Inside a car boot sale in Cornwall during a pandemic
Car boot sales aren’t very Covid friendly so we went to find out how one works now. For car boot fanatics, there is little that brings more glee than finding yourself a bargain amongst a pile of otherwise unwanted junk. Treasure-seekers and selling enthusiasts across Cornwall have been rising at the crack of down for decades now to race to their nearest Car Boots Cornwall in the hope of making a pretty penny. But in the era of COVID, how exactly does a car boot sale work when it’s a known fact that everyone gets touchy-feely with all the items – and cash payments are non-negotiable?
We took a trip to Newquay this week to see exactly how people have been navigating them in the middle of a pandemic, and what they think of the changes. On the only sunny day of the week, hundreds showed up in search of the last bargains to be had for this season – before people stash their goods away for winter. When the gates opened at midday people were certainly keen, with four rows of cars parked up and around sixty people waiting – socially distanced – in the queue. The wardens made everything feel safe as houses, with two taking the £1 entry fee on arrival, and another explaining social distancing measures at the front of the queue to those entering. All three were wearing masks and there was hand sanitiser available on entry and plenty of signage instructing people where to go and what to do (or what not to do). Every person was encouraged to wear masks – while it was not essential – and the kind lady at the queue also asked everyone to respectfully keep a distance and hold back from the stalls if they were overcrowded. Of course there were the few covidiots that completely ignored this in a bid to get to the stalls quickest – but most people were more than respectful.
Steve Powell is an avid stall holder, often travelling around Cornwall to hold boot sales at different locations. He said as soon as sellers were given the go ahead to return this summer, many of them went straight back to it. But he hasn’t done as many as he would have liked this year. “This year I haven’t done as many as I would have liked just because of everything going on. But I have been coming when I can depending on the weather.” He also explained that he feels more than comfortable at the venues where Car Boots Cornwall takes place, saying there are plenty of measures and all the sellers keep hand sanitiser available in the car. “I don’t really worry about it, I know I’m being a bit blasé but we really have
not had it as bad down here as up-country,” he added. “In Cornwall I think we have felt safe because of our numbers and having done three boot sales this past week, it’s really nice to just be out in the fresh air where you feel safe.”
Gwyn and Philip Linley, 78 and 71, were in the middle of a Cornish staycation when they decided to pop along to the boot sale – something they enjoy doing at home.
The pair of pensioners actually had two holidays abroad cancelled this year so booked a trip to the Duchy to make up for it. “We wouldn’t usually have come to Cornwall and have not been for years,” said Gwyn. “But we are glad we came because we have had a wonderful time”. The couple said they visit car boots regularly back home because they love to give a new lease of life to something that might otherwise end up at the dump. “We like to refurbish items and we do often see something that is beautiful but very unloved. It’s much better for the planet.” As a precautionary measure, the couple keep hand sanitiser with them all the time and are very conscious of wearing masks out in public – which Gwyn lovingly made herself – even in outside spaces.
Chris and his partner have been selling and buying for a combined time of almost half a century between them and it seems everybody knows them.
The car boot aficionados were approached quickly by traders and they said it would be unusual for them to miss a boot sale date in the summer. Chris said: ” We have been attending four a week at the moment but usually we would do more.
“We can’t help people touching everything and we just have to grin and bear it, but luckily in the south west we are well below the average for cases.
“I must also say that even when we opened for summer I must credit the holiday makers because a lot of them kept their distance and were polite enough. “He added that it was good for them to go able to open because boot sales provided a welcome and safe activity for people to do this summer other than visit the crowded beaches.
“There were a few obnoxious holiday makers, like the ones that came here because they couldn’t go abroad, but the ones who come regularly were nice enough.”