Families and friends reunite and outdoors sport reopens across Leeds as coronavirus restrictions ease

Friends and families have been reunited and outdoor sports resumed today as the nation’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions eased to end the stay-at-home order and allow greater freedoms in the open air.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 4:45 pm

Groups of up to six, or two households, can once again socialise in parks and gardens and team sports allowed to recommence as the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown saw a major easing of social contact rules from today, March 29.

In Horsforth, golfers were teeing off from 6.40am in a packed schedule of bookings as members were welcomed back after months of no-play.

Jonathan Pearson, general manager Horsforth Golf Club, told the Yorkshire Evening Post members had helped keep the club afloat during the lockdown by continuing to pay their fees despite being closed.

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The first day of lockdown restrictions being lifted and golf Courses are open for business. Simon Booth tees off on the first tee at Horsforth Golf Club, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme

He said: “Our members have been so supportive over the last three or four months so it’s nice to welcome them back and see them out there. It’s like the first day back at school for some of them.

“It’s so exciting. There’s a real hustle and bustle. It’s very good - people can get out to enjoy the fresh air with their pals.”

Courts were fully booked at peak times today at Chapel Allerton Tennis, Squash and Gym Club, where the junior programme is set to begin again this evening and a tournament organised for this weekend is already fully booked with record numbers.

Club manager Eddy Stallworthy said it’s been great to see the courts once again full of players.

Two families share a joke amongst the Daffodils at Roundhay Park, Leeds, on the day families can meet up outside. Picture by Simon Hulme

“People seem to be very uplifted today and positive.

“Our elderly members who have had very limited access to socialising for the last few months have come back in this morning and have absolutely loved it and not really cared about what standard they have played.

“It’s good to get people back on court even though it’s outdoors only. People don’t really seem to be affected by the weather - most have said they don’t care what the weather is like, they just want to get out and do something.”

He added: “Everything just seems to be on the up again and we just hope that we can continue this as we move indoors in three months’ time when things start to ease again.”

At Woodkirk Valley Sports Club, in south Leeds head of football Steven Rose, said he couldn’t wait to welcome children back.

“These kids - football is their life. It’s a social thing too - not just football. Meeting their friends, understanding things as part of a team, working through pressures of a game, and the fun and enjoyment. If it was a job it would be their livelihood.”

The football club has 27 teams from four to open age - one of the largest in the area - and has been holding virtual training sessions via Zoom as well as work focusing on players’ mental health throughout the lockdown.

And Steven said the easing of restrictions has been a major relief as the club slipped through the net for funding help throughout the lockdown, relying instead on the generosity of sponsors.

Having a private landlord meant they couldn’t access the Leeds City Council business rate’ relief that many other clubs could, and the club did not meet deprivation area criteria to quality for grants from Sports England.

Steven said: “After the first lockdown we thought that’s great, we managed. Then we went into the second lockdown and we started scratching our heads and thinking ‘how are we going to survive? Do our members understand the position we are in?’

“But we are through. We start again this evening and have a couple of age groups training today.”

But if the roadmap fails to unfold as planned and the club’s lucrative summer fundraising events end up cancelled, Steven warned they may face difficult decisions.

“We hope not but we would be back to square one and having to look at reducing the size of our club and no-one wants that.”

With this latest easing of restrictions allowing for increased social contact, the city’s director of public health, Victoria Eaton, has urged people to continue to follow rules - including those who have been vaccinated.

She said: “We have made good progress in Leeds in reducing the number of cases and deaths but the virus is still in circulation.

“Please remember that as we move into the next phase, and the virus continues to circulate then contact outdoors is much safer, as this reduces the risk of breathing in infected particles and disperses the virus more easily.

“It is important that those who have had a vaccination continue to follow the rules.

“The full impact of the vaccine on transmission of the virus is not yet known, therefore it may be possible to spread the virus, putting others at risk.”

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