Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week Sixteen and Goodbye Dorset

Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week Sixteen and Goodbye Dorset

It is now the beginning of week sixteen and my solitary stay in Sandbanks due to the COVID-19 lockdown is coming to an end. I will be leaving soon. I will miss my daily walks on the beach.

The thought that I will be leaving Sandbanks next week makes me determined to enjoy every minute of my last week here. It heightens my awareness of everything around me. The sand spit is still very peaceful as changeable weather is keeping the crowds away. Kite surfers are in their element as the wind and dry weather are perfect for them. The three hotels in Sandbanks opened last weekend as did the cafés and restaurants although the smaller cafés are only doing a take-away service. But there is a hint of normality returning to the area.

Monday 6 July 2020

Today I follow my usual routine, up at 5 am, do some stretches, get dressed and out on the bike by 5.30 am. After some energetic pedalling around the spit I lock the bike up, meet Rosmarie by the footpath to the beach and we set off for our walk. There is not much litter on the beach today so I do not even fill one bag. We sit for a while in the shelter of the Haven Hotel and have to skip out of the way when a guest comes out of the back entrance to walk along the beach. While we are there we are joined by two volunteer litter pickers and their dogs. We all watch as the council litter pickers come roaring up in their buggy. Rosmarie says they have no chance of spotting any litter at the speed they are going. They probably know that with three of us have worked our way down the beach already there is no litter around. We tell them no-one has checked the path to the Ferry Bay car park and they set off in that direction, on foot. As we walk back a dark cloud moves over the sun creating a magical picture of sunbeams reaching down to the sea below. When I get back to the flat and check my messages there is one from the TravelRadar website to my editor, David, is leaving tomorrow. This saddens me as I have learnt so much from him. I will miss the light-hearted banter. I send him a message and we agree to stay in touch.

A Majestic Sky Above Sandbanks Beach

Tuesday 7 July 2020

Today, I followed my usual routine but sat for longer on the beach watching working boats and pleasure boats head out to sea from Poole Harbour. Sandbanks is a popular centre for sailing and has three yacht clubs. Over the past few days, I have watched a steady stream of boats arriving here. The number of boats moored in the waters around the yacht clubs is increasing every day. After fifteen weeks of lockdown due to COVID-19 Sandbanks is coming to life again.

Yachts Moored Outside North Haven Yacht Club in Dorset

Wednesday 8 July 2020

When I get up at 5 I hear the wind rattling the trees next to the flat and the rain splashing on the patio door. I decide not to go out on the bike and send Rosmarie a message to say I won't be walking today. I work at the flat all morning and in the afternoon I catch the bus into Poole to do a food shop. This is not the lengthy process it used to be as the buses have now resumed an hourly service. By the time I get back to Sandbanks, the weather has settled down. I get my camera and go out for a walk. I walk through the public gardens in front of the Sandbanks Pavilion. It is windy on the beach which lies below grey, forbidding skies. Just after I start walking across the sand I feel something tugging at my trousers. It is a chocolate Labrador puppy. I discover from his very apologetic owner that is name is Dylan and he is going through a teenage phase.

Public Gardens in Sandbanks Overlooking Poole Harbour in Dorset

The test match, England v West Indies, starts tomorrow in an empty ground. Everyone involved will live in a bubble throughout the series and there will be no spectators.

Thursday 9 July 2020

The wind is still roaring around the flat when I wake at 5 am but it is dry so I get ready to go out on the bike. But, as I get the bike out of the garage it starts to rain. I decide to carry on and battle against the wind to the shelter of the residential streets at the end of the spit. At one point I hear a car approaching slowly from behind. When it finally passes me I see it is a police car. I wonder if he is checking up on me. I don’t think I look suspicious with my short legs pedalling furiously on my little, teenage bike. Rosmarie goes past as I am completing my second lap. I lock the bike up by which time Rosmarie is already across the road waiting for me. We walk on, along a deserted beach. There is no-one around, not even the regular swimmers this morning. It feels a bit eerie but it is a stunning landscape. My walk sets me up for the rest of the day in the flat. I finally face a task I have been ignoring – clearing out my email inboxes. I have two email addresses and both inboxes have hundreds of emails. It takes all day as I spend a lot of time diverting some to spam. I feel very pleased with myself when I finish – but I know they will soon start filling up again. I used to check my emails every few minutes but one thing the current situation as taught me – not many things are so important they can’t wait a couple of days.

