A SLIGHT easing of restrictions on social contact comes into force today, with people allowed to meet with one other person for recreation.

While people have been allowed to leave home and meet another person outside of their household or bubble for exercise, rules have been relaxed so you can now meet a friend for a picnic or a coffee on a park bench. 

Government guidance states: "The Stay at Home requirement will remain, but people can leave home for recreation outdoors such as a coffee or picnic with their household or support bubble, or with one person outside their household."

While the weather may not be the best this week, there are a few sunny days across the region so it's well worth planning catch-ups in advance. 

Although some restrictions have eased today, the Stay at Home order remains in force until March 29.

It is at this point that outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed, providing greater flexibility for families to see each other. This includes private gardens.

Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, will be allowed to reopen on

Here are five spots around the North-East perfect for a walk, picnic or a coffee:

Gibside, County Durham 

Gibside is a National Trust site with 600 acres of gardens, woodland and countryside – perfect for wildlife spotting and a tranquil walk.

The dog-friendly estate is one of few surviving 18th-century designed landscapes.

While the buildings are currently closed in line with national lockdown, outdoor spaces have remained open local people to visit for exercise.

On its National Trust page, Gibside states it is open from 10am to 6pm.

The Strawberry Castle play area is open and the café is open for takeaway, but visitors should book in advance.

Flatts Lane Woodland Country Park, Middlesbrough 

With woodland walks, a sculpture trail, an adventure play area and pond platforms, there is plenty to see and talk about here.

The visitor centre and toilet facilities are closed but there is a new service hatch where you can grab a coffee to go.

Flatts Lane also has a free car park, which, like the park, is open 24/7. 

Cyclists and horse riders are welcome but must keep to the marked bridleways -  off the footpaths and woodland trails.

Guisborough Forest and Walkway, Guisborough

Guisborough Forest has three walking trails, a cycling trail and picnic spots, although play areas are closed in line with restrictions. 

Sat on the northern edge of the North York Moors, Guisborough Forest and Walkway has thriving habitats and is home to many different plants and animals.

There is also a sculpture trail. 

The cafe, Branch Walkway Cafe, is open for takeout food and drinks, including hot and cold sandwiches and paninis. 

There is a large car park at the visitor centre, with tickets costing £1 for all-day parking.

Hamstery Forest, County Durham 

Hamstery Forest has something for everyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the every day.

County Durham’s largest forest has four walking trails, four cycling trails and two horse riding trails. There are some gorgeous views and plenty to do including seeing the waterfall and spotting wooden Gruffalo sculptures. 

The bike park and visitor centre are closed but the cafe is open for takeaway. 

Parking costs £2 for up to an hour, while all day is £6.

Hardwick Park, Sedgefield

While Hardwick Park's gift shop, cafe and exhibition area are currently closed, the site itself remains open so you can take a stroll through the historic parkland.

Toilets are open between 9am and 4pm and the car park shuts at 5pm. 

Before national lockdown the cafe was open for takeout-only from 10am to 3pm, but there's nothing to stop you from taking your own travel mug for a walk around the park's lake and woodland.

To entertain little ones, you can download the 'Love Exploring' app that uses augmented reality to bring dinosaurs to life in the park.

Hardwick Park is also dog-friendly, but pets must be kept on leads.