Covid: Visitors to Clacton Pier on post-lockdown 'heaven'

By Kate Scotter and Laurence Cawley
BBC News, East

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image copyrightKevin Jay/Droneshotz
image captionClacton Pier is the largest leisure pier in Europe by surface area

Not only is Clacton Pier the biggest pleasure pier in Europe, it also has what is arguably the best address in the UK - No 1, North Sea. Partially re-opened this week, what has that meant for visitors emerging from the restrictions of lockdown?

Clacton Pier is 150 years old this year.

But, forced to keep its doors closed for months on end because of coronavirus restrictions, it has been anything but a year of celebration so far.

Those who run the attraction say they are expecting a "bumper weekend" and for people to stay local for their holidays in the weeks and months ahead.

image captionFriends Sheila Gordon, 61, and Beverley Wooding, 62, said they had missed being able to visit their caravans in Clacton

Among those staying in the Essex seaside resort this weekend is 62-year-old Beverley Wooding, who has travelled from Romford to stay in a caravan park with her family.

She said she was delighted to be able to travel, visit the pier and enjoy some sunshine on the coast.

"It is amazing," she said. "It is something we never used to appreciate, but now we do.

"We just took it for granted being up here, but, now we are allowed back, it just feels lovely to be out.

"I come up every weekend while the caravan park is open, but the last time we were down here was last October.

"Everyone has been so excited that the caravan park has reopened."

Also staying in the town is her friend Sheila Gordon, 61, who said she had been "chomping at the bit" to get back to Clacton and the caravan park.

image captionDeborah Martin said it was a "nice treat out" for her two grandchildren

Deborah Martin, of Clacton, has been at the pier with her partner, Dave, and her grandchildren Skye, aged eight, and Jayden, 12, who were visiting from Hornchurch in east London.

"We come down here mainly with the grandchildren at least once a month," said Ms Martin. "It has been quite a while since we've been able to come here.

"It is heaven really to be back to normal a little bit.

"They say they are doing a few things up here, so there should be nice new rides ready in the summer.

"It is a nice treat out for them."

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Katie Sandom, 36, had travelled from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire to visit her in-laws for the day with her children Mollie, age seven, and Louie, three.

"It is nice to see it all open," she said. "And it is nice to be able to take the kids out and do something.

"They love it here. We've been on the beach and we've been here.

"The atmosphere is nice and everybody seems happy to be able to be out and do something that is not indoors.

image captionKeely Massheder, 35, was visiting the pier with her sister and a friend and five children from Woolwich

Keely Massheder, 35, was visiting the pier with her sister, a friend and five children, who had all come from Woolwich in south London.

"It is lovely to be able to do things with the kids - it [the most recent lockdown] has been horrible for them," she said.

"As soon as we saw the pier we were like, 'yes'."

The group last visited Clacton in August.

Asked what the hardest aspect had been of the recent lockdown, Ms Massheder, said: "I found it hard not seeing family.

"Slowly and gradually we are meeting family members again."

image captionPierre Oxley, one of the managers at the pier, compared the coronavirus lockdowns to three winter seasons in a row

Pier Oxley is one of the managers at Clacton Pier.

"People are just over the moon to be out and able to do something," he said. "We're looking forward to a busy weekend.

"The next big milestone will be 17 May when we can reopen our indoor attractions.

"We're hoping 'staycations' will be the thing for people this year.

"We're working so hard to get our attractions back up and running."

Asked about the impact of the coronavirus on the pier's finances, he compared it with having three winter seasons in succession.

"We usually open 52 weeks of the year so it has been a battle," he said.

"But we're trying to put new attractions up; there's lots we're trying to do.

"We now just need an exceptional summer."

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