On what a year! - January to June 2020

2020 will go down in history as a year where when the unimaginable happened, when a global pandemic saw towns and beaches deserted and businesses closed but the public rediscovered community.
Hundreds of people crowded together around the Clock Tower to welcome in 2020 - what a  difference a year makes.Hundreds of people crowded together around the Clock Tower to welcome in 2020 - what a  difference a year makes.
Hundreds of people crowded together around the Clock Tower to welcome in 2020 - what a difference a year makes.

As we approach Christmas and New Year it is difficult to believe we will not see the celebrations of 2019 - and so it is all the more poignant to take a look back at the year to remind ourselves how we got here.

JANUARY

Thousands spilled onto streets at midnight on January 1 2020. According to businesses who had suffered a challenging 2019, it proved visitors had finally realised the resort really was open 52 weeks of the year - and with tills ringing into the early hours brought renewed hope 2020 would be better.

The flags are flying but Brexit Day in Skegness passed quietly in spite of East Lindsey having some of the highest numbers voting for it.The flags are flying but Brexit Day in Skegness passed quietly in spite of East Lindsey having some of the highest numbers voting for it.
The flags are flying but Brexit Day in Skegness passed quietly in spite of East Lindsey having some of the highest numbers voting for it.

Skegness Mayor Coun Mark Dannatt owns the Seaview Pub on North Parade and said: “As a business owner New Year was very good and we haven’t seen it that busy for many years.

“Hopefully, people were celebrating the end to 2019 and all the uncertainty that had been looming for many months."

***

Hope was still high for Brexit Day that a new era would dawn on January 31.

The train naming ceremony in Skegness.The train naming ceremony in Skegness.
The train naming ceremony in Skegness.

Only a scattering of England and Union Flags along Roman Bank gave a hint that East Lindsey posted figures of more than 70%. in favour of leaving the EU in June 2016 - some of the highest in the country next to Boston.

January 31 marked the start of a transitional period allowing businesses and government to prepare post-Brexit arrangements.

Lincolnshire County Council leader Coun Martin Hill said: “Brexit is a momentous, historic occasion – one which should be marked appropriately."

FEBRUARY

There was mixed reaction to the new lighting in Tower Esplanade in March.There was mixed reaction to the new lighting in Tower Esplanade in March.
There was mixed reaction to the new lighting in Tower Esplanade in March.

A celebration which did come early in February was a train naming ceremony in Skegness

It marked the launch of a major festival due to take place later in the year to mark the 50th anniversary of the destruction of much of the coast’s rail network.

The ‘Royal Scot’ steam train, one of the world’s most famous steam locomotives which was rescued from the scrapyard in 1962 by Skegness holiday camp magnate Sir Billy Butlin. is to roll into Skegness Railway Station on Saturday, September 26.

The public launch of ELR50 took place at Skegness Railway Station on Thursday, February 6.

Members of staff had moved into the Old Hall at Halton Holegate to protect the residents there.Members of staff had moved into the Old Hall at Halton Holegate to protect the residents there.
Members of staff had moved into the Old Hall at Halton Holegate to protect the residents there.

East Midlands Railway agreed to hold a naming event when one of their trains arrived in Skegness around 12.30pm.

The train, a Class 158, awas named by Chris Baron, CEO of Butlins in Skegness. The name plate was to be attached to the train for the whole year, promoting the festival across the country.

MARCH

As the town prepared for the start of the 2020 season, there was mixed reaction to new lights forming gateway to foreshore in Skegness

The first iconic street lights in Tower Esplanade which were tested by East Lindsey District Council were part of a £400,000 foreshore improvement project

Tower Esplanade, which runs from the Clock Tower to the RNLI lifeboat station, was transformed with state of the art LED colour changing lighting, incorporating image projection which will have the ability to create a variety of themed projection light shows whilst also improving visibility to the area.

Janet Simpson cutting scrubs at the Village Church Farm Museum in Skegness.Janet Simpson cutting scrubs at the Village Church Farm Museum in Skegness.
Janet Simpson cutting scrubs at the Village Church Farm Museum in Skegness.

Alongside the new lighting scheme, existing street furniture along Tower Esplanade was replaced with contemporary granite and hardwood seating, new stainless steel litter bins, bollards and wayfinding signage.

***

It was all looking good for the start of the season when the Government confirmed the global coronavirus pandemic had arrived in Lincolnshire.

The Department of Health said on the afternoon of March 6 that up to four people from the county had tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).

It was believed that the first confirmed case in the county was “a resident of Lincolnshire recently returned from Italy,” who may have have infected others.

Across the UK of 20,338 people who have been tested, 20,175 were confirmed negative and 163 were confirmed as positive.

