Google data shows spike in park visits as Covid restrictions lifted

Friends and family have enjoyed getting back out following the easing of restrictions.

Friends and family have enjoyed getting back out following the easing of restrictions. Elaine Robinson, Orla White and Jess White with Winston the dog at Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Parks across Suffolk saw a huge rise in visitor numbers after lockdown restrictions were eased around Easter, with café owners pleased to see people out and about again. 

The data from Google shows that from March 29 to April 4, which includes the Easter weekend, 68% more people went to green outdoor spaces compared to the numbers visiting parks between January 3 and February 6, 2020, known as the baseline period.

Average activity at parks increased from 23% below the baseline period in the first week of the most recent lockdown after Christmas, to 68% above the baseline in the first week of lockdown easing.

It is slightly lower than the UK-wide increase of 70% in park visits during the same week, which saw two households or groups of six allowed to meet outside for the first time in 2021.

Joanna Wallace, general manager at Sodexo which runs The Garden Café in Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds, said it is nice to see people out and about again.

Stuart, Holly, Leslie and Eddie the dog. Abbey Gardens in Bury was buzzing with people enjoying ice

Stuart, Holly, Leslie and Eddie the dog. Abbey Gardens in Bury was buzzing with people enjoying ice creams and walks. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

"It's great to have a bit of normality and hopefully this will continue and we will see a strong trade over the summer," she said.


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"Children are keen to get outside and people are desperate to meet up with friends and family, and luckily Bury St Edmunds has lots of green spaces."

Abbey Gardens in Bury was buzzing with people enjoying ice creams and walks PIcture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Abbey Gardens in Bury has been buzzing with people enjoying ice creams and walks. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

She added: "It is nice to see a bit normality."

Meanwhile, owners of The Café on the Rec in Stowmarket, which opened its doors in perfect timing for the Easter holidays, also said they are enjoying welcoming people to the green space.

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Steve Ambrose said: "The recreation ground is one of the main green spaces in the town, so we are hopeful this strong trade will continue as the weather gets better. 

"After hearing messages for the last year about social distancing and staying outside, I think it's hard for people to forget that so they will keep coming to parks."

Abbey Gardens in Bury was buzzing with people enjoying ice creams and walks PIcture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Abbey Gardens in Bury was buzzing with people enjoying ice creams and walks. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

There has also been significant increases since rules relaxed at retail and supermarkets, where activity at the latter is almost back to pre-Covid levels. 

Trips to Supermarkets are down just 1% on the baseline period, compared to the UK average which is 3% lower than pre-Covid levels. 

Retail and recreation was still down 42% on the baseline period, along with a 43% fall in people going to the workplace.

More people have also returned to using public transport in Suffolk as restrictions have eased, rising from -56% in the first week of the January lockdown to -40% over Easter. 

People's movements will continue to change over the coming weeks as hospitality reopens and restrictions are eased further. 

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