Friday, 25 June 2021

Finally, the taste of freedom (and the sun shines too)

Finally, the taste of freedom (and the sun shines too)

FREEDOM was the cry as the coronavirus lockdown restrictions were eased.

On Monday the “stay at home” rule was lifted and people could meet outdoors in groups of up to six, or two households, and outdoor sports such as golf and tennis resumed.

The relaxation coincided with some welcome sunshine and temperatures reached 23C. Golf clubs reported being very busy while hundreds of people visited Mill Meadows in Henley to have a stroll or meet friends.

Visitors said they were happy to experience the “new normal” for the first time in months. Among those at the riverside meadows were Frances Brewitt-Taylor, 69, and Ann Gutsell, 74, who were enjoying their first walk together.

They are neighbours in Emmer Green but had never spoken before the pandemic.

They became good friends when forced to stay at home in lockdown and started chatting to each other from their doorsteps. Ms Brewitt-Taylor, who lost her partner during the pandemic, said Ms Gutsell and her other neighbours had supported her and it was heart-warming to receive so much kindness from people she barely knew.

Ms Gutsell, 74, said: “Lockdown has been the most horrible experience of my life but today makes up for it. Before lockdown, we didn’t really know each other, we only said ‘good morning’ and ‘hello’ if we saw each other in the street but we never really talked.

“Now here we are walking together for the first time.”

Some students from The Henley College decided to have a picnic in Mill Meadows to celebrate their last day.

They had spent a year attending lessons virtually from home until being allowed back on March 8.

Grace Harding, 17, said: “I’ve loved being back at college. It has been great to be able to see my friends again.

“It was hard during lockdown — using FaceTime is just not the same as being able to see your friends in person.

“It’s crazy that it’s over already — I’ve loved being at college, it was so much fun. It feels like we’ve missed some of it though because of the lockdown but we’ve had a great time. I’ll be sad to leave.”

Ellie Purves, 17, said: “It was weird not being able to see friends. Talking to them online was just not the same.

“Being able to meet up again in Henley is great — it’s so beautiful here and Henley really brought us together.”

Daliya Sultana, 19, added: “It’s refreshing to see everyone else again. I’m normally always out and about as I’m a sociable person.”

Henley Golf Club was very busy with every tee time booked.

Golfers had the choice of playing in groups of up to four people, remaining 2m apart at all times and not touching the flags or any ball but their own. The clubhouse had to remain closed.

General manager James Brockington said: “Members are just turning up, playing, changing their shoes and going back home again. Everyone is very pleased to be back, though. I’ve seen lots of smiling faces and the weather has been good. All our members are abiding by the rules.”

Member Kelvin Logan, 68, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be back — I’ve been playing golf for 10 years and the last time I played was in December before lockdown.”

Peter Cawthra, 74, from Shiplake, said: “It’s good to be back and we’re out in the fresh air. Let’s hope that everyone is sensible and respects the rules.”

Marc Goodwin, business director at Badgemore Park Golf Club, said the course was busy.

He said: “It’s great to have our golfers back and we are doing everything we can to keep them safe. It’s fantastic.”

Peter Dixon, 62, said: “It’s the first time I’ve played in three months. The most important thing is socialising and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier bunch of people.” Andy Coles, 58, said: “It’s wonderful to be back out — the last time I played was the day before we went back into lockdown. The club is such a nice place and that makes a difference.”

Soni Jenkins said: “I don’t remember how to swing anymore, it seems such a long time ago. It’s nice to see everybody, and it’s super to be on the course again.

“I started playing golf 17 years ago but I wish I had done it when I was younger — golf keeps you young and fit.”

Recreational tennis resumed at Wargrave Tennis Club.

Chairman Dave Smith said: “It was great to be back, especially since we had dry weather and the sun was out — we had people on the courts from 7am.

“At the moment, people just turn up and play in fours and then leave as we are not allowed to use the clubhouse yet. The social side of it is still quite restricted.”

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