How many tourists does it take to change a lightbulb? Seven. One to change the lightbulb, one to set up the tripod and five to take the picture. Reading an article on the Telegraph online the other day titled ‘Paradise Lost’ about the beaches in Thailand being ruined by tourists, I couldn’t help but think of the village my Mother lives in (where I frequently visit for the weekend and holidays). The nineteenth-century artist William Morris called Bibury “the most beautiful village in England” when he visited it. It is now one of the most popular destinations not only in the Cotswolds, but in the UK for tourists from all over the world.
Unfortunately, the last ten years have seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of tourists visiting every day, and more worryingly, an increase in the number of hire cars, mini buses and coaches which fill the tiny village car park, block the lanes of residences and damage properties when reversing, turning and idling around private areas. Along with the staggering number of pedestrian tourists pouring out into the village by the coach-load, this constant traffic of people and vehicles has spoiled the natural beauty that brought everyone here in the first place.
My Mother’s house sits on top of a hill which leads down to the main drag in the village: Arlington Row. The row of cottages were built in 1380, and are one of the most photographed scenes in the Cotswolds. Because of this, many tourists wander up past our front gate. Our house is not part of the National Trust site which people come to see, but still attracts an astounding amount of unwanted attention from people leaning on our front gate and trying to pose for pictures in our garden. Now you may think that we’re being rather grumpy for complaining about people admiring where we live, but the pictures below give you an idea that looking out our front door can frequently feel like we are animals on show at a circus. Worst of all, tourists leave litter, open private gates and damage Cotswold stone walls by climbing on them to capture photographs; anything to get a decent selfie, right?
On the whole, the local residents are very patient when it comes to the tourists. However, there are lots of elderly residents who struggle to walk along paths at peak times (and by peak times, I mean 8am-6pm nearly every day of the year). Many of the residents have also had to pay thousands of pounds in repairs for damaged walls and property, and spend their dog walks picking up Costa coffee cups, MacDonalds bags and even discarded selfie sticks.
In 2017, the BBC reported that an “ugly” car parked on Arlington Row was spoiling the photos of tourists. As a result, the car - which belongs to an elderly, disabled resident - was vandalised so badly it had to be replaced. You can read more here.
Climate change must now be a huge priority for all of us. Bibury is a metaphor for the damage being done to our world. It is being polluted by numerous coaches that park in the village each day for hours on end (often without switching their engines off), it is being littered on by tourists who leave their rubbish on the roads and in the river for the wildlife to dodge, and it is overpopulated by hundreds of visitors who crowd the areas designed for local people and workers.
It is a general consensus in the village that tourists are welcome in Bibury, but should be mindful that they must respect the privacy, cleanliness and natural beauty of the place that they so often forget to actually look at, rather than gaze at through a viewfinder. So, if you’re thinking of visiting, please think about walking rather than driving and contribute to local life by purchasing your food and souvenirs from the village shop and Trout Farm. Just like the old saying for visiting the beach, “take only photographs and leave only footprints”.
Hi there, my name is Nevada and I'm a twenty-five year old music teacher. The Little Green blog centres around wildlife, gardening and lifestyle photography. All photos are my own and represent the portfolio of an amateur photographer!