Shop owner in locked-down Wales can't get English customers

Shop owner in locked-down Wales can’t get English customers while Welsh woman commuting to England has no public transport to get her there as different Covid-19 rules spark confusion in border towns

  • Boris Johnson has urged people back to work and eased lockdown restrictions
  • Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales now have different rules to England 
  • It’s causing confusion in border towns like Chepstow on Welsh/English border 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

A shop owner in locked-down Wales has said she can’t get English customers while a Welsh woman commuting to England has no public transport to get her to work – as the differing coronavirus rules spark confusion in border towns. 

On Sunday Boris Johnson urged people to head back to work, eased some of the lockdown restrictions put in place on March 23, and ditched the ‘stay home’ slogan to ‘stay alert’.

But leaders for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have made it clear they will stick with the ‘stay at home’ message, and have made comparatively minor changes to their own lockdown rules.

In Chepstow, on the English/Welsh border,  Evelyn Williams owns Mucky Pups dog grooming boutique in the town centre.

In Chepstow, which straddles the English/Welsh border, Evelyn Williams owns Mucky Pups dog grooming boutique in the town centre

She said she has opened up her shop with social distancing measures in place but is worried some of her clients who live in England may not be able to come to her shop.

‘It’s absolutely crazy as I travel from Newport every day to open up the shop, yet people only two minutes across the bridge can’t come over to use the service,’ she said.

‘It’s a case of so close yet so far and I don’t really think anyone understands exactly what we can and can’t do right now.

‘We’ve opened back up here and are working under the social distancing measures, but for other businesses in Chepstow who are thinking of doing the same it’s tough because a lot of our clients who come in from England are now being told they can’t.

‘Staff will be affected as well if they have to commute back and forth so it really is a mess.’

On Sunday, Mr Johnson announced plans to ease lockdown restrictions in England, which come into force today. Under that new guidance, those who cannot work from home will be encouraged to return to work if they can do so without using public transport, while those who can work from home should continue to do so.

The border town on Chepstow on the Wales and England border which now has to deal with conflicting rules

The PM also confirmed plans for children to begin to return to school in England from June 1, starting with reception, year one and year six in primary school, while secondary schools and further education colleges are preparing for face-to-face contact with years 10 and 12.

The ‘stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’ slogan has also been dropped by the UK Government in favour of the new ‘stay alert, control the virus, save lives’.

In contrast, the Welsh Government’s message has continued to be ‘stay at home’, and Wales’ education minister Kirsty Williams has clarified that Welsh schools will not be reopening on June 1.

Cassie Stephens, 29, makes the commute across the border from her home in Newport to Tutshill every day, where she works in a local off-licence.

‘To be honest I don’t fully understand what I’m expected to do at the moment as I work across the border in Gloucestershire and will be given shifts as normal,’ Cassie said.

‘My workplace is fully open again now and with bills to pay it is important for me to get back to work.

‘It has been difficult as a lot of public transport has been cancelled or severely reduced which means I have to walk from Chepstow every day, which is quite long.

‘But with so much up in the air, I’m really not sure what the right thing is to be doing.

‘What makes it worse is that it’s so close, and while I understand people want to keep themselves safe, the fact that they’ve relaxed the rules in England and not in Wales has put me in a really awkward position.

Cassie Stephens, 29, makes the commute across the border from her home in Newport to Tutshill every day, where she works in a local off-licence

‘I think it is a bit unfair, and there needs to be something done to make sure people in this country are all aligned on what’s going on during such a difficult period.’ 

One of the biggest conflicts is set to be the rules over exercise.

The Prime Minister has told people in England they can drive to exercise but the Welsh Government does not want English people driving into Wales to do that.

This could cause real issues in Redbrook because the Offa’s Dyke Path and the Wye Valley Walk run through the village and it is a hotspot for walkers and cyclists.

The main car park is on the English side and run by the Forest of Dean District Council.

Golf club that straddles English and Welsh border is to reopen despite differing lockdown rules

A golf club which straddles the English and Welsh border is to reopen on Wednesday despite differing lockdown rules for both countries.

Llanymynech Golf Club claims to be Europe’s only dual country course, with its holes split between the counties of Powys in Wales and Shropshire in England.

But its location led to confusion about whether it could reopen this week due to a difference in the way coronavirus lockdown measures are being eased in England and Wales.

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people in England will be able to play golf again from May 13, the Welsh administration is yet to follow suit.

Golfer Gwyn Ashton at Llanymynech Golf Club, Oswestry, where the course crosses the border of England and Wales

The club – which is situated between the towns of Welshpool and Owestry – has now said it will reopen in-line with the measures announced for England.

