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Heatwave in Kent sees people flock to beaches and parks

People in Kent are taking full advantage of the heatwave - with some seaside business owners reporting trading is back to usual summer levels thanks to the sun.

As temperatures rise into the 30s in some parts, sun-seekers have made a beeline for the beach, causing hour-long delays and queues of up to 18 miles long on the county's roads.

The scene on Herne Bay seafront today
The scene on Herne Bay seafront today

But for business owners near the sea, the big crowds are a welcome sight.

Hassan Hassan, who owns Makcari's seafront ice cream parlour and Captain Jack's bar in Herne Bay, says business is back to usual.

"It's great, I'd say business is definitely on a par with summer weekends," he said.

"A load of places are still shut, so what better place to come than the seaside when the sun is shining.

"It may be busy but people are being sensible. You might get a few idiots, but overall distancing has become normal and that's encouraging to see."

Makcari s owner Hassan Hassan says business is back to a healthy level
Makcari s owner Hassan Hassan says business is back to a healthy level

"It's great people can now enjoy themselves."

Chris Conway, who runs ice cream parlour Sundae Sundae in Whitstable, agrees sunny weather is always good for trade.

The 49-year-old is still operating a one-in, one-out policy with a reduced menu.

“I think for coastal towns there has been a bit of boost because the beach is the place to take the family. It has certainly become a lot busier and in turn I guess that brings in more customers.

“But I wouldn’t say it has boosted our trade - it is pretty much the same as it was in previous years.”

Steve Jones outside his store in Whitstable
Steve Jones outside his store in Whitstable

He said Whitstable welcomes people flocking to the beach - as long as they take their litter home with them.

It follows concerns from residents who say litter and nitrous oxide cannisters strewn across the seafront pose a "public health risk" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Steve Jones, who runs nearby Whitstable Produce Store, has a more ambivalent response to the hot weather.

“It’s good to see more independent shops opening up and hopefully by July 4 there will be a lot more open,” the 59-year-old said.

“But if it is too hot, people won’t come into the shop - they will stay on the beach.”

Amy Irwin and Abigail Bascall Kelly, both 16 from Maidstone, soak up the sun at Mote Park
Amy Irwin and Abigail Bascall Kelly, both 16 from Maidstone, soak up the sun at Mote Park

In Maidstone, people have headed to Mote Park to soak up the sun.

Photos show its car park is absolutely full, but thanks to the park's 440-acre space, people appear to be safely spread out.

Heath, who turns six on Sunday, is visiting with mum Tara Fosher, brother Dre, aunty Della Gash and cousin Mason, to enjoy some games. They've been playing throw the hoop and competing in sack races.

Della Gash, with Heath, Mason, Dre, and Tara Fosher
Della Gash, with Heath, Mason, Dre, and Tara Fosher

Ms Gash said: "I thought it was going to be lot busier here today after seeing the news about beaches this morning but it's not been too bad at all."

Ms Fosher added that they haven't found socially distancing too much of a problem since the sun's been out.

She said: "At the start of this all I was a bit more worried and there were a couple of times when people got a bit close but as time's gone on it's been fine."

Speaking at The Leas beach in Minster, Sheppey, Veronica Simpson, said: "Provided that everyone is careful and keeping away from each other I think it will be fine but you do have some people who aren't doing that.

"I try to zigzag wherever I see people coming up that I might get close to, just so I can avoid them."

The 65-year-old added that it was hard to say if enough people were being careful.

"You've just got to have your wits about you while you enjoy the sun," she said.

Veronica Simpson
Veronica Simpson

Nickie King, from Maidstone, was also there to catch some rays.

She said: "I've come from Maidstone because we've got a caravan here but the site is closed so me and my daughters are just enjoying the beach instead," she said.

"We've made sure we're staying where its quiet and we got here early this morning so it's not been too bad.

"It seems like people are following the rules but the reason we didn't go to a busier beach is because we're very cautious.

"Lockdown has been alright for us really because we've got a big garden and I'm used to working from home because I'm a childminder."

Nickie King
Nickie King

Julia Gale and John Glover travelled to the Sheppey hotspot from South London.

Sixty-two-year-old Julia said: "We were planning to be heading to Whitstable but the traffic was so bad on the M2 that decided to turn off at Stockbury and come here instead.

"We came to Leysdown a couple of weeks ago and it was nice but we've not been down here since.

"I heard people say it's a nice beach and I'm pretty pleased with it."

Mr Glover, 66, added: "The people sitting on the beach are from the same household and people have been quite considerate if we've got to a point where we're close then they've stepped away.

"I think people are being responsible and it's a good job that it's sunny. We're going to walk as far as we can and then probably head back."

Julia Gale and John Glover
Julia Gale and John Glover

Hayley Morgan, aged 39, has been spending lockdown working at the Co-op branch at Thistle Hill, Minster.

She said: "To be honest, I've been working in a shop where social distancing is difficult anyway.

"It's lovely here and I've just come to help paint one of the beach huts.

"There's not many people on this bit until you go further up. It's down to the individual person and I think people should follow the guidelines and take responsibility for their actions.

"This is my first day off for about two weeks that I've had to enjoy the sunshine so it's been nice.

"I'm pleased people have been following the rules on keeping their distance."

Hayley Morgan
Hayley Morgan

Teresa Moss, 65, is a customer services agent from Sheerness and ventured out to soak up the rays.

"I think in the town today it's a bit quieter but I don't think people are taking it seriously enough to be quite honest," she said.

"I've been working from home and it does make you worry so we've come here but set up somewhere out of the way from other people where we have our own space.

"This part here seems to be not too bad but further up there's quite a few people who are closer together.

"I get the impression that people seem to think because the lockdown has been eased they think it's OK but it's not really."

Teresa Moss
Teresa Moss

Her daughter, 38-year-old Tara Stowers, added: "In general it's not been too bad. Everyone's keeping their distance where we are here but there's just too many people packed too close together further down.

"It's too early for people to be coming down from other places. It's too early for tourists because London was one of the largest hit places.

"What can we do, the government should've given it another couple of months.

"It's a bit premature in my eyes."

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