In pictures: The day hundreds of shoppers returned to Leamington - with new haircuts and freshly poured pints in the sunshine!
There were smiles all round as non essential and outdoor hospitality businesses reopened for the first time in months
Today (April 12) marked a significant day in the easing of lockdown restrictions, with many businesses reopening. Editor Phil Hibble spent time in the town to witness people pouring back into the shops, barbers, pubs and restaurants. Here are his observations.
In the welcome sunshine, hundreds of shoppers returned to Leamington town centre, marking the milestone moment when many shops reopened for the first time in months.
It may have started slowly but as the day moved on, the temporarily pedestrianised Parade grew busier, filling with people keen to get back into their favourite clothes shop, have a coffee outside with a friend or a pint in a beer garden.
Many even sported new haircuts - the queues outside the barbers showed how keen people were to turn their DIY haircuts into something more presentable.
But more importantly there were smiles. While social distancing and masks are still the order of the day, people saw today as the turning of a corner, the day when things started getting back to normal.
"Around town, there is a positive atmosphere as people are returning to their businesses," said Hayley Key, the chairman of Leamington Chamber of Trade.
"It is great that non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality has been able to open today.
"The Chamber of Trade urges all local residents to support these businesses at this time, they have gone to great lengths to make them Covid secure for all to enjoy."
Today was also an important day for Hayley, as it marked the reopening of her own business.
"On a personal note, it is wonderful to open the doors of my retail business, Lockwood's Ski and Outdoor today," she said.
"We have been really busy and pleased with how everyone is abiding by the rules making it a safe shopping experience. Long may it continue!"
"There has definitely been a buzz about town," said Anita Tarry, from the flower stall on the corner of Regent Street and the Parade.
"It seemed quiet early on but now lots of people are coming out - and what's great is that more and more people are supporting local businesses."
The outdoor tables at cafes and restaurants around town were filled as people enjoyed the lifting of restrictions in the sunshine.
Staff at Chesford Grange Hotel between Leamington and Kenilworth said there was air of excitement when they served their their first drink in the sunshine this morning, as part of their outdoor dining area.
And that feeling has been shared by our pubs across the area. The hospitality sector is in desperate need of a lift after a tough 12 months - and today was the glimmer of hope many had needed.
The tourism industry know all about tough times. Winchcombe Farm in Upper Tysoe has been closed for eight of the last 12 months, costing owners Jo Carroll and Steve Taylor hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost business.
Now the couple say they hope a surge in ‘staycationers’ will help them bounce back from the latest in a series of lockdowns.
Jo said: “Consumer confidence is high and we have massive surges of bookings whenever there is a Government announcement, giving people a light at the end of a very long tunnel.
“We are anticipating a very busy summer, with July and August pretty much fully booked. We feel quietly confident about reopening on Monday – although we still have a myriad of restrictions in place, which make trading difficult."
To mark their reopening today, the first returning guests were treated to a rendition by Leamington’s Royal Spa Brass Band at midday as well as refreshments, including cup cakes, courtesy of White Hyacinth Cake Design in Whatcote.
It was the perfect welcome on a day when people across the country were smiling again.