In a statement on Tuesday, the club said: “We have many difficult decisions to make as a golf club in order just to survive without having to deal with governing bodies that fail to agree on suitable, sensible guidelines that not only protect the public, but the very existence of sporting clubs.”

Its course features 15 holes in Wales, two in England and one that crosses both countries, with players teeing off in the former and putting in the latter.

The club said the majority of its 470 members are based in England, adding that the virus had left it in a “precarious position” financially.

In reaching its decision to reopen, the club said it had followed the guidance of the Shropshire and Herefordshire Union of Golf Clubs and the English Golf Union.

“This we feel is the best course of action for our club and its members and allows golf to be played within the current restrictions highlighted in the Prime Minister’s statement,” the club said.

“The English Golf Union guidelines agreed with the Government are a comprehensive set of rules that will allow a limited amount of golf to be played in a controlled and safe manner.”

The Government’s coronavirus recovery strategy said that from Wednesday recreational activities, including golf and tennis will be permitted in England as long as social distancing guidelines are adhered to.

 

It is closed for now but under the PM’s guidance it could re-open to allow people to explore the countryside.

But Welsh politicians have made it clear they would not want anybody arriving by car and then walking over the railway bridge to exercise in Wales.

And it could also impact on families as relatives often live on different sides of the English-Welsh border.

One person further in Welsh Chepstow summed it up when they pointed out that their daughter living in Tutshill, a Gloucestershire village many consider to be a suburb of the Welsh town, could visit them under the guidelines announced by the English Government.

However Welsh law bans them from visiting her in Tutshill.

Armand Watts is the local councillor for Chepstow’s Thornwell ward, and lives in the town with his partner and children.

Armand, 52, said many children living in Chepstow normally attend schools which come under English jurisdiction.

‘What happens when you have some children in England going back to school and then in Wales they won’t make a decision on it?’ he said.

‘Say the First Minister decides ‘hang on a minute, politicians aren’t allowed to go back to work, you or I can’t go back to work, so why is it alright that children are sent back to school and teachers are exposed to that potential risk?’

‘I think this is where it becomes slightly more fractious and concerning rather than just confused.’

Peter Moon is the owner of Moon & Co estate agents, based in the town centre.

Mr Moon said he is aware some other estate agents in England are planning to begin allowing viewings of unoccupied properties, but he is still unable to do so.

‘My office is 300 yards from the English border,’ Peter said.

‘A good 30 or 35% of our properties that we sell or rent are in England but we are physically in Wales.

‘As far as we’re concerned viewing houses isn’t essential.

‘We had a conversation with someone last week who is in an abusive relationship and desperate to view a rental property but we can’t because we aren’t allowed to.

‘There’s this mixed message that’s coming over between England and Wales.’

Mr Moon said half of his staff are currently on furlough, with the other half working from home.

He said some staff who live in England have occasionally needed to come into the office to pick up post.

‘Are they allowed to do that?’ Peter said. ‘I presume so but then you have the Welsh Government saying don’t come into Wales.

‘It’s very unclear.’

The former railway bridge across the river Wye at Redbrook, which is now a popular footpath, is a visible sign that this is a border community.

Either side of the bridge are two pubs, The Bell in Redbrook itself and The Boat, a riverside pub which is officially addressed as Penalt in Wales.

Boris Johnson has told the landlord of The Bell he might be able to open in some capacity in July subject to certain conditions being met.

But the owners of the The Boat have not been given any hope by Welsh First Minster Mark Drakeford who updated the Coronavirus advice in Wales on Friday.

If this carries on villagers might end up being able to use one local this summer but not the other.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: ‘The situation for schools in Wales will not change on 1 June. This week the Minister for Education will issue a working document which will set out next steps for education in Wales, this will include how key decisions will be reached and who will be providing advice on those decisions.

‘We continue to be guided by the very latest scientific advice and will only look to have more pupils and staff in schools when it is safe to do so. We will, of course, need to ensure that social distancing requirements can be adhered to.

‘Any decision to increase the operation of schools will be communicated well in advance. We are working closely with local authorities to ensure that schools are supported in this preparation work.’

A UK Government spokesperson said: ‘We have confronted this virus as one United Kingdom and have worked closely with the devolved administrations every step of the way.

‘However, the virus has spread at different rates and the response needs to be flexible and to move at slightly different speeds across the UK.

‘The UK Government is supporting the devolved governments with unprecedented testing, funding and logistical support from our armed forces.’  

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