A Deserted Sandbanks Beach in Dorset

Friday 10 July 2020

The wind has finally died down and it is a lovely sunny morning. When Rosmarie and I arrive on the beach we find a poster attached to a wooden post – one of the view that has not been consigned to a bonfire. It says ‘Leave only footprints’. We wonder how long that will last before it ends up as firewood. There are more people around today and more boats on the water. After my walk, I exchange a few emails with the chairman of the local community group. I responded to his request for photos for a dossier he is creating. But now I am seeing them everywhere - on television and in national, local press and his newsletter. Credits work for me as photography is part of my work as a travel writer. I am bitterly disappointed and say so. But I soon realise I am wasting my time – it seems, as far as the chairman is concerned, any contributions to this community group are exempted from the laws of copyright. It is a lesson hard learnt and I will be wiser in future. The owner of the flat bellowed had arrived yesterday. He left his garage door open all night so on my way out this morning I had pushed a note under his door advising him that Sandbanks had suffered a spate of thefts from garages. Items stolen included a jet ski and two quad bikes. The jet ski had been towed away behind a bicycle. It had been retrieved thanks to some CCTV footage from a private residence. Ken came up to say hello and catch up on the local news (from a social distance). We have to accept that Sandbanks’ popularity due to irresponsible relaxing of lockdown restrictions means it is no longer as safe as it used to be. 

Leave Only Footprints

Saturday 11 July 2020

During my early morning bike ride, I see preparations have been made to deal with the crowds expected to arrive today. No waiting cones reinforce the double yellow lines. I have a solitary walk along the beach this morning. Except, it is not solitary as I meet many people I have become acquainted with during lockdown. Including two young men who work for the council. They stop their buggy to have a chat. When I get to the Haven Hotel is it on the rocks for a while to watch some gulls fishing.

Seagulls Fishing in Poole Harbour, Dorset

I want to make the most of the lovely weather today so, after a quick breakfast, I catch the first bus this morning to Studland Village. As seats on the buses are limited due to social distancing I want to make sure there is a space for me. The bus starts in Bournemouth and is already quite busy when it reaches Sandbanks but there is space on the open-top deck. There are no markings on the seats just small notices at the end of each row saying passengers should sit by the window. The bus crosses to Studland on the chain ferry. I get out in Studland Village. I spend some time exploring the small village. I find a pretty Wesleyan Chapel. It is no longer used as a place of worship unless you count yoga as a religion.

Old Wesleyan Chapel in Studland Village in Dorset

I work my way down to the beach and start walking along the sand in the direction of the chain ferry. The main beach is very busy today, the naturist beach not so crowded. Huge, white clouds are suspended in the brilliant blue sky above me. It is quite a long walk and I am conscious of the time as the buses coming back from Swanage, the other end of the line are often full. While I am waiting at the bus stop, the Bournemouth to Swanage bus sails past me. It has a big sign on the front ‘Sorry Bus Full’. Social distancing requirements mean a double-decker bus large enough for 90 passengers can only carry 24. A sign of the new times. If my bus is also full I could get on the ferry as a foot passenger and then walk back to the flat but today I prefer the easier option. I do not have to wait long and when the bus arrives there is space on the top deck. As we drive past the large car park in Sandbanks it looks full and I am pleased to see we now have a traffic controller on duty. Apart from a group of youngsters sitting around a bonfire, they have lit on the beach across the road it is quiet this evening. It seems the precautions that have been put in place are working.

Naturist Beach in Shell Bay, Studland, Dorset

Sunday 12 July 2020

Sunday is the day I write up my diary and go through my photographs (already more than 2,000). This morning is different. I woke to the sound of gulls dropping shellfish on the flat roof above my bedroom. They drop them from a great height and then swoop down onto the roof. I can hear them scrabbling about. If the shell does not break they pick it up, do a vertical take-off, and drop it again. I get up and look out of the window. It is a glorious morning, a refreshing crispness in the air. Too nice to stay in all day. I grab some clothes and my camera and ten minutes later I am out on the bike. It is only 6.30 am and there is not much traffic around. I have my SLR camera with me as I have decided I will not be collecting litter today – I have done it every day now for nearly 4 months. It is a glorious morning on the beach and there are not many people around. I watch a paddle boarding wobbling precariously on his board. Then My attention it taken by a fisherman at the end of a groyne. His rod is bending violently. He is struggling to hold on to it. There must be something huge on the end of his line. I will never know as there is a loud snap. The line breaks and his catch is free. More people start arriving, it is time to go. It has been a lovely walk. I will miss these early morning walks when I go back to my flat in Hertfordshire. The repairs to my flat were completed two days ago so it is habitable again. I need to go back to do my packing for my trip to Italy departing next Friday. When I check my emails there is one from British Airways offering an upgrade to Club Class on my flight to Verona. As it is only £69 I accept. I will be able to take my hand luggage on board and I won’t have anyone sitting next to me.

