Thousands of tourists have flocked to Devon and Cornwall on the first day of lockdown easing in England but police have warned drivers and caravaners to beware of busy and wet conditions on the roads.
Service stations and laybys on the M5 and A30 were full with caravans, as tourists dashed to the coast.
Highways England asked motorists to consider travelling outside of peak times, while Devon and Cornwall Police tweeted: “The roads are wet and very, very busy heading in to Devon and Cornwall.
“We’re out in force trying to keep things moving but please keep a safe distance, use your headlights and ensure you check your caravan before your journey as many have been laid up for a long time.”
The tourism sector has lost out on hundreds of millions of pounds since lockdown started, and hotels and holiday parks are hoping a bumper July and August will help them survive.
Visit Cornwall predicts a loss so far of £665m.
At the Polmanter Touring Park in St Ives, 250 holidaymakers arrived on Saturday – many of them towing caravans down overnight to arrive at dawn.
The Brown family drove for nine hours from Peterborough.
Mum of two Angela told Sky News they’ve been “desperate” to get down: “We’ve just been so fed up at home. It’s definitely been a challenge at home with the two girls so it’s been full on.”
Not all are in caravans. Some battled the rain and winds to put up tents.
Trudy Jarvis drove from High Wycombe with her sister and daughter-in-law: “It’s going to be a different kind of holiday, hopefully not too different with social distancing and with how it’s going to work in the restaurants… but we’ve got a spreadsheet as we’ve had to book all our restaurants in advance.”
Simon Boston came down with his family from Buckinghamshire: “It’s just great to get away to be honest – we’ve been cooped up for so long, stuck at home, so it’s just nice to get out in the fresh air.
“It’s easy to social distance when you’re camping as well so it’s great.”
The site – which would usually have all 800 pitches full – has had to make a raft of changes to comply with new government guidelines.
The COVID-19 lockdown has caused Polmanter to cancel around 1,600 bookings, so getting the new measures right is vital.
Owner Becki Osborne said: “In the bar we are only doing online ordering.
“We’ve had to take out the majority of our tables and it is take-out only for drinks and food, so we can get that distancing for the guests and make it a safer experience.”
She added: “In the toilets and showers we have set up queuing outside and a one-way system in our shop.
“Lots of tiny tweaks – hopefully still an enjoyable holiday but just getting social distancing in place as well.”
Coastal tourist destinations have been among the hardest hit economically by the virus, so the return of the sector in England is hugely welcomed by business.
But some locals in the Cornish town of St Ives are cautious and concerned.
One local told me: “There is trepidation. We’ve been very fortunate down here with the COVID and the numbers we’ve had.”
A postwoman on her round told Sky News the tourists coming back was “daunting”.
“I think because we’ve just been a few people here and now it’s thousands,” she said.
But most are realistic and aware that the re-starting of the industry must happen to avoid the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.
One local said: “The town needs it now, we’ve had a long time quiet – and it is beautiful, which everybody who lives in town has said, but they need them to come back now.”
The tourists are now back – and ready to spend after three long months.