'I wouldn't want to do it again': How Cromer weathered a year of pandemic

A view of Cromer. There has been strong demand for property along the north Norfolk coast as well as

How has Cromer weathered the corornavirus pandemic? -We spoke to business owners, residents and community leaders to find out - Credit: Stuart Anderson

With its outlook on to the North Sea, Cromer has been forced to batten down the hatches and survive storms many times before.

But weathering the coronavirus pandemic offered another challenge entirely - one the town has adapted to, and in parts, thrived in.

North Norfolk saw its first confirmed case of coronavirus on March 13, 2020, and a year later, many in the town are optimistic about its future.

Mayor of Cromer, Richard Leeds. Photo: HUBBA ROBERTS

Mayor of Cromer, Richard Leeds. Photo: HUBBA ROBERTS - Credit: Hubba Roberts

Richard Leeds, mayor, said he was proud of how the town had kept rates of coronavirus so low, even through a influx of summer tourists.

Looking forward, he said he and Cromer Town Council were "wary" about planning ahead.

"We have lost two carnivals, two lobster festivals, one Christmas and we don't want to lose another, however, we are starting to think about what will we do at Christmas and New Year's, at the moment we are very wary as what coronavirus has done and could still do," he said.

Quiet Cromer during the first weekend of the second lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Quiet Cromer during the first weekend of the second lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Mr Leeds said he believed one of the lasting legacies would be Cromer Cares, a community group that was set up at the beginning of the pandemic in response to the outbreak.

Tim Adams from Cromer Cares with Morrisons' Community Champion and donations of food for the organisation's Christmas Hampers

Tim Adams from Cromer Cares with Morrisons' Community Champion and donations of food for the organisation's Christmas Hampers - Credit: Simon Clipsom

Tim Adams, founder of Cromer Cares, who also sits on the town council, said the level of the group's response had changed throughout the pandemic.

He said: "I'm happy to say that [at the moment] CC is not helping anyone with a known or suspected case of coronavirus in Cromer, that could always change, but I think it's certainly down to people's behaviour, they are being careful, businesses have been working hard to try and keep people safe.

"We have clearly got a big recovery to do, but we will recover."

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Looking forward, Mr Adams said there was no room for complacency.

He said: "I'm confident it's going to be very different but we're going to have a very nice summer, things are going to be very different.

"We're not going to have all of our events it will be more subdued but we're still planning for the future here in Cromer supporting a few events and our winter events, so we're optimistic that by that point in time things can start to get back to normal."

Reflecting on the year, he added: "I wouldn't want to do all of it again, the impact it's had on people's health besides coronavirus has been significant and we have clearly got a big recovery to do, but we will recover."

Shop local campaign Cromer North Norfolk. Sam Grout, Rock Shop Bistro Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Sam Grout, the owner of The Old Rock Shop Bistro and president of the Cromer chamber of trade and business, - Credit: Archant

Sam Grout, owner of The Old Rock Shop Bistro and president of the Cromer chamber of trade and business, said he believed people had adapted.

"At the outset, there was a huge amount of goodwill and a rise to the challenge of people helping each other out. Cromer Cares and various other existing organisations, a key one being Merchant's Place."

The busy Cromer beach on the hottest day of the summer so far. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Cromer Beach was packed after lockdown was lifted last summer - Credit: Denise Bradley

Mr Grout said the circumstances created by the pandemic had helped to highlight those in the community who were struggling before the crisis hit and had made people more aware of what facilities were on their doorstep. 

"People have been made aware of things that can't be taken for granted. This is quite a unique situation, certainly in my lifetime, certainly in people's working lifetimes, in a western country to have such a sustained business interruption.

"We have seen some businesses that have thrived throughout, some have been built up during the last year, people have been grateful for the independents that we were able to adapt before the national chains were able to.

"In the early days for Cromer Cares there was much more involvement from independents because it took longer for national chains to answer the call."

"There was a huge amount of goodwill and a rise to the challenge"

Mr Grout said while some changes would be kept after restrictions eased, others would not as parts of businesses that had been impossible during lockdown, such as outside catering, came back to life.

He said the business community had constantly found itself treading the "very fine line" between promoting Cromer in the "right way" and not encouraging people to visit when it wasn't safe.

"As businesses, of course, we want people to come to Cromer and visit the town when the time is right, it's just a very difficult balance," he said.

The Pavilion Theatre on Cromer Pier (Picture: ANTONY KELLY)

The Pavilion Theatre on Cromer Pier (Picture: ANTONY KELLY) - Credit: Archant

Debs Lewis, marketing, box office and retail manager for Cromer Pier and the Pavilion Theatre, said seeing the theatre close and the pier shuttered off during parts of the pandemic had been "heartbreaking".

She said while other parts of the pier, such as Tides Restaurant, had been able to adapt throughout the pandemic, the Pavilion Theatre had not.

"We lost our summer and Christmas season and plus 50 touring shows that were due to be performing so that had a huge impact on the business," she said.

Ms Lewis said "it was hard to say" what the legacy of the pandemic on the theatre would be but the team were optimistic the pier would bounce back and be able to put on a summer season.

Ms Lewis, said: "It will take time to obviously recover as it will for all businesses, there will be a major legacy, but there will be a positive side to it, it will give people more of a broader view of how things can change."

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