Paddle Boarder off Sandbanks Beach in Dorset

Monday 13 July 2020

I am on my own this morning as Rosmarie is involved in carpet cleaning. But I still follow the same routine. I come across some litter as soon as I walk on to the beach. A small flock of seagulls are scavenging in the large open rubbish bin. They are dropping litter everywhere. Chris, who I have met before, arrives on the beach via his boat. He stops to chat and then, after watching me for a while decides to help me clear up the mess. It does not take long. I put a discarded seat on top of the pile of the rubbish to keep the seagulls away. After another lovely walk on the beach, I go back to the flat. I have to leave tomorrow so I have a lot to do. And, I have arranged to go to my friend’s for afternoon tea in her garden. It is several months since we have been able to meet.

Seagull Scavanging Waste Bins on Sandbanks Beach in Dorset

Tuesday 14 July 2020

I am out on my bike very early again this morning. As I approach the Ferry Bay car park on my first circuit I hear a clattering behind me. Then a little roe deer gallops past me. She disappears up the drive of a house before I can consider stopping to take a photo. After locking my bike up I walk down the road to meet Rosmarie for our last walk along the beach. Soon after we start our walk we meet Sheena. She tells me she has collected some toys from the sand and left them on a wall. I find toys abandoned on the beach nearly every day. Rather than throw them out I leave them somewhere they can be found and used. The local charity shops have stopped taking donations. So many people have used their time at home during lockdown to have a clear out they have an avalanche of items for their shops. During our walk, I see nearly everyone I have met during my time in Sandbanks and assure them all I will be back – sometime. As we are about to leave the beach we see a woman we meet regularly with her six shiatsu dogs. I take a photo, my last one of the beach for a while. Later that day I pack up the car and head for Hertfordshire.

Six Shiatsus Walking With Their Owner on Sandbanks Beach

Wednesday 15 July 2020

No early morning bike ride today as the Hertfordshire flat is on a main road so my bike has stayed in Dorset. I did not set my alarm last night but I am still awake by 6 am. I open the windows as far as I can to try and get a flow of fresh air through the flat. It is very muggy today. The open windows just emphasise the thunder of traffic along the main road outside. And the noise of the building site opposite. When I check my emails there is one from my friend to say her partner has symptoms of for COVID-19. They were both tested yesterday but do not have the results yet. I decide to cancel as I have to sign a health declaration before I board my flight on Friday to the effect have not been with anyone who has symptoms for 14 days. I was looking forward to seeing my friend so I am very disappointed and now an empty day stretches ahead of me. I write an extra article for the Travel Radar website and agonise about the possibility of not passing the temperature check at Heathrow.

View From a Flat in Hertfordshire

Thursday 16 July 2020

When I open the windows early this morning I discover an enthusiastic window cleaner has knocked a bar of the pseudo-cottage-style window pane. I don’t have time to stick it back on. I am up early to do an online check-in for my flight tomorrow. But, it is not possible as I have to take a temperature test and fill in a health declaration form before I can check-in. Online check-ins would allow passengers to by-pass these. I join a webinar about Lake Balaton in Hungary. It looks lovely on the videos they show. I think webinars may replace a lot of press trips I the future which is sad. There is nothing like writing from personal experience. In the afternoon I walk into town. Face masks are not compulsory in shops in the UK yet. I decide I will wear mine anyway to practice for tomorrow. I will have to use one all the time while travelling. Tomorrow is the start of a new adventure – my trip to a COVID-19 Italy.

Public Garden in the Centre of Radlett, Herfordshire

Suggestion Russian have been hacking into computers in the UK to get information about the development of a vaccine which is believed to be nearly ready. The government announced an easing of restrictions in Leicester which is in a second period of lockdown. The Scottish government is intending to open all schools from 11 August. Social distancing will not be required for the children but teachers will have to stay two metres away from other adults and the children and there will be no large gatherings such as morning assembly.

Some Statistics

As of 5 pm on 6 July, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 44,391 have died across all settings an increase of 155 in the past 24 hours.  By 5 pm on 15 July, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 45,119 have died across all settings, an increase of 66 in the past 24 hours. There were no statistics issued for 16 July as the government decided to re-think the way the statistics are presented.

More next week