May 13, 2020 / 2:49 PM / 13 days ago

Reopened English garden centres finally savour the joys of spring

LONDON (Reuters) - Garden centres in England and Wales, closed under restrictions to curb the coronavirus spread despite some of the finest spring growing weather for years, finally reopened their doors this week to a huge sigh of relief.

A woman wearing a mask shops at Polhill Garden Centre, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Sevenoaks, Britain, May 13, 2020. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

“We’re really pleased to be back,” said Josh Novell, 23, manager of the Polhill Garden Centre near Sevenoaks, southeast England.

“These months are our bread and butter. The sun was out over the Easter weekend and normally we would be jumping up and down excited about that.”

The centre would normally see as many as 4,000 customers pass through its doors on a busy day but distancing restrictions have limited numbers and imposed their own difficulties.

“It’s definitely not business as usual,” said Novell.

“We think we’ve made it as safe as we possibly can.”

The centre has had to create a one-way system, install shields around the tills, and ship in lots of hand sanitizer and personal protection equipment for staff.

Now Novell and many other garden centre managers are waiting to see how soon other aspects of their businesses, such as their restaurants and play areas, can reopen.

Neither have all staff on furlough been able to return to work yet.

“But opening has been the first step and we feel really positive about it,” Novell told Reuters.

Garden centres remain closed in Northern Ireland and Scotland, although Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has suggested an announcement on their reopening could be made this weekend.

Reporting by Gerhard Mey; writing by Stephen Addison; Editing by Gareth Jones

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