Book club, friends reunited: life after lockdown in a city park

Wendy Howe left and Sue Lawrence at Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures: B

Wendy Howe left and Sue Lawrence at Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

Sitting near each other on a park bench in the sun they look like a regular pair of friends meeting up for a weekly catch up.

Liz Somerville and book club at Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures: BRITT

Liz Somerville and book club at Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

But for Wendy Howe, 68, and Sue Lawrence, 73, who have known each other for 16 years, June 2 at Waterloo Park, Norwich, was an important date as it was the first time they had met each other in 10 weeks after shielding in their own homes.

Liz Somerville at Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Liz Somerville at Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

Both have underlying health conditions and were advised by the government and their GPs to protect themselves from coronavirus but after restrictions were lifted on June 1, they can now meet one other person once a day in the outside as long as they stay two metres away.

Ellen Hilton left and Ellen Vickers at Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures:

Ellen Hilton left and Ellen Vickers at Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

Mrs Howe, from Pelham Road in Norwich, who has severe asthma, said: “It is so nice. We have talked on the phone but it is not the same as talking to each other in person. The hardest thing is not being able to hug each other. I have been down during lockdown but I have good days.”

Gemma Brown, 34, with her daughters Sophia Seymour 5 and Vienne Seymour 4 at Waterloo Park after loc

Gemma Brown, 34, with her daughters Sophia Seymour 5 and Vienne Seymour 4 at Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

She said she remained scared of the virus.

Wendy Howe left and Sue Lawrence, at Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures:

Wendy Howe left and Sue Lawrence, at Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant


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“I couldn’t go anywhere where there are lots of people like the shops or a beach. The park is the only place I’ll go at the moment,” added Mrs Howe.

Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

She described the government’s guidance to people previously advised to shield as vague.

Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Waterloo Park after lock down restrictions altered. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

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Her friend, Mrs Lawrence, from Newark Close in Thorpe St Andrew, who previously had breast cancer and has Huntington’s disease, said: “We were so excited to meet.”

MORE: Lockdown: Everything you need to know about the new rulesElsewhere in the park, was a small book group meeting for the first time since lockdown.

One of the members, Liz Somerville, 59, from Thorpe Hamlet, said: “I’m scared about the easing up of restrictions. I was in Waterloo Park last week and there were groups of 20 people. People can be complacent. It is so unknown. I think we are heading for a second spike but I hope I’m proved wrong.”

She added that groups of six or fewer was fine if done sensibly,

Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) student Ellen Hilton, 20, who was in the park with her NUA friend and housemate said: “It is nice to meet people for your mental health.”

And mother-of-two, Gemma Brown, 34, from Rackheath, who was doing pond dipping with her two daughters aged four and five, said: “Being able to get out makes me feel better. We were getting cabin fever. I feel anxious about my girls returning to school.”

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