As the sun set at Daymer Bay on the beautiful north Cornish coast last night, police vans circled the beaches, waiting for the invasion. After years of suffering at the hands of posh, drunken teenagers causing havoc, the fight-back has begun.
Hundreds of what locals have dubbed "snob yobs" staggered from the two pubs in the village of Rock on Friday night and followed the winding road that leads to the beach. But, as they swarmed on to the sand, the police were waiting for them.
Every summer, Rock - dubbed "Kensington-on-Sea" thanks to the high number of upper-class Chelsea residents who make the Cornwall village their home for July and August - is invaded by hundreds of public school students who spend their nights boozing on the beach, starting fires, and urinating and vomiting in doorways.
But now battle lines have been drawn and local residents are striking back. Security guards have been hired by the residents' association to patrol the privately-owned Daymer Bay, the scene of much of the drunken revelry, preventing anyone from getting on to the beach at night. Instead, the "snob yobs" will be diverted to nearby Polzeath beach where a dispersal zone will also be in place with at least four uniformed police officers on duty every night. They will remove any group of youngsters who threaten to get out of control, ban them from returning for 24 hours, and could even fine them as much as £2,500.
The hordes who storm the beaches include the sons and daughters of judges, politicians and minor royalty. The young princes, William and Harry, have also spent summer nights there in the past. Hundreds poured onto the beach on Friday night. After hearing a loud bang from one of the groups crowding the beach, Sergeant Robin Hogg, who is responsible for the dispersal zone, disappeared into the crowd, re-emerging moments later with two teenagers and marching them into one of the police vans.
The teenagers are, unsurprisingly, not very happy. "It is so over the top," said Alex, a 16-year-old student. "They are picking on us because we are toffs. It is a real trek to Polzeath when they turn you away from Daymer. When you do get here there's so many police, it's like East Germany."
His friend James, 18, said: "It is stupid. The locals complain about rubbish on the beach but I bring a bin bag. Daymer beach was a fun, chilled-out place, now it's ruined."
Michael Hendry, 18, a local man who was drinking on the beach, said: "The problem is the people who come from up-country. Most of the public school kids come down for a week and smash the place up. They just don't have any respect for the area."
This is a view shared by the local constabulary. Devon and Cornwall police have written to every public school in the country asking them to warn their pupils to be on their best behaviour.
Sgt Hogg said local residents have simply had enough. "We are trying to stop assaults, abusive language and vomiting and urinating in people's doorways," he said. "They are very well spoken but they are causing chaos and setting fires on the beach."
But public schools have reacted angrily to suggestions that their pupils are to blame. Dick Davison, spokesman for the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents public schools, said: "The notion that it is just privileged youngsters from independent schools who cause this sort of trouble and drink a bit too much is a convenient stereotype."
His views were echoed by Sheila Cooper, general secretary of the Girls Schools' Association. "It is unfortunate to tar every school with that brush," she said. "It is going a bit over the top. Obviously we would be very concerned if our pupils were upsetting local residents."
One local resident, Bill Frampton, 63, watched the teenagers being dispersed on Friday night from behind the fence of his house.
"I don't mind people having fun," he said, "but when it comes to being sick, pissing on my lawn and stealing bits of my fence, it is too much. I mean, you wouldn't like it, would you?"Reuse content