Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Back to UK Lockdown in Dorset

Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Back to UK Lockdown in Dorset

As soon as I return from Italy I make my way back to Dorset for more refreshing walks by the sea but I will miss my mountains in Italy.

England has now been in lockdown for twenty weeks and restrictions are gradually being lifted, but not everywhere. Some towns are experiencing spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases. Restrictions have been re-introduced to control these outbreaks. Fortunately, Dorset is maintaining a low rate of infection. I can escape the muggy heat of Hertfordshire and return to my lovely seaside retreat in Sandbanks. It is the height of summer and the area is full of holidaymakers who have opted for staycations in the uncertain times of the coronavirus pandemic.

Monday 03 August 2020

I wake at 6 am even though I have not set my alarm. I roll out of bed and head for the sitting room. Once there I open the patio door and delightfully fresh air floods into flat. I can hear the cheeping of Oyster Catchers. It is low tide and cockle pickers in harbour are bent over their special rakes madly scraping at the mud. But, the tide is coming in very quickly and they are gone a few minutes’ later.

Cockle Pickers in Poole Harbour, Dorset

I have just settled down to catch up with some work when Sue rings and suggests meeting for lunch. I don’t need much persuading. I ring the Haven Hotel to see if they are taking non-residents in their restaurant. They are, so, I book a table on the terrace overlooking Poole Harbour. When Sue arrives we walk around the harbour to the Haven Hotel. The sun is shining but there is a light breeze off the sea. It is not too crowded today so we are able keep a social distance from any people passing by. There are no tables available in the shade on the terrace so we have to sit in full sunshine. Fortunately, a family leaves a shaded table soon after we arrive so I go and stand my it while it is disinfected and re-laid. It has six seats so I hope we won’t be told that being only two of us we can’t sit there. I re-arrange the seats so we can both look out to sea. It is perfect. We both order the fish and chips accompanied by a crisp Zinfandel rosè. As we linger over our wine the Condor arrives after crossing from the Channel. This majestic catamaran appears to be heading straight for us. . It was a lovely way to spend the day.

Condor Coming into Poole Harbour,Dorset

COVID-19 Update

A major incident was declared in Greater Manchester today because of a rise the Covid-19 transmission rate due increases in coronavirus infection rates across “multiple localities”. New lockdown restrictions for parts of north-west England had already been announced last Thursday. People from different households in Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire are now banned from meeting each other inside their homes or in gardens following a spike in virus cases. The new rules also banned members of two different households from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues, but those businesses are permitted to remain open for those visiting individually or from the same household.

Tuesday 04 August 2020

It is still dark when I get up at 5 am this morning. It is lighter when I go out on my bike thirty minutes later. The days are already getting shorter. A fox runs across the road in front of me while I am doing my second circuit. He leaps nimbly over a wall topped by railings and disappears. After locking my bike up I meet Rosmarie and we head for the beach. There is not much litter on the sand today and what there is I decide to pick up on the way back – if it is still there. I just want to enjoy the walk today. When we get to the Haven Hotel we sit on the wall in the sun and watch the fishing boats go out. One of them, the John Edward, looks more like a military vessel. But, when I check the registration I discover it is a fishing boat. All boats are registered under different catgories and it is interesting to find out more about them.

The John Edward Fishing Boat Leaves Poolee Harbour in Dorset

Wednesday 05 August 2020

This morning there is a lot of litter on the beach where Rosmarie and I start our walk. After two weeks walking in the litter-free Italian Dolomites it saddens me to see this terrible abuse of such a beautiful place. Why do some people expect others to clear up their mess? I ignore the litter above the high tide line but start picking up anything that may be washed out to sea endangering the wildlife. Some young men on their way for their pre-work swim help me pick up splinters of glass from two bottles someone has thoughtfully smashed on the path. I have two bags full of litter by the time we reach the path to the Ferry Bay car park so I take my bags to there to empty them. On our way back along the beach we stop to watch the antics of a little dog with a large ball. In the afternoon I get the bus into Poole. I am the only one on the top deck. I collect the pack of re-usable face masks I have ordered from Marks and Spencer. Now I have seven all different colours – one for every day of the week and to match every outfit.

Little Dog, Large Ball on Sandbanks Beach in Dorset

Thursday 06 August 2020

It is raining steadily when I get up at 5 am so I go back to bed. But I am soon up again because, as soon as I lay down I worked out how to write my next article. I got up again to commit my ideas to my laptop. I finish one article and start another one. When the sun comes out in the afternoon and so do the crowds but as I am in need of some fresh air I decide to join them and head for the beach. I walk around the harbour and watch the activity on the water. There is an abundance of paddle boards, mostly inflatables, some canoes and some pretty sail boats.

Flotilla of Sailboats in Poole Harbour, Dorset

I walk back along the beach. It is busy but not impossible. Small family groups are dispersed around the dog walking beach. This does make it difficult for dog walkers to let their pets off the lead but most of them walk early in the morning. There have been complaints about dogs scaring toddlers who are eating food on the beach. But, as the area is clearly marked as the only place dogs can go. And, it is a very small percentage of the twenty-four beaches in the area I have no sympathy for them. I am not a dog owner but love to walk on this beach watching the dogs interacting with their owners.

Sandbanks Beach in Dorset

An email arrives from Solos Holidays to say my furlough pay will finish on July 31. I have only received very small amounts as it is based on my monthly average from last year. My busy months were September and October. I hoping this does not signal my redundancy as well. It would be a very sad end to my twenty-four years with the company. Earlier this week I had an email from my line manager to say she had been made redundant. The other tour operator I work for, TravelEyes, did not put on furlough. They cancelled all their trips soon after the UK went into lockdown. As they organise groups of visually impaired and sighted travellers it is impossible to practice social distancing. There has to be contact between the visually impaired and their guides. My last trip with TravelEyes was probably my most memorable - a short break in London.

