would be no room to turn her car around.

“It’s completely changed here. I haven’t seen any anti-social behaviour myself but people have tried to park in the pub and then not visit it. That way it loses profits.”