FAMILIES and friends basked in a degree of normality and baking sunshine as they took full advantage of lockdown restrictions being lifted.

Since Monday, groups of up to six people or two separate households have been permitted to meet outdoors for the first time in months.

Residents no longer need to justify leaving their homes, but are urged to stay local, even though there is no official limit on how far they can travel.

As a result of the easing of some restrictions coupled with temperatures of up to 17 degrees, beaches along the north Essex coast were busy.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

Victoria Archibald, 29, from Bentley, soaked up the sun alongside her friend and their two children.

“It feels really nice to have bit of normal again and it’s nice to go out and not feel scared or have that anxiety all the time,” she said.

“When it all ramped up again in January it was scary, and it still is, but it feels a bit safer now.

“We would love to go away on holiday this year but if we have weather like this then it is quite nice here.”

Read more: Clacton seafront welcomes back beachgoers as restrictions ease

Pauline Jackson, 63, travelled to Clacton from London to enjoy the sunny seaside with her granddaughter Grace Lark, 16.

She said: “The winter was difficult because I had to shield and felt trapped, so it is like have been let loose - this is heaven.

“You can go for walks in London but it is not the same as doing this and sitting in the sun.”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

Grace, however, believes people still need to err on the side of caution.

She added: “I would love to get out of lockdown properly, but I don’t want us to rush it.

“I don’t want the Government to be like ‘Everyone go out’ but then we all have to go back indoors again, so it’s a bit of a worry.”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Seaside - families and friends enjoyed the sunny Clacton seafront

Watch: Cafe boss pleased to see seasiders return to Clacton's beaches

Mark Broad, 42, is the owner of the Greensward Café and Adventure Golf, in Marine Parade West, Clacton, which has been closed since Christmas.

He has today trialled a ‘soft launch’ in preparation for a more proper reopening tomorrow.

He said: “It is good to see how busy it is but we are still limited with regards to what we can do because everything is takeaway.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

“Since they have announced outside meet-ups and sports can happen it has been positive, and the weather is good.

“There is just a real feel-good factor again.”