Market Day at Waltham Cross

Colin Wilson

Cafes and shops closed near Theobalds Grove station
Colin Wilson
The queue outside Tesco Express
Colin Wilson
Homebase car park
Colin Wilson
The market area, looking south
Colin Wilson
The queue for the bank by the Eleanor Cross.
Colin Wilson
The market area looking north from the Eleanor Cross
Colin Wilson

Waltham Cross has markets most Wednesdays and Fridays. It is my local market, just under a mile away from home. At the time of this trip (15 April 2020) the lockdown for the Covid-19 pandemic had been in force for 3 weeks.

On the Way

Walking to Waltham Cross revealed the times were unusual and was a taste of what would be found at the Cross. Most shops were closed, the plumbers’ merchant and a few local grocery shops being the exceptions. The cafes were closed. The pubs were closed. Usually it would not be easy to cross Crossbrook Street because of the traffic. Today it would be no problem. There was but little traffic.

Buses came along from time to time but official advice was that they should be reserved for the use of key workers. Anyway, walking to the Cross would conform with daily exercise rules.

Just past Theobalds Grove station was a local Tesco’s Express store. Outside was a queue, with people standing apart from each other. Taped lines on the pavement denoted the distance to stay apart. A staff member on the door admitted customers. One out one in.

Crossing the roundabout just before the shopping area was unusually easy. Homebase is a large home and DIY store. The car park was empty, the store closed. Wickes over the road did have some customers. Like Tesco’s, customers were queueing, again admitted by a staff member.

The Shopping Area

On Wednesdays the main pedestrian area would have plenty of people and various stalls. Not one stall to be seen, and only a handful of people. Most shops were closed, just those selling essentials being open. And this was just before lunchtime.

Inside The Pavilions shopping centre the central cafe area was closed, any seating taped off. Smiths the newsagent also housed the post office. The post office counter was located at the rear of the store. Outside was a notice board indicating that the post office was only open till 3 o’clock (regardless of anyone waiting), there was only 1 staff member available, and some services were not available. The estimated waiting time was 10 minutes per customer. With at least two dozen people in the queue it doesn’t take much to work out how long the wait could be. There was another queue for Sainsbury’s, another for the Halifax bank, and yet another for Boots the chemist. Fortunately the Centre’s toilets were open (no queue here). For Smiths and Boots it seemed that the main parts of the stores were off limits but I was unable to check; it would be bad manners to apparently jump the queue just to check this.

Leaving The Pavilions at the Eleanor Cross end revealed yet another queue for Barclays bank.

Round the corner the few shops open had relatively short queues, with notices on the windows reminding shoppers to keep at least 2 metres apart or restricting patronage to 2 customers at a time.

A sandwich or a coffee would be nice by this stage. Just a couple of outlets where a takeaway could be bought, restricted to a couple of customers at a time. No places to sit and eat or drink in comfort.

The Ambience

However, all seemed calm. There were no obvious incidents of impatience or people trying to jump queues. People did not communicate with each other; they just waited.

On the way home I passed the mobile burger / drinks van in Wickes car park. Closed. Had to wait till I got home for a needed drink, after a visit to ‘the facilities’ and washing my hands.

All this revealed a few initial changes to shopping habits. Just going out for a couple of items was a waste of time, fewer trips for more items being a better idea. Because of the people waiting it would not be good manners to browse in the way we were accustomed. Before shopping use anti-bacterial wipes (supplied by the shop) to clean the trolley handles. Know what you want, get it and pay. Money is not wanted because of the risk of virus transmission; use a payment card, preferably contactless.

This may have been market day, one of the busiest in the week, but the atmosphere was more like a ghost town.

This page was added on 24/04/2020.

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