Shropshire pubs and attractions excited for post-lockdown return
As the country's tourism and hospitality industries prepare to emerge from hibernation, county businesses are getting ready to open their doors and welcome the public with - metaphorical - open arms.
After months in stasis, pubs, tourist attractions, hairdressers, restaurants, have all been given the green light to prepare for reopening from July 4 by the Prime Minister.
The experience may well be different – with a host of measures in place to cut down on the risk of spreading coronavirus – and the margins tighter, but there's no doubt businesses are delighted at the prospect of getting back to work.
When Tony Scott, owner of Scotty's Donkeys and Animal Park, found out he wasn't allowed to open at the same time as zoos and safari parks, he feared closure.
Tony said they were close to shutting down the park for good due to a lack of income, until they contacted DEFRA recently who said they could reopen. They are hoping people will now support them as they did during lockdown.
"Our season had been cut short already down to flooding and then coronavirus, and without your kindness, generosity and food supplies, we would not be able to carry on," Tony said.
"We are so pleased to have reopened. We have reduced prices and there is plenty of space for social distancing and fresh air. We have a one-way system in place and wash stations all over the park.
"We have missed all the people, and the animals have missed them too. We have got three months to recoup our losses before we close for the winter so please pay us a visit."
Some attractions are taking a cautious approach, but are excited to be on their way back.
The team at Ludlow Castle are planning to reopen its doors from July 6.
Sonja Belchere, custodian, said: "It's been a long time. We have a lot of work to do for July 6 but the team are waiting in the wings.
"We will have a one-way system in and out with all appropriate social distancing measures in place. We will be following all Government guidelines on staff and customer safety.
"Of our towers, only the Norman Tower will be open and the dungeons will also be closed. But there will still be plenty of rooms to walk around and plenty of places for picnics.
"We are really looking forward to the return of visitors. The castle is beautiful and we can't wait to share it again."
Oswestry's Park Hall Countryside Experience is also gearing up for welcoming people back, although owner Richard Powell said they would be looking at a July 10 date to open for annual pass holders and then July 13 for general visitors.
He said: "We are really happy, obviously a little concerned at how it will work but we will do our very best to make sure everything is safe for both staff and visitors."
He added: "We have had a lot of great reaction and support."
Towns have enjoyed increased footfall since non-essential shops reopened, with figures in Shrewsbury showing an increase of more than 65 per cent over the previous week.
Pubs will be looking to take advantage and for Ed Lowe, landlord at the Plough Inn in Wellington, it will be a case of reduced capacity and trying to make sure the regulars can get back in for a drink.
He will be reopening at 11am on July 4 with a DJ set to play from when the doors open.
He said customers had already been asking about when he will be opening the doors, adding: "Some are calling to book places already."
Chris Jones, landlord of the Albion Vaults in Shrewsbury, is planning on transferring his licence to his brewery in Lea Cross for a big celebration on July 4, and so he can accommodate more customers outside while some restrictions remain in place. The Albion Vaults is currently undergoing significant renovation work, and Chris believes it would be difficult to have many people in the pub under the current rules in any case.
He said: "We've got a field at the brewery so it will be much easier and safer for people to maintain social distancing. We will be open in some form on July 4.
"We've put in for a 7-11 license for three days a week, so Friday, Saturday and one other. We're going to have a live band and make it a bit of a celebration. That's the plan.
"I think it would be difficult to open the pub at the moment. If you start putting up screens it takes something away from the experience. If we do it outside it makes it a lot harder for the virus to spread."
In Ludlow, owner of The Queens pub and restaurant, Jane Vaughan, "can't wait to pull that first pint."
She added: "We're really looking forward to being open once more. We're a little anxious about the logistics, but looking forward to it and customers that I've spoken to are looking forward to it too."