Padstow: Sun, sand and upper class yobs

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Police have issued a warning to some of the country's leading public schools after their pupils were blamed for "loutish and yobbish" behaviour in one of Britain's most popular holiday destinations.

Police have issued a warning to some of the country's leading public schools after their pupils were blamed for "loutish and yobbish" behaviour in one of Britain's most popular holiday destinations.

Officers from north Cornwall have written to the headmasters of Marlborough and Winchester Colleges after a spate of vandalism and drunkenness in villages along the Camel estuary. They will also be writing to other schools including Eton and Harrow and are planning a series of visits to the establishments next year.

The move comes after complaints that "upper class yobs" have been causing problems while holidaying in the villages close to Padstow in north Cornwall - an area locals say has become increasingly popular since Prince William and Prince Harry stayed there earlier this year.

The complaints range from drunkenness and urinating in the gardens of private homes to slashing car tyres when local people remonstrated with them. Some of the children are said to be as young as 11.

The Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall, Paul Tyler, said yesterday that residents and councillors were fed up with "rich yobs from elsewhere who have more money than sense.

"Acts of vandalism, all-night noisy parties and intimidation of residents have become all too frequent. Under-age drinking and drug use would appear to be widespread," he said. "When one gentleman complained that a rowdy gang had invaded his garden at 4am, all his car tyres were slashed. Another typical response has been, 'You can't touch me, my father's a barrister' or similar boasts."

Mr Tyler insisted that the problem lay with pupils from independent schools and said local people were now calling the area Kensington-on-Sea - a reference to the well-heeled area of west London. "I do not think that this is an overreaction," he said.

The problem of rowdy youngsters visiting during the school holidays is nothing new. The area is a popular location for holiday homes and many are drawn by the beaches that spread along the coast around Padstow bay.

But this year the trouble has got so bad that locals have felt forced to go to the police. Tyrrell Sandry, who represents the area on North Cornwall District Council, said: "There are always some problems in the summer when the schools break up. These are well brought up, well-educated children but when they get together they can be intimidating.

"There are no night clubs - Rock [across the estuary from Padstow] is not that sort of place, it's a small village. If they want nightlife they should go to Newquay."

Jane Diplock, parish councillor for St Minver, said: "All of them have had an expensive education but they let rip when they are down here and that is what sticks in people's throats."

The focus of many of the problems centres on the village of Rock. There many of the youngsters congregate outside the Mariners Pub.

The landlord, Eddie Miller, said: "There is nothing for children to do here after 11pm. We expect them to go home like good children but they are going down to the beach. We do what we can to deter underage drinking by checking ID cards and stuff."

Despite Mr Miller's efforts, local people and police say there is a lot of underage drinking. This is because many older teenagers buy drinks for younger friends while many youngsters arrive outside the pub with drinks bought from off-licences - often dropped off by their parents who might be setting off for an evening in Padstow, the site of several of Rick Stein's seafood restaurants.

Elsewhere there have been reports of vandalism and intimidation. Carl Brenton, who runs the Camel School of Seamanship in Rock, said: "We have a no-go area at the bottom of Rock every night now. It's broken windows and damage to boats and at the moment it's smashed bottles everywhere."

The police have been forced to act. "There is certainly a situation that a number of residents have been complaining about," said PC Renee Ward, the local community officer.

"I think they are shocked that these people from good backgrounds and who are well brought up are creating problems. But while the behaviour is anti-social I do not believe there is widespread lawbreaking or drug-taking going on."

PC Ward said her boss, Inspector Mike Ward of Wadebridge police station, had already written to the headteachers of Winchester and Marlborough Colleges - both of which charge boarders about £5,000 a term. She said she believed posters advertising "summer reunions" were often placed on the college noticeboards.

"We want to approach the problem from a different angle," she said.

"I know that two of the schools my inspector has spoken to are Marlborough and Winchester just to test the water and the headmasters have been extremely positive.

"I know that he is hoping that he or I will go and visit some of the schools prior to next season. Occasionally there is possession of drugs or some criminal damage.

"I have seen parents drop their youngsters off with large quantities of alcohol and say, 'I'll see you at 2am' and the youngest has been 10 or 11 years old."

Yesterday in Rock, an 18-year-old from Worcester, whose father is a stockbroker, explained the apparent attitude of many of the young visitors. "The fact is that people come down here with the attitude that they are away from home for two weeks and 'I can be totally irresponsible and my parents can't see me'," said the teenager, who asked not to be named.

"I think people down here would suffer if it wasn't for the tourist industry and they cannot have the best of everything."

No one from either Winchester or Marlborough College was available for comment yesterday.