Changing Guards at Buckingham Palace in London

Friday 07 August 2020

This morning the moon lights my way when I set off on my bike at 5.30 am. Already there are people parked around the harbour and some are inflating paddleboards unloaded from the cars and camper vans. After locking up my bike I watch some paddle boarders on a tentative journey across Poole harbour. The sun has just come up by the time Rosmarie and I start our walk along the beach. It was a glorious morning of light and haze. The Purbecks were lit up by golden rays whereas Old Harry Rocks were shrouded by mist. As we walked back the invasion had begun. Pergolas and tents were being erected. One group was playing loud music - we could not wait to get away.

Paddle Boarders in Poole Harbour, Dorset

The road was already very busy and it was difficult to negotiate between large vans parked on the roadside and passing cars. I was nearly shocked off my bike when a large car suddenly stopped right beside me. Due to parked cars and the car that had stopped I could not see the pedestrian crossing in front of me. The people had only just started crossing from the far side and if I had tried to stop I would have fallen off so I shouted an apology and kept going. There was no danger to them but the car beside me hooted. When he passed me a bit later he slowed down and I thought he was going to stop but he moved on. He would have caused a traffic jam had he stopped. While waiting for the bus to Bournemouth an hour later I saw two traffic wardens at work. We are in for a busy weekend.

Traffic Wardens at Work in Sandbanks, Dorset

Today I have an appointment at Bournemouth Hospital due to a recently arrived floater in my right eye. I had tried to get an eye test in Boots two days earlier but they did not have any appointments and recommended I call the Eye Clinic at the hospital. I was surprised to get an appointment so quickly. I have to use the bus as the hospital said I would not be able to drive as they would be putting some drops in my eyes. I can’t wear my contact lenses either so I feel very vulnerable. My bus into Bournemouth is held up due to heavy traffic coming into Sandbanks. I worry that I will miss my connecting bus but it arrives at the bus stop a few minutes after I do. My appointment goes well and I am soon on my way back to Sandbanks. It is a very hot day but the no waiting cones are in place protecting the double yellow lines and my journey back to Sandbanks is incident-free.

No Waiting Cones in Place for the Weekend Invasion in Sandbanks, Dorset

Saturday 08 August 2020

As the days are getting shorter now I go out a bit later this morning for a ride on my bike. My desire to walk along the beach was thwarted by the large number of people already there – surrounded by litter. And it is only 6.20 in the morning. Dog owners dare not let their dogs run free and are being dragged along by pets desperate to run free. I don’t stay long and I don’t pick up any litter. Just long enough to watch the two security guards talk to the families who have set up an encampment. They appear to start packing up after this exchange but I don’t wait to find out – time to return to the flat where I spend the rest of the day – trying to keep cool during another day of intense heat.

Encampment on Sandbanks Beach in Dorset

COVID-19 Update

Tougher rules concerning the use of face coverings came into effect today. They are now mandatory in indoor places of worship, museums and galleries, public areas in hotels and hostels, bingo halls, libraries, cinemas, concert halls, crematoriums, aquariums and indoor zoos. Preston became the latest part of the UK to see lockdown tightened once again, with council leaders warning young people in particular that they must stick to the rules. This is due to the under 30s in this city contracting coronavirus at a "significant rate". Current restrictions on household gatherings in Greater Manchester, Leicester and parts of West Yorkshire will also continue. And Bedford and Swindon have been added to the government's "watch list" of places where cases are rising.

Sunday 09 August 2020

I wake at 5.30 am when my alarm goes off. I have some breakfast and get straight down to work, writing the next instalment of my diary. This takes all day. By early morning it is already very hot and cars and camper vans stream along the sand spit. The car park closed signs are still out from yesterday. I go out on my balcony at regular intervals to gulp in some reasonably fresh air. I notice a line of birds on the roof above me and I realise they are fledglings about to leave the nest. Throughout the day fluffy, white baby feathers float into my sitting room. I watch someone move the no waiting cones into the centre of Banks Road. The cyclists decided to take that half of the road as a right of way. As cars are ignoring the car park full sign and decide to try it anyway then have to turn back there is total chaos. It lasts for the half-hour it takes to send someone to re-position the cones. This evening the beach by the harbour is strangely quiet. I am able to sleep tonight with the bedroom window open as is so peaceful outside.

Fledglings About to Fly the Nest

Monday 10 August 2020

As it is a nice morning I go out on the bike and then take a nostalgic wander along the beach. It is my last morning in Sandbanks for a while but today I am going back twenty-four years to my first stay at the Haven Hotel. It was my first trip with Solos Holidays – as a client. I had a large room with a balcony overlooking the chain ferry. I returned later that year, as a tour leader. I was in the attic. My early morning call was a seagull tapping on my window. I always said I would be back but never anticipated a six-month stay here due to the coronavirus. As it is another very hot, very busy day in Sandbanks I delay my departure to Hertfordshire until the early evening and have a very easy journey.

Haven Hotel in Sandbanks in Dorset

Some Government Statistics

On Monday 3 August 2020 the total number of lab-confirmed UK cases of COVID-19 was 305,623. The total number of COVID-19 associated UK deaths was 46,210 with a daily addition of 9. By August 10 the total number of people who had tested positive was 311,641 and the cumulative total of those have died after testing positive was 46,526 including a daily total of 21.

More next week

Valery Collins is the Experienced Traveller
Valery Collins the Experienced Traveller
An excellent raconteur, Valery has been writing about her experiences on the road since she started travelling 25 years ago. After publishing 4 books she turned to online travel writing and photography. Today she is editor, features’ writer and reviewer for and regularly contributes guided city walks to