Businesses re-open in New Forest as lockdown lifts
THERE is now "light at the end of the tunnel", a New Forest tourism chief has declared after facilities across the district reopened this week.
Drinkers braved the chill at restaurants, pubs, cafés and tearooms that reopened to toast the easing of lockdown restrictions for outdoor hospitality venues, hairdressers and non-essential retail.
At the Mayflower Pub in Lymington on Tuesday evening, some were wrapped up but enjoying their food and delighted to get back a smattering of their freedoms. "It’s chilly, so it’s been interesting," laughed customer Tony Littlefair. "It’s great to be back out after the lockdown," added David Young.
Also pleased was Michael Clitheroe, general manager at the Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst, who said: “Today has been a long time coming and opening the doors was an exciting moment for the whole team.
"It has been fantastic to see families and small groups of friends socialising again for the first time and enjoying our new beach themed venue."
Paultons Park launched its new £12m Tornado Springs attraction and operations director James Mancey hailed the first day back a "terrific success". He said: "We were pleased to see lots of happy and eager faces at the gates before opening after months at home in lockdown."
To help the badly hit tourism industries get back on their feet, campaigns have been launched to promote people to shop locally, with tourism group Go New Forest helming the Taste of the New Forest scheme to showcase eatery offerings.
Go New Forest chief executive Anthony Climpson said: “The last 12 months have been awful, but now there is light at the end of the tunnel as we start to welcome back visitors – either day trippers or those taking a self-catering break or, from 17th May, when our hotels and B&Bs re-open.”
The Lymington Society has spearheaded a Shop Local – Save Jobs poster campaign with support from the town’s chamber of commerce. It welcomed a decision by Hampshire County Council to defer introducing town centre car parking charges until September.
Society spokesman Don MacKenzie said: "We urge residents to ‘think before they click’ and give local shops a try rather than automatically reach for the mouse or the smartphone."
With optimism of a better summer growing, Lymington and Pennington Town Council gave its blessing to popular community events for later this year: the RNLI annual lifeboat service at the Bath Road bandstand on 25th July and the Rotary Club’s Summer Spectacular at Woodside Park on 1st August.
As many took the chance to get back out and about and rediscover their high street, BCP Council reiterated the “Hands, Face, Space” message in Christchurch.
BCP Council has granted 27 new pavement licences across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to let restaurants and cafés use outside space for seating and tables. It has also freshened up the look of Christchurch centre and installed more bins in Highcliffe and the Quomps.
Andrew Barfield, Christchurch Chamber of Trade and Commerce president, said: "Christchurch businesses are ready and prepared to welcome back customers and work with them to provide a safe and enjoyable shopping or dining experience."
Among the first of the town’s eateries to reopen was Prezzo on the High Street. Chain chief executive Karen Jones said: "With tables limited, the advice is to book early and give yourself something to look forward to."
Meanwhile, the Friday Craft Market and Table-Top Sale gets back underway today (Friday) at Druitt Hall, from 10.30am to 2.30pm.