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‘The public needs it’ - Norfolk businesses prepare to welcome back customers

PUBLISHED: 06:30 24 June 2020 | UPDATED: 12:27 24 June 2020

Rebecca and Gareth Williams of The George Hotel. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Rebecca and Gareth Williams of The George Hotel. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

Norfolk’s businesses and attractions are looking forward to throwing open their doors once more after Boris Johnson revealed lockdown restrictions would be eased from July 4.

The Wells and Walsingham Light Railway hopes to reopen on July 4  Picture: Ian BurtThe Wells and Walsingham Light Railway hopes to reopen on July 4 Picture: Ian Burt

We spoke to a range of businesses who are looking to the future, as the ‘new normal’ awaits.

Wells and Walsingham Light Railway

It will be all aboard at the world’s smallest public railway.

The Wells and Walsingham Light Railway suspended services when lockdown began, launching a crowd funding appeal to stay afloat. Supporters have so far donated around £4,500.

Director Nick Champion said the 10ins gauge line was now looking to welcome passengers back to north Norfolk.

“We welcome this announcement and hope it’s the right time considering the spikes being seen elsewhere in Europe and the USA,” he said.

“We are awaiting final confirmation regarding railway attractions from the published guidance due imminently but anticipate opening our revised services from Saturday, July 4.

“To that end, we have been putting in place plans to be Covid-19 secure for our workforce and visitors.

Chief Executive & Clerk of the Course David Hunter at Fakenham Racecourse. Picture: Ian BurtChief Executive & Clerk of the Course David Hunter at Fakenham Racecourse. Picture: Ian Burt

“This includes appropriate social distancing in queues and on the train, one-way systems, limited use of the toilets with regular cleaning, PPE, contactless payments, additional Perspex screens and of course, our carriages will be open air.”

Wyndham Holiday Park, East Runton

Andy Hanson, park manager of Wyndham Holiday Park in East Runton, said it would be “fantastic” to be able to open from July 4.

Mr Hanson said: “As long as it’s safe to do so, I think the public needs it. Everyone’s been brilliant in terms of doing what they have been supposed to, so it will be great for people to get out and do a few more things.”

The Dad's Army Museum in Thetford is reopening for the new season.
Stuart Wright.The Dad's Army Museum in Thetford is reopening for the new season. Stuart Wright.

The park has 150 static caravans which are owned by individuals, and 10 for hire to holidaymakers.

Mr Hanson said they planned to ask the owners to bring food and supplies with them, so as not to overburden local businesses. He said the park would also keep a two-metre social distancing rule to be on the safe side, even though the new regulations are relaxing it to “one metre plus”.

Mr Hanson said: “We are a caravan park so we do have space to do that. We’ll also be looking to see what other measures we have to put in place.”

MORE: Prime minister encourages people to take staycation in Norfolk

Dad’s Army Museum in Thetford and Bressingham Steam Museum

Kelvin van Hasselt and other members of Cromer tennis and squash club, pictured before the lockdown. Picture: Neil DidsburyKelvin van Hasselt and other members of Cromer tennis and squash club, pictured before the lockdown. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Stuart Wright, chairman of the Dad’s Army Museum in Thetford, said: “Following the announcement we can now look to put in place Covid-secure measures which will enable us to open in the near future but we can’t confirm a date yet.

“Due to the nature of the building, with one small door and a narrow corridor we are looking to open a separate entrance, and limit numbers of people.

“But we have also got to look our volunteer base to see if they are available and willing to work. Because of their age profile they may be susceptible to Covid and may not want to come forward at this stage.”

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Alastair Baker, 50, manager at Bressingham Steam Museum, said: “It is unlikely we will open on the 4th but we will wait for further guidance to be released and open as soon as possible, with a reduced service.

“We won’t run our trains and offerings full pelt from the beginning. We need to see if it’s cost effective and if people coming out. It will be a case of trying to balance safety and need at the same time.”

Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Club

The easing means a complete re-opening of venues such as Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Club is also a step closer.

The club’s 10 grass and four hard-surface outdoor courts are already in use, but the clubhouse and two squash courts are still closed.

Kelvin van Hasselt, club chairman, said although the squash courts may have to stay closed until later in the year, he was hopeful they could open the clubhouse with social distancing measures in place sooner.

Mr van Hasselt said: “It means people could possibly come into the bar, but we’ll have to review that very closely because we’ve got an older membership and we have to look after them very carefully.”

Mr van Hasselt said he expected there would be a “big demand” for tennis courts once self-catering locations opened, and they were hiring new tennis couches for July and August.

He said: “We hope to be able to cater for the public in a controlled way.”

MORE: Lockdown latest - which businesses must stay closed?

The George Hotel, Dereham

The George Hotel, Pub and Restaurant in Dereham, run by husband and wife duo Gareth and Rebecca Williams, will be opening their doors at the beginning of July.

Within half an hour of Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing that hotels, pubs and restaurants could reopen, the business received four room bookings.

Mr Williams said: “The announcement is brilliant. We want to ensure our customers that we will be putting their safety and our staff’s safety first as we reopen.

“Things my look a little bit different and we might have different products on sale due to stock issues, but our valued service and standards will be exactly the same.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming back customers old and new.”

Fakenham Race Course

Fakenham Race Course’s clerk, David Hunter welcomed the news that lockdown restrictions were being eased.

Plans are now moving ahead for a July 4 opening with staff returning to work to be trained within the new guidelines and signage placed around the site.

Mr Hunter said they are now making plans with their toilets and washing facilities to maintain social distancing. He has asked people who have their own facilities in caravans to use them during this time.

But, the Clark has emphasised that people still have “their own responsibility for social distancing.”

The racecourse’s bar and restaurant will remain closed as they are used for race days and functions. He has encouraged people to wander into Fakenham and use businesses in the town.


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