It was the day we’ve all been waiting for. A first tentative step into freedom on Boris Johnson’s agonisingly slow roadmap back to normality. And while it’s not the first time we’ve been released from the shackles of lockdown since the outbreak of coronavirus more than a year ago (this was England’s third national closure), it’s the first time we’re being led to believe that it could be the last.
Telegraph Travel had roving reporters all over the country yesterday for the #GreatUnlock. You can follow their antics as they unfolded on yesterday’s live blog. And here are ten lessons we garnered from their explorations…
1. Morning drinking is now socially acceptable
Generally speaking, if you find yourself hitting the booze on a Monday before noon, you’re likely someone with a drinking problem, or you’re on holiday. Yesterday was no normal Monday. For the first time since January 6, pubs and restaurants opened their (outdoor) premises and patrons were already queueing for a pint before the clock struck midnight.
Simon Parker, who was cycling 75-miles around Suffolk to report on the #GreatUnlock, had this observation…
2. The English are welcomed back into Wales
“This morning in Llandudno, there’s clearly a desire for the return of shopping. Every parking space is taken and queues at the likes of department store Clares were forming well before opening time,” wrote Richard Franks, of his foray across the border into Wales yesterday.
While visitors from England are now permitted to enter its neighbouring country, and shops have reopened, hospitality in Wales is still fairly restricted. “Self-contained accommodation sites such as campsites and caravan parks are the only legal options for those looking to turn their ‘daycation’ into something longer,” says Richard, ”and shared facilities at these sites remain closed. All of Llandudno’s famous seafront hotels remain shut for leisure too, while restaurants and pubs can’t serve people outdoors until April 26.”
Last March, Llandundno’s famous goats were roaming the empty streets as residents were under a stay-at-home order. This year, as the town gets busy again, they can only be heard in the distance.
Richard did spot one gentleman swigging a beer on the pier at 9am, but for now, pubs remain closed. He concludes: ”There’s a further fortnight to wait for that first freshly poured pint in a freezing cold beer garden, but the buzz around town is enough alone to provide hope for the near future.”
3. The traffic out of London was awful
… just like the good old days. Emma Cooke was one of the many Londoners who made a break for the coast yesterday. On her way to Devon, she had plenty of time to gaze at Stonehenge from the car window thanks to the traffic jam, but after a five-hour drive, she made it. And it was more than worth it, she assures us.
4. Caravans are back on the road
For many, taking a tent or a caravan into the countryside remain among the only legal ways to enjoy a staycation. Indeed, demand for motor homes last summer soared and the same looks set to be the case for 2021. Lucy Aspden, reporting from the Lake District yesterday, saw plenty of them on the road, and Lottie Gross took her rented VW campervan to the Burford Caravan Club in the Cotswolds, along with her mother and her lockdown-acquired dog.
“Waking up somewhere different was glorious this morning,” Lottie surmised. ”Blue skies, Cotswold dry stone walls and only a partially frozen face. It wasn’t an easy night’s sleep but totally worth it for the adventure.”
5. Shared toilets are permitted at campsites
… and so are shop changing rooms. There has been widespread confusion as to which shared facilities are open at this stage in the roadmap. But a late change in policy has granted public bathrooms on campsites be available.
Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com, told us: “With at least three different versions of the rules in circulation, further confusion was created by DCMS guidance that ‘no household mixing’ was allowed in shared toilet blocks, effectively closing the typical campsite. However, updated guidance issued on Thursday, April 9 makes it clear that toilets can open as shared facilities [in England].” Thank goodness for that.
In addition, not only can we now enter non-essential shops again, we can even try on clothes. Lucy Aspden noted: “Passing through Ambleside and shoppers are back to get kitted out for their Lakes staycation – AND you can now use changing rooms!”
6. Eating out feels gloriously normal
“My first meal out was completely and utterly normal – and what a novelty that was,” wrote The Telegraph’s restaurant critic William Sitwell, who dined at Stanley’s in London’s Chelsea. “So beautifully normal. If I’d written a restaurant review over a year ago and described how I was in an establishment where men and women had gathered to talk and eat and drink, my editor would have summoned me in and asked your restaurant critic to pull his finger out and try a little harder.”
Watch the video of his experience below.
7. No more washing up after mealtime
Home-cooked meals and even takeout food, as we’ve become accustomed to throughout lockdown, is all very well, but there’s always washing up to do afterwards. Our reporters were unanimous in their delight at tucking into professionally-prepared dishes for the first time in what feels like forever and not dealing with the clear-up. Ash Bhardwaj feasted on oysters in Brighton, Simon Parker had a steak in Southwold, and Lottie Gross enjoyed fish and chips in the Cotswolds.
8. Wildlife and theme parks have reopened
Zoos and safari parks have reopened across the country, albeit with rules involving masks, closed indoor venues, and one-way systems to enable social distancing. Claire Irvin, the head of Telegraph Travel, took her two children to Shepreth Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire, much to their excitement…
Natalie Paris, meanwhile, took her kids to Warwick Castle, for some medieval frivolity, and stayed overnight at its ‘Knight’s Village’ glamping site…
9. Spas are back, but saunas and steam rooms are off-limits
Hairdressers, beauty salons and spas have now reopened. Boris Johnson finally managed to trim his eccentric blonde barnet, and our reporter Charlotte Johnstone checked into the South Lodge Hotel in Sussex to enjoy its special ‘Mini Spa Day Unlocked’ post-lockdown package. This included gym access, use of the wild and vitality pools and a 60-min bamboo massage treatment. But notably, no access to the saunas and steam rooms; facilities that constitute up to 75 per cent of total revenue for some spas.
Nevertheless, Charlotte’s stay was a much-needed relaxing delight.
10. And of course, it snowed (in April)
Temperatures plummeted to below freezing on Sunday night with Southern parts of England and much of Wales hit by snow showers, which didn’t provide Monday with the ideal climate for the re-opening of outdoor dining, camping and theme park-visiting.
However, as ever, Britons persevered. And as Lucy Aspden, reporting from the Lake District, wisely states: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing.”
How was your first day of freedom yesterday? We’d love to hear from you, so let us know in the comments box below.