For those UK staycationers who have ever wondered what their countrymen inflict upon the usual Mediterranean suspects each summertime will no longer be in any doubt, nor labour under any misapprehension as to how far into the depths of a moral abyss the country has descended.

My recent vacation in North East Wales was not taken under sufferance, although in normal times would have complemented a European alpine getaway rather than being my only warmer months escape from the everyday. While many of the default locations in Europe popular with sun-loving Brits have started to loosen Covid-related restrictions and come back on stream both the UK and the host nations can still pull the metaphorical rug out from under vacationers – should there be a sudden localized or nationwide spike in novel coronavirus cases. The prospect of either being stranded in your holiday destination – a nice thought but untenable for most -coming back early to avoid quarantine or seeing out the whole duration of one’s trip before a fortnight of imposed exile at home has understandable deterred many from venturing abroad, with the UK bearing the brunt or benefiting(delete as appropriate) from an additional glut of holidaymakers confined to their own borders.

The tourist trap of Llangollen is set in picturesque surroundings adjacent to the fast-flowing River Dee and a heritage railway that offers trips where a variety of locomotives do the heft work. Snarled up by levels of traffic for which an easy solution is not evidently obvious, Llangollen’s bijou size is not reflected by what one would hope to be a commensurate sedateness. It is though landed upon by countless visitors who are not exactly the cream of the crop but represent pertinent examples of what the UK has become, and the inexorable course it has now set itself upon.

Adjacent to the bridge over the River Dee and from where the steam locomotives can be seen arriving and departing is where the majority of visitors seem to congregate, many having descended from nearby camping grounds and impromptu caravan sites. The usual shops selling tourist ephemera that can be found in other towns and resorts but with their own moniker stamped upon and takeaway ice cream outlets are within staggering distance(50-75 yards) of the bridge’s vantage point, and in effect represents the ambitions of many who’ve arrived in Llangollen. If fighting one’s way through hordes of individuals obviously unfamiliar with Covid-specific social distancing directives but content in their own sartorial disasters, boorishness, and obesity then this location in the height of August is the one you may wish to consider.

This though isn’t an attack upon Llangollen, but a commentary on what the UK has gradually become over the last two generations, accelerated by Social Media doing the thinking for many of its disciples and an astonishing worship of all that is superficial, fatuous, puerile but which is tangible, reflected in the secularization of what is supposedly still a Christian country. There are few restrictions on what one can do in life, with any dissent greeted with accusations of bigotry, and/or the use the mental illness card to somehow justify behaviour. While many have used lockdown to get fit it seems the gap between the fit, focused, and responsible with those who luxuriate in their own corpulence and lack of self-awareness is greater than ever, with the latter still using the NHS as a panacea to self-infliction, instead of it being the last resort safety net it was always meant to be but ceased being long ago.

Respect has left the building – for oneself, others, the environment, and anything that belongs to others and is there for corporate enjoyment. Criticize the actions of others and many look at you with utter disbelief that someone dares to challenge their inalienable right to do as they please, even if this involves upsetting the quality of life of an individual, or neighbourhood.

It is easy to detail a long litany of societal ills but explaining away how they came into being and what can be done to reverse the decay is far less straightforward. The reality is that the UK is too far gone, with no way back. Too much of life is subjective for consensus ever to be found, with one man’s meat etc, etc. Where one person will rail against those who fail to take personal responsibility for their health, actions, and the harmful effects their lifestyle and attitudes are having on their children, others will counter that the NHS will pick up the tab (“I pay my taxes”) and that a moral code drawn up derivatively from doing what pleases them enables an individualistic approach to life. If adults have few standards apart from those that put a finger, or two, up at society they are not going to see a need to tell their children not, for example, to climb upon castle ruins. If admonishment comes from a third party the children invariably look amazed that their actions are being challenged, usually because of a lack of boundaries implemented by their parents. In amongst a foul-mouthed tirade from the parents a ‘nobody tells me what to do with my kids’ can usually be heard and laced with irony, seeing that they too don’t tell their kids how to behave responsibly and respectfully.

This example would have played out in its entirety at Ewloe Castle had I not stepped away from entering into a pointless argument. At over 760 years old this Flintshire castle has seen its fair share of tumult in anger and peacetime but now as a ruin, albeit a substantial one, it remains a magnet for historians, as does much of North Wales, with an interest in the Anglo-Welsh sabre-rattling and outright hostility of the 13th century. Access to these monuments should be unrestricted to those who approach them with due deference, respect, and can self-police their actions. This however does not describe the majority of Ewloe’s visitors, nor many of those who patronize the many similar examples dotted around the region.

It was sadly a challenging task to put together a photographic summary of visiting Ewloe without altering the narrative into a visual commentary on how many individuals and families behave in such historic surroundings. There are obvious reasons why I cannot take photographs with other people in them, nor would I wish to do so, but for those tasked with chronicling our deteriorating society there is an endless seam of material in plain sight. I ask you: why do some parents see it is acceptable for their offspring to climb on walls of such age and historic significance? If something happened to their children doing such there would be outcry, and no doubt a lawsuit, against the landowner and/or Cadw, the government agency responsibility for overseeing the site. It is also a popular sport in these locations to throw plastic bottles from the highest accessible points of the castle, which can only be reached by a steep and tricky stairway. Even so, people even walk their dogs on to the walls and up the stairway, as nowadays everywhere MUST be accessible for dogs and their walkers.

Ewloe Castle graffiti

Ewloe Castle is damned by its location adjacent to a sizeable park, with it in effect being used as an extension by those taking their dogs and children to a more conventional play area. Those with greater interest in the castle’s history usually access it from the main road and a short walk through farmland and woodland, but the majority of its visitors are over spill from Wepre Park who think the castle to be a quirky playground where anything goes, instead of the Grade 1 listed building which it happens to be. I am unsure of the overall ownership structure of the land on which Ewloe Castle sits atop and amid but if Cadw have any say how the monument is accessed, it should expeditiously commission a feasibility study for closing off access from a public park. It is obvious that many visitors cannot control their own behaviour, but also that Cadw are falling short in their duty of balancing ‘accessibility for all’ with protecting a nationally significant monument.

Bending the knee to and thereby condoning the actions of those without the necessary personal boundaries, intelligence, and selflessness has failed the UK, which is now reaping the whirlwind of society’s attempts to understand and indulge an ‘anything goes’ mentality deeply ingrained within the mindsets of many, not the few. Contrary to popular belief rules are not there to be broken but if liberal, secular lawmakers are little better themselves than those who they are tasked with reining in, respite and a change of course seems unlikely for a society seemingly hell-bent on its own destruction.

Photographs copyright to C. Bowman – 2020. All rights reserved.

Further and geographically pertinent information regarding recent antipathy shown towards a highly significant and ancient earthwork: