RESIDENTS of England’s “prettiest village” say hordes of tourists peer into their windows and picnic in their gardens.
Thousands of visitors, determined to grab a selfie, descend on the row of 800-year-old two-bed cottages each day with many unaware that they are actually inhabited.
Those who live there hear tourists asking one another, “do hobbits live here” and some even try to walk in thinking they are in a museum.
Hotel manager Clare Perrin, 60, who has lived in one of the cottages for five years, said: “It’s a stunning location and they are amazing houses where you feel part of history.
“But there are now more tourists than ever before because photos spread all over the world so quickly these days and it brings its challenges.
“The door is constantly knocked on and the doorbell rung because people don’t think they are real homes.”
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Arlington Row in Bibury, Gloucestershire, built as a wool store for monks in 1380, has long held a fascination for visitors.
The 19th century artist William Morris described it as, “the most beautiful village in England” and the Japanese emperor Hirohito was so impressed with it on his honeymoon that he took paintings home and raved about it to his people.
For years, the image of the Cotswold gem was a watermark on the inside cover of a British passport.
Now, in the age of satnavs and Instagram, the place has begun to feel over-run.
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Clare added: “So many people put Arlington Row into their satnav and are then brought to this dead end packed with tourists where turning is incredibly difficult.
“Some leave their cars to take pictures and then nobody can get in or out. Some of the residents very elderly and we’ve needed ambulances recently which have to be able to turn round. It is incredibly dangerous.”
Visitors are supposed to park in the village of Bibury, no easy task, and then access the cottages via a cute footbridge over the River Coln, a fast moving stream filled with dozens of ducks and swans.
Signs do warn visitors that the cottages are homes to actual people but many people can’t read English or are just too excited to notice.
Jill, 77, who lives in one of the cottages with her husband Brian, said: “Sometimes it is difficult to hear English spoken on the street outside our house and it can be very chaotic.
PICNICS IN PEOPLE'S GARDENS
“A neighbour had some ladies sitting in her garden having lunch. They just assume that everywhere is open to them and they go wherever they please.
“All the private houses have electric gates and we have had to strategically plants shrubs by our back gate to stop people coming in there.
“People peer in the windows, knock the doors, ring the bells. We have to keep the door locked otherwise they’d just walk in.
“Even some who could read the notices don’t. We’ve heard Americans outside saying, ‘These must be houses for hobbits,’ and sometimes we open the window and say, ‘No, we live here’.
“At other times we have heard people asking what time the tide comes in and one Indian couple gave us their contact details and offered to take us tiger hunting if we could get over there.”
Covid brought a once-in-a-lifetime break from the constant tourist cycle but now they are back in force with more visitors than ever.
“Before Covid we would have six 60-seater coaches arriving every day,” said Brian, 80, a retired shipping agent. “It felt like a cruise ship coming in.
“This year it has been a lot more minibuses and smaller vehicles but larger numbers of people. It has got unbelievable.
“The whole world comes to our door every day and the village really does struggle to cope. There is only parking next to the trout farm so we get cars abandoned on our only turning space.”
During The Sun Online’s visit to Arlington Row, a wedding party arrived by car to take photographs outside the famous cottages.
One resident emerged to tell them that it was only private parking but the bride’s sister confidently assured him she had been given the all clear.
Soon they were trying to get dozens of tourists to move while the happy couple were photographed kissing in a Fiat 500.
Residents have their own small private car park but negotiating a way through the daily throng of people can be a challenge.
Jill, a retired teacher, added: “There is very little enforcement of parking and it can become quite a problem when so many people follow their satnavs and come down here.
“The National Trust describes us as being ‘open all hours’ and that is how it feels. Typically by 8.30 there will be a party of Americans or some other nationality outside taking pictures. Net curtains are essential.”
VISITORS THINK VILLAGE IS A 'MUSEUM'
Rose Francome-Robinson, 78, who has lived in one of the cottages for 30 years, said: “They think it is a museum. It just does not register with many people that these are houses where actual people live.
“I always have the door locked. If you don’t you’ll get the odd person just wandering in.
“Thirty years ago it was nothing like as busy. You would still get a lot of Japanese tourists but now it is people from everywhere.
“The parking is a terrible problem because people can be rude and aggressive when you tell them they cannot park here. The exits get blocked and ambulances cannot get down.
“I think the sheer numbers has made the village tired.”
Bibury has just 600 residents. Almost all properties come with a £1million plus price tag, but the celebrated collection on Arlington Row are all owned by the National Trust who select the tenants to live there.
Teri Garfitt, a university lecturer, said: “I moved in a year ago. I had to fill out a form and get shortlisted and then you had to speak to the letting agent.
“I was told there were at least 20 applicants but they only kept the process open for two days.
“I think I got it because I told them it was nice to be a custodian for this part of history.”
Now Teri has experienced her first summer in the goldfish bowl.
She said: ‘It is just busy all the time. Only a snowdrift would keep people away. The only issue I have is with litter.
“I pick up a couple of bags of litter every morning including things like nappies. It is very thoughtless especially when there are bins.”
As if Arlington Row was not famous enough, there are still celebrities who pitch up to remind everyone of their existence.
Jill added: “We had Penelope Keith come down here to film her ‘secret village’ series but we don’t feel like we are any kind of secret.”
Most tourists said they had been inspired to visit by pictures on Instagram or vloggers on YouTube.
“You just see its unique beauty and want to visit,” said Watsamon Sangsivarit, visiting from Thailand with her cousin Natsuda and parents Mantona and Wiroj. “I heard about it on Instagram. It is all over social media.”
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And the famous row is about to get even more exposure.
Earlier in the summer, at 6am, a crew arrived from Strictly Come Dancing to film a sequence.
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