Eager shoppers form long queues as stores, pubs and salons reopen across Shropshire
Eager shoppers formed long queues outside stores across Shropshire and the wider West Midlands as England's shops, hairdressers, pub beer gardens and pavement cafes reopened today.
The clinking of glasses could be heard as friends got to gather in beer gardens for the first time in months.
And the shutters went up at non-essential businesses bringing the High Street to life once more with staff returning to man the tills
With pubs only allowed to open to guests outdoors many have been creative with their open-air spaces.
Other pubs and restaurants are also making the most of their outdoor space.
The Townhouse in the middle of Oswestry has both its garden and its covered decking area and says it is already fully booked for next Saturday night.
A special marquee has been put up in the grounds of the Albright Hussey Manor Hotel on the edge of Shrewsbury for meals including Sunday lunches.
The hotel has also launched its new concept, Fire Kitchen, cooking and serving its food outdoors in new, copper fires.
The Armoury in Victoria Quay, Shrewsbury, has also been preparing for a busy April.
Ellesmere’s JS Hair Salon opened its doors today to delighted customers who have missed not only their hair appointments but the chats to the staff and other clients.
Owner, Pauline Parry Jones, who has run the salon for 24 years, said the salon had been Covid safe before the lockdowns.
“We are obsessed with cleanliness and sanitising and our salon is a safe place to be, physically but also emotionally.
“I have been ringing particularly our elderly clients regularly through lockdown to see how they are and to see if they need anything. I have a 94-year-old lady who usually comes in weekly who says ‘I do miss you’, when we chat.
“The salon is somewhere they can have a cup of coffee and a biscuit, see other customers, but also talk to us. They can relax here and they go out feeling good as well as looking good.”
“I have been a hairdresser for 40 years and I have loved every minute of it. Today is even more special.”
Pauline said the salon had been completely re-decorated in lockdown and had even had a new window dressing from artist Doodle Deb which includes a special selfie mirror.”
Helen Turner is the owner of Quintessential Hair & Beauty on Upper Galdeford, Ludlow, and said her personal schedule is already fully booked with clients until mid-May.
“All my team have been dying to get back to work.”
Customers at Helen’s salon will be expected to wear a mask, along with the staff, and stations will be fully sanitised between clients.
She said: “It’s the safety of not just the customers, but my staff as well that’s important.”
A hospice’s 28 high street shops will reopen today too, giving a potential £1 million boost to help look after people with incurable illnesses.
Severn Hospice staff and volunteers have been deep cleaning and doing Covid-secure refresher training in preparation for the reopening of the shops.
It will be the first time since March last year that all of its shops are reopened. In a normal year, they contribute £1 million towards the care of families in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Mid Wales living with incurable illness.
While the shops are open for socially distanced shopping, the charity is appealing for people to call their local shop before dropping donations to them.
Severn Hospice’s head of retail, Ross Henderson, said: “We are so grateful to everyone for their donations because each quality item helps us raise vital funds to care for families when they most need us.
“We really appreciate it butwe are asking that people contact their local community shop to arrange a time to drop the donation.”
He said: “There is an opportunity for the people of Shropshire to show our Shropshire spirit once again and to make sure the Shropshire pound continues to circulate around the local business community.
"I urge people to support local businesses, even when looking online."
Over the county border in Staffordshire, crowds queued to get into the new McArthurGlen West Midlands designer outlet in Cannock which was opening for the very first time today.
The £160 million designer outlet at Mill Green boasts more than 40 designer stores, including brands such as Hobbs, Joules, Ted Baker, Guess, Police, Superdry, Adidas, Boss, Calvin Klein, Dune, Kurt Geiger, Levi's, Lindt, Gant, Phase Eight, Yankee Candle, Skechers, Under Armour and Radley.
Over the border in Mid Wales, caravan parks are pulling out all the stops to welcome back England-based customers safely.
The Welsh Government took the first step to easing restrictions on March 27 when caravan parks and other self-contained accommodation were able to open to people living within Wales.
Now people across the Welsh border in Shropshire will be able to return to caravan holiday home parks and drive to touring caravan and motorhome parks across Wales.
The reopening of the parks coincides with the second week of the Easter half-term school holiday in England.
Nail salons, libraries and outdoor hospitality venues have also been allowed to reopen in England today.
While the English are the only ones looking forward to a pub-pulled pint, people in Wales and Northern Ireland will now also enjoy more freedom.
Boris Johnson urged the nation to "behave responsibly" as life took another step back towards normality, with indoor gyms, swimming pools, nail salons and zoos also welcoming customers.
Wales was also enjoy renewed freedoms from Monday, with non-essential retail reopened and border restrictions eased to permit travel again with the rest of the UK and Ireland.
Remaining school pupils returned to face-to-face teaching in Wales and Northern Ireland, in moves being echoed in Scotland as some pupils return from their Easter breaks.
The "stay at home" order in Northern Ireland also ended as the number of people permitted to meet outdoors increased from six to 10.
April snow showers made al fresco dining a chilly prospect in parts of southern England but the wintry conditions appeared to do little to dampen enthusiasm as customers queued outside shops and waited for hairdressers to cut locks after months without a trim.
Despite the relaxation in lockdown rules, social mixing indoors will remain heavily restricted, with around two in five adults yet to receive their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and the vast majority yet to get both.
The Prime Minister urged caution during the "major step forward" as a scientist advising the Government warned the rules must be followed to minimise a possible rebound in case numbers.
"I'm sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it's a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed," Mr Johnson said.
"I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember 'hands, face, space and fresh air' to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme."
The need for continued vigilance was underlined by former government chief scientific adviser Sir David King, who highlighted a surge in cases in Chile despite a successful vaccination campaign.
He told Sky News: "From the point of view of the population itself, we're all dying to get out of lockdown.
"From the point of view of the epidemic, I think it's all a little bit more worrying."
He added: "Chile is a country where the rate of vaccination amongst the population was third highest in the world - they were ahead of us in terms of the number of people who have had the vaccine - and they're suddenly now into a third wave."
Modelling by Government advisers in the UK has suggested that Monday's relaxation will not result in a surge of cases that would put pressure on the NHS, but it is "highly likely" that there will be a further resurgence in hospital admissions and deaths after subsequent steps along the road map out of lockdown.
The fanfare for the easing of restrictions has been muted by the national mourning for the Duke of Edinburgh.
Mr Johnson postponed his celebratory pint and Government communications have been pared back to essential messages after Philip's death on Friday at the age of 99.
Secret Spa co-owner Emily Ewart-Perks, who opened her beauty company's at-home salon services up for clients at midnight, said Monday's bookings are set to double the company's best-ever day to date.
She added: "It's so amazing. It's just been such a long time coming."
In England, pubs and restaurants have been making changes during lockdown to maximise their ability to serve customers outside.
But the British Beer and Pub Association estimates that just 40% of licensed premises have the space to reopen for outdoor service.
The next significant date is May 17, when socialising indoors will be permitted under the "rule of six" - if the Prime Minister judges that the vaccination programme is safely breaking the link between infections and deaths.
After three months of full national lockdown, the Government said on Sunday that a further seven people had died in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test. Another 1,730 lab-confirmed cases were also announced.
Around 61% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to official figures suggesting that more than 32 million people have received a jab. More than 14% have had both doses.
Mr Johnson welcomed a "record-breaking day" for second doses after figures reported on Sunday stated a rise of 475,230 jabs.