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The rain was falling steadily and the Pembrokeshire coast in south-west Wales was being buffeted by strong winds, but the Moran family were not worried about the weather.
“It’s great to be back,” said Jonathan Moran, a teacher from Merthyr Tydfil taking a break at Meadow House Holiday Park in Summerhill with his wife, Lauren, and three children, aged one to seven. “The last lockdown was a difficult one and we’ve been planning this break since November.
“This is our happy place. We’ll be taking walks on the beach and playing on the playground. It’s lovely for the kids to have more space to have fun in.”
The stay-local rule was lifted on Saturday in Wales and replaced with an “interim all-Wales travel area”, which freed Welsh residents to go as far as they liked around the country.
Self-contained holiday accommodation, including hotels with en suite facilities and room service, were also given the go-ahead to welcome people from the same household or support bubble who live in Wales.
By Sunday, Meadow House and two other sites run by family-owned Celtic Holiday Parks were busy. Next weekend – especially with more clement weather expected – the three locations are expected to be buzzing with about 1,000 people enjoying the space and sea air.
Huw Pendledon, the managing director of Celtic Holiday Parks, said the whole season was expected to be very busy. “I think people are desperate to get away,” he said. Despite – and partly because of – the pandemic, the company invested around £1.5m over the winter in expanding and improving facilities.
“My family’s life savings are invested in this, so we have to make it work,” he said. “We knew travelling abroad would be difficult, so there was an opportunity. During the lockdowns, the phones haven’t stopped ringing.”
He accepts that some local people are cautious: “Some are feeling vulnerable, which we understand completely. We’ve been locked down for so long.”
Down on the beach at one of the ice-cream vans braving the chilly conditions, Carol Rees said she had been busy despite the rain and breeze. “But it hasn’t felt overwhelming,” she said. “I think people have learned now to keep their distance, make sure they take precautions. It’s good to see people back.”
The area will become even busier from 12 April, when the border is expected to reopen and people from England should be able to head to the Welsh mountains and beaches.
Until then, holiday companies – and police forces – are on alert to try to stop people from England and elsewhere sneaking across the border into holiday lets and second homes.
But it does not mean that Wales, the first UK country to begin to lift travel restrictions, is completely out of the woods.
The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, warned on Sunday that there could be further clampdowns unless people worked hard to help prevent them.
Asked on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show whether he could say this was likely to be the final lockdown, he said: “I’m afraid I don’t think anybody responsible in my position will be able to do that any time soon.
“There’s a job of work that still needs to be done in making sure that coronavirus is genuinely in the rear-view mirror… This is an inherently uncertain time. We study the figures every single day.”
During a break in the clouds, the sandy beach at Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire began to fill up with walkers and families playing football and rugby. A little further west in Tenby, visitors turned up hoping to catch a glimpse of a walrus that had found its way to the Pembrokeshire coast.
Brian Flew, a retired print worker from Neath, was walking his Papillon dog Harry with a big grin on his face. “It feels fantastic to be back,” he said. “It’s like getting out of prison, in a way. It’s only an hour’s drive for me to get here, but it’s a different world.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘Like getting out of prison’: Welsh grasp new travel freedoms | Wales