The 'buzz' of Southsea's Albert Road is back in the air as people enjoy freedoms for first weekend since restrictions were eased

‘THE buzz of Albert Road is back.’

By Steve Deeks
Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 11:45 am
Friends Lou Barnett (46), Sam Howarth (33) and Donna May (35) visit Albert Road on the first weekend after the easing of lockdown restrictions. Picture: Mike Cooter (220521)
Friends Lou Barnett (46), Sam Howarth (33) and Donna May (35) visit Albert Road on the first weekend after the easing of lockdown restrictions. Picture: Mike Cooter (220521)

That was the message from locals on the first weekend following the resurrection of freedoms as lockdown restrictions were eased last Monday.

The once bustling hub that gingerly reopened its doors a few days earlier after a spell of unprecedented closure as the coronavirus pandemic cast its long dark shadow across the city and nation, continued upon its journey of emancipation.

On Saturday the road welcomed back visitors for the first weekend since restrictions were eased again – offering a welcome uplift.

Tony Duke, owner of Head Case on Albert Road, Southsea

While non-essential shops had already been able to open their doors, indoor hospitality and entertainment had to patiently wait until May 17 to finally let people inside.

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Venues that could have opened previously had opted to keep their doors slammed shut believing it was futile to open.

But with the easing of restrictions, more places are once again open for business - offering a reassuring boost to the previously cautious reopening of the road only allowed to some.

Bini McCall (58) and Chris Grinstead (58) travelled from Brighton to visit the Historic Dockyard on the the first weekend after lockdown restrictions were lifted. Picture: Mike Cooter (220521)

Sean Muns, general manager of The Kings on Albert Road, said: ‘It’s good to have the bustle back around here. Places were shut before and have only just opened again. It wasn’t the same.

‘It’s a better atmosphere and brings more people to the area.’

Pubs such as The Vaults and The Lord John Russell held back from reopening at the first opportunity. The former only opened again on Monday while the latter opened its garden just a week before customers were allowed inside.

Jamie Martin, team leader of The Lord John Russell, said: ‘It’s good to be able to welcome people back in here again, it’s about time.

Ross Worboys (42) with son Max (7) visited the Historic Dockyad for Max's birthday, accompanied by Andrew Bailey (42) and son Theo Bailey (7). Picture: Mike Cooter (220521)

‘We’re lucky we have core regulars who have supported us and kept us going. When we opened our garden we were full to capacity most days.

‘It’s a godsend to be open again. We look forward to having live music and sport with the Euros approaching.’

Traders also noticed the change in atmosphere now restrictions have been eased more.

Dan Adams, owner of iHelp Gadget Repairs, said: ‘It has been a lonely place during lockdown - it’s been like a ghost town. A very strange experience.

Able Seamen visit Porters on Albert Road. Pictured: Marcus John (18) from Manchester, Ross Keith (21) from Glasgow, Jack Charman (23) from Portsmouth and William Southworth (24) from Colchester. Picture: Mike Cooter (220521)

‘We offered click and collect so had customers but it wasn’t the same. It was a desolate place.

‘But the vibrancy is now coming back. Everyone is happy to be getting back to normal. When the sun comes out it is really buzzing.

‘I feel quite blessed to be working and sad for those who went under.’

Tony Duke, owner of Head Case, said: ‘One hundred per cent things are more vibrant. When the sun comes out there is a real buzz in the air.

‘Earlier in the week the footfall down here was like a Saturday. Things are slowly starting to creep up again.

‘The response from customers has been brilliant. There are no alarm bells. We just need Mother Nature on our side with the weather. The sun brings people out.’

Liam Dyer, 32, who was buying a pair of sunglasses in the shop, said: ‘It’s just nice to walk down the street and go into a shop. People want to say hello and be friendly.

‘It’s a joy just to have coffee and breakfast and be out where other people are again.’

Phil Davies, owner of Pigeon Books, said the weather plays a vital role in whether people are out and about. ‘The weather has been unreliable but I’ve still seen people sticking it out by staying outside when it’s raining,’ he said.

‘When the sun comes out it is a lovely road to walk down. I’ve noticed more of a buzz (since restrictions were eased).’

Mum and daughter Mary and Lara Ellison, who live just off Albert Road, were enjoying a spot of shopping. ‘It’s nice things are more relaxed but people are still nervous. It’s been a ghost town,’ Mary, 68, said.

‘There is a bit of a buzz in the air. I’m looking forward to going to the pub again. It’s nice to have the variety that you get in Albert Road with the shops, bars, pubs and theatre,’ Lara, 35, said. ‘The weather will bring people back.’

Meanwhile at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard people were enjoying their freedoms once again - with visitors rewarded by a special visit during their trip.

Some eagle eyed visitors had spotted Her Majesty’s purple coloured helicopter landing on board HMS Queen Elizabeth at 11.15am on Saturday before a welcome reception greeted her.

The Royal Standard flag on board the warship had also been a giveaway of her presence.

Bini McCall, 58, who used to work for the RNLI, spotted the helicopter with her partner Chris Grindsted. ‘I thought that’s not ordinary livery and then saw the colour of the helicopter and flag,’ she said.

‘We saw the helicopter land and then there was a reception of bigwigs. It’s nice she’s here today. It’s impressive how she’s got on with things after Prince Philip’s death.’

Speaking about their day out, Bini added: ‘It’s so nice to be able to do things again like this and have a day out.’

Chris, 58, said: ‘It feels like god knows how long since we were able to do something like this.’

Mary and Paul Eames, visiting from Buckinghamshire, were surprised to hear the Queen was in town. ‘It’s amazing, bless her,’ Mary, 65, said.

‘It’s been nice to get away. We’ve not been here for many years.

‘Now we’ve been vaccinated we feel more confident. Young people are now taking it more seriously.’

Ross Worboys, 42, who was visiting from Guildford with his friend Andrew Bailey, 42, and their sons Max and Theo, both seven, said: ‘I noticed the Royal Standard flag. It was enjoyable to see the helicopter.

‘It’s not every day you see the Queen land on a warship.

‘We picked a good day to come here to celebrate my son’s birthday. We wouldn’t have been able to do it before restrictions were eased.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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