North Northants businesses back for hairdos, glad rags, workouts, retail therapy and alfresco hospitality
Step Two on the government’s ‘roadmap’ back to freedom comes into effect today
It has been a long wait - since Christmas last year - but finally north Northamptonshire is getting back to a more normal way of life with the reopening of many businesses and public buildings.
Residents have taken 'Step Two' on the four-step ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown as non-essential retail reopens including hair and beauty premises, libraries and community centres, indoor leisure facilities, as well as most outdoor attractions and settings including outdoor hospitality venues, zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas.
Self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, can also reopen.
Lucy Wightman, joint director of public health for North and West Northamptonshire Councils, said: “I know that many establishments across the county did a fantastic job complying with the guidelines last summer - and will again as they reopen.
"As customers we also need to do our bit. We all must socially distance, wear our masks and wash or sanitise our hands to protect staff, their jobs and businesses, as well as ourselves and those around us."
Opening for the first time since December 30, Vince Geranio, owner of Vince's Barbers in Kettering, welcomed clients back to his Hawthorn Road premises opening at 5.30am. In the early hours he had restyled six eager customers. The team of five barbers will be on duty to deal with the demand for a short back and sides.
Vince said: "The last lockdown has been the worst but the Government has been the best. In Italy they aren't getting any help. The grants have kept me ticking over but I feel for the self-employed. I won't get a break today - it'll be water during the day and vino at night but it's fantastico to be back."
Corby East Midland International Swimming Pool and Gym reopened to clients wanting to regain pre-lockdown fitness levels.
Ryan Meegan, gym duty manager, said: "I was dying to get back. It's been tougher this lockdown. The gym plays a vital role in physical and mental health."
Long-term gym member Maria Vantsikova returned to use the running machine and other gym equipment.
She said: "I'm really excited to be back. I have been running outside but I'm really happy to be here."
For Corby swimmer Rob O'Hara, 57, this morning's dip has been the first time in the water since December 15.
He said: "I usually go swimming every day. I'm excited to be back. The last lockdown took it out of me, now I'm going to have to build up my fitness levels."
Posh Paddy's Irish Bar and Grill in Corby town centre's Spencer Court had only been open for three weeks before lockdown three shut the bar and restaurant last December.
The family-owned Irish-themed eaterie, bar and music venue has down extended its outdoor seating area to cater for punters in search of the 'craic'.
Marie O'Connor, who co-owns the bar with her husband Martin and business partners Aimee and Christy Murray, said: "The terrace has been added. We're feeling optimistic and there's a real buzz."
Aimee added: "We do the best food, the nicest cup of coffee and best pint of Guinness in the town. There's nowhere else that offers you such a warm Irish welcome."
Around the corner at fashion outlets Primark and TKMaxx, long queues formed with customers waiting in socially-distanced lines snaking along the pavement.
Saxon Crown employees Lauren Smith and Gayle Wilson had been to Primark to buy new outfits - Lauren new gym kit and clothes for her daughter and Gayle new work clothes.
Gayle said: "I like to see things before I buy them. I needed to freshen up my wardrobe before I go back to work tomorrow."
Lennie Newman, managing director of Newmans of Rothwell, had been busy with a constant flow of customers wanting greetings cards, giftware, watch batteries and keys cutting.
He said: "It's been a nightmare. We've not been open since Christmas Eve. It's been really frustrating because every product we sell is available in supermarkets. Fortunately we've been going for 99 years and we own our buildings. All credit to the Goverment - the grants have helped - but we've had to dip into our reserves."
In Wellingborough at The Little R'Ale House, a micro pub next to the railway station, punters were enjoying a lunchtime pint with landlord Jim Wiltshire.
He said: "It's a relief to be back. We've got some very keen regulars to join us in the beer garden. To start with we're going to be offering locally-sourced ale from Pot Belly Brewery in Kettering and Addington Garden Cider from Little Addington. We're keeping it local."
Regular Ollie Killingback had returned to the pub with his dog Toby to share a drink with friends in the sunshine.
He said: "It's like being back home. I've really missed it. The beer is very good but the most important thing is the company. It's an exceptional place with great friendships."