***

-As the country was plunged into lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus, inspirational ways to lift spirits came from the youngest members of the community.

Children in Skegness painted rainbows for windows to make the world a little brighter.

The rainbows started springing up in windows across the area after schools closed in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Schools encouraged pupils to put up paintings to "spread hope" after a trend started online.

***

Blazing sunshine towards the end of March brought the crowds to the coast in spite of calls for people stay hope - prompting angry words from some members of the public and the East Lindsey council leader.

Coun Craig Leyland described the actions of businesses which opened along the coast as 'totally irresponsible'.

In a statement he said: ""On Friday evening the Prime Minster made a very clear statement that the following businesses must close to prevent the spread of Coronavirus:

"Over the weekend I’ve seen reports of businesses in the district remaining open and trading as normal that fall into some of these categories. This is completely irresponsible.

"I have always championed the need for our businesses to thrive and passionately promoted East Lindsey as a place to visit. However, I ask, for the health of our residents, that ALL businesses that fall into these categories follow the Government instruction.

"I am also asking visitors to please heed the Government advice regarding unnecessary journeys. Please postpone your visit to East Lindsey. We will welcome you with open arms once this pandemic is over."

APRIL

Easter started quietly in Skegness as pleas to 'stay away' continued.

But it was heartbraking for local businesses. Just a year ago, the coast was enjoying record temperatures, with thousands of visitors giving businesses an early season boost.

This Easter, the scene was completely different - with shops, arcades, kiosks and caravan parks closed as part of the government lockdown to ease the burden on the NHS during the coronavirus crisis.

There were, however, some reports of people ignoring the pleas, including police turning a family of five breaking the lockdown rules being away at the railway station and the British Transport Police have been brought in to support local officers - just in case.

Later in April, ELDC confirmed a shop in Drummond Road had been fined for staying open.

***

Appreciation of the work by the NHS and frontline workers during the pandemic was in fill swing by April.

Carers at a home for the elderly near Spilsby have said 'thank you' after the second Clap for Carers saw the country salute NHS staff and other key workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of staff had moved into the Old Hall at Halton Holegate to protect the residents there.

One of the carers now camping in a caravan donated to the hall, Hazel Webster, explained: "Our residents are so special to us we decided this was the only way we could protect them."

Hazel moved to the home with her two therapy dogs, Pip and Gypsy, but had to leave her husband behind.

***

As the pandemic continued, community spirit grew.

A Skegness fish and chip shop re-opened to deliver free food for NHS heroes andfrontline workers

Fish and chips were delivered to NHS workers at Skegness Hospital by Victor Fox of Harry Ramsbottoms.

Staff at Skegness Hospital received their Good Friday delivery of fish and chips - and more free food including sausages, burgers and fishcakes was prepared for the homeless.

Victor Fox, who owns the restaurant near the Clock Tower in Lumley Road, said he would be opening for five hours every Friday for NHS workers and the homeless, who could acquire vouchers from food banks in Skegness and Ingoldmells or the Salvation Army.

"Over the years I have made a lot of money in Skegness and this is a way of giving something back," said Mr Fox.

***

As a shortage of PPE for carers and medical staff hit national headlines, an army of volunteers were joining forces locally to sew scrubs for NHS heroes

Janet Simpson was offered the Village Church Farm Museum in Skegness as a base to cut out the fabric for volunteers busy sewing in their homes..

For the Love of Scrubs - Our NHS Needs You was launched by Ashleigh Linsdell, an A&E nurse at Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, and had more than 42,347 members nationwide.

The Skegness group later moved to a new location at the Cricket Club, making scrubs and wash bags for NHS workers in the local hospitals.

***

St George's Day saw few celebrations, but Care Homes working hard to entertain their residents who were unable to see relatives still managed to fly the flag.

Residents at Syne Hills Residential Home toasted the legendary soldier in the Roman army killed a dragon and rescued a princess.

Their own heroes, the carers who work at the home in Syne Avenue, also joined in by showing off the artwork on their facemasks - including a moustache.

The residents also produced some artwork thanking the NHS heroes, who were also recognised at Thursday's St George's Day with the fourth Clap for Carers event.

MAY

Fantasy Island apologised for not being open to celebrate its 25th anniversary - .but has revealed some of the changes that would l be in place when the theme park welcomed visitors back.

A post on social media said: "It's our 25th anniversary today!

"Sadly we can't spend the day together, but we look forward to welcoming you all back as soon as it's safe to do so."

***

The bunting was out across the Skegness area as communities came out into their gardens to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.

Major events planned for the Bank Holiday weekend, including the launch of the new East Coast Showground with a three-day festival, had been cancelled because of Covid-19restrictions.

And the message to the thousands of tourists who would normally head to the coast for a Bank Holiday was clear -'Stay at Home, the Coast is Closed .

Celebrations began in Burgh le Marsh after the church clock struck 11am for the national two minutes silence.

People going about their day stopped and stood in tribute to those who were lost in the war and those we have lost during the coronavirus crisis.

Then the staff of the Spa shop came out into the street, waving flags and joining in a rousing chorus of Land of Hope and Glory.

"Everyone's ready for party," said the Norths of Elm Crescent in Burgh le Marsh, who actively encouraged everyone to get involved in a street party.

Preparations for the Hogsthorpe street party started the previous weekend Kerry Stafford said: "We had a baking day and everyone got the bunting out.

"VE Day started with the Red Arrows flying over. We all had a fabulous time. Every street in the village got involved and households made the effort to dress up."

***

After a quiet start to the Bank Holiday weekend due to the weather turning cooler, the sunshine brought thousands of visitors to the coast on Monday - in spite of the pleas by East Lindsey District Council to 'stay away'.

As families spaced themselves out on the beach to enjoy the sunshine, the seafront became a place where, in the joy of taking those first steps back to some form of normality, social distancing was often forgotten.

Police and the coastguard patrolled the area as a reminder the Covid-19 pandemic was not over yet, but scrambling up sandbanks and jumping sideways was the only way to avoid many approaching visitors.

Kiosk staff who had opened businesses serving refreshments, including alcohol, had done their best to put social distancing measures in place, encouraging queuing two metres apart,

The local authority had also painted yellow feet two metres apart on pavements and in the car park area to protect visitors and act as a reminder .to stay safe.

This was welcomed by those who were trying to be responsible.

Jane Hill and Richard Crofts had made the 80-mile trip from Nottingham to Skegness. "We just came for a drive really not expecting anywhere to open," said Jane.

***

Residents raised the roofs on final Clap for Carers on May 29.

For 10 weeks, residents in the Skegness area had clapped on their dooorsteps to celebrate those caring for us during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, as restrictions were eased and the country slowly began to get back to some form of normality, time was called on the weekly celebration.

Founder of Clap for Carers Annemarie Plas asked that households should aim to make the 10th night the loudest clap yet.

She said: “I am amazed at how the UK has adopted Clap For Our Carers and how it has managed to connect communities for one moment, every week.

"Although this is the last clap in the series, we are hugely excited about how we can build on Clap For Our Carers and the future that the campaign holds.”

Residents in Burgh le Marsh were amongst those taking part in the last event. - banging drums, blowing whistles and bashing saucepans, as well as clapping.

Dave and Gillian Smith have joined in every week since it started. "It has brought our community together," said Dave. "We've come out every week and quite a few of our neighbours have joined in too."

JUNE

East Lindsey District Council,'s announcement it would extend free parking until August 1 was welcomed by visitors and businesses alike.

The authority had planned to reintroduce parking charges from July 1.

However, according to an opinion poll, almost three-in-four readers opposed ELDC’s plan to reintroduce car parking charges from July 1

East Lindsey District Council suspended car parking charges in early April when the country entered lockdown.

As the Covid-19 lockdown measures eased, the council reintroduced charging at their tourist car parks along the coast, with their amenity car parks across the district remaining free of charge.

Leader of East Lindsey District Council, Councillor Craig Leyland, said: “The recent lowering of the Covid-19 alert level means we will likely see continued easing of the lockdown measures that have been in place over the last three months.

“As more of our shops and town centre businesses begin the process of reopening we want to be sure that our residents, many of whom may be emerging from isolation themselves, feel confident and safe to support those businesses at this vitally important time."

...

Shoppers were out early to bag a bargain when 'non-essential' shops in Skegness opened their doors on June 15 for the first time since lockdown began three months ago.

There may not have been queues like outside Primark stores in the cities - but Lumley Road was busier than on recent Mondays and even a local beggar was back in his usual spot outside a bank.

The then empty Beales department store was a sad reminder of how challenging the High Street had been even before lockdown - its final weeks cut short by the government action to prevent the spread of Covid-19..

Early season attempts to improve the town had also fallen victim to vandalism while visitors were asked to stay away, with a new flower planter installed by the Lincolnshire Coastal BID now being used as a rubbish bin.

The sun, however, came out for the customers' return and there was even a message of hope from a digital sign above the entrance of the Tower Cinema - 'Together we will get through this'.

One of the busiest stores was Sports Direct in the Hildreds Centre, where a 50 percent off sale was being held for NHS workers.

Steve Andrews, the centre manager, said they had seen around 20,000 people a week through the doors for the few essential shops that were allowed to stay open during lockdown - about a quarter of what they would normally expect to see at this time of the year.