Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Autumnal Ramblings in Dorset

Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Autumnal Ramblings in Dorset

Autumn is a lovely time on the coast of Dorset and during week 27 of lockdown I make the most of it visiting Brownsea Island and Swanage.

At the start of week 27 of lockdown in the UK COVID-19 continues to rage through all four countries resulting in another raft of different restrictions. The Prime Minister blames the English love of freedom for our failure to follow the rules – I blame a lack of enforcement. Boris is threatening to bring the army in which I think is a good idea and amuse myself with thoughts of visions of soldiers creeping up on shoppers in supermarket aisles, pointing rifles at maskless shoppers, and shouting stand and deliver £200.

Monday 21 September 2020

I am on a mission today. I have to review an Australian beach towel but since I received the towel the weather has been too bad to go down to the beach. Or, I have been away. The days are getting shorter and I have to wait until at 6.45 am when it is just about light enough to go out on my bike. When I start my walk on the beach the sun is coming up. This is perfect. I spread the towel on the sand and sit down. The towel is advertised as being super absorbent. I have spread it on the hard wet sand. It is not long before I become aware that it has sucked up a lot of water. It is time to move on. I struggle to pick the towel up. I have the extra-large size which is now at least three times its weight when dry. As it is wet the sand clings to it and does not fall off as easily as promised. But a few hard shakes soon sorts that out. I fold it up and put it back in its little bag. It is so heavy I am tempted to drop it in one of the waste bins I pass as I walk back along the beach. I resist the temptation, after all, it is a lovely towel and will come in very useful.

Watching the Sun Rise over Sandbanks Beach in Dorset

COVID-19 Update

It was announced today that a curfew will start this Thursday. All pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues in England must close by 10 pm and must offer table service only. This comes after the COVID-19 alert level was moved to 4, meaning transmission is "high or rising exponentially." The Prime Minister is also urging people to work from home again where possible. New restrictions will also be introduced in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, most people will not be allowed to visit someone else's home from this evening. In South Wales, tighter local restrictions will be implemented from tomorrow. Meanwhile, health officials are urging as many of us as possible to get the flu jab this winter. And the government's top COVID advisers are warning that the UK faces 50,000 cases of COVID a day by mid-October.

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Today I have a ticket to visit Brownsea Island again. I had checked late yesterday evening and there were still tickets available so I am taking advantage of this to enjoy a second visit to the island. Six places are available every day and this morning there are just three of us. I am thrilled when our transport arrives. It is the Sea Horse which is generally used to transfer disabled visitors. I have never been aboard it and enjoy the crossing standing in the fresh air.

The Brownsea Island Sea Horse Transporter

When I head for the Lily Pond an area I have not visited before. I follow the path that goes past the church and through the woods. I see two red squirrels busy collecting food to store for the winter. The path to the pond takes me past the ruins of the vineyard – a reminder that the island has not always been a sanctuary for wildlife. It is very peaceful by the pond as there are no people around. Soon after I sit down on a bench by the water I notice some movement to my left. It is a red squirrel. Then another squirrel appears and they caper around the pond until distant voices send them scampering up a tree. I spend some time trying to capture an image of a dragonfly hovering above the water. This proves impossible so I move on to the natural adventure playground.

The Lily Pond on Brownsea Island

The playground is also new to me. When or if I return to the island as a volunteer I will know a lot more about the island than I have gleaned in the four years I have been a volunteer here. However, I have heard from staff on the island that the new system necessitated by the coronavirus may remain in place leading to a reduction in the number of volunteers required here. As I am on my own in the playground I spend some time trying some of the activities – they are well-thought-out and great fun. I use the timer on my camera to take some selfies.

Enjoying the Natural Adventure Park on Brownsea Island in Dorset

I still have time to sit in the woods behind the church – my favourite place for squirrel-spotting. I have company this time. A peahen hops up on to the logs behind me and hisses at any red squirrels that dare to come near us. And quite a few do. It is a lovely end to my visit.

A Peahen on Brownsea Island in Dorset

COVID-19 Update

Today Boris Johnson has announced a raft of new measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus in England - warning they could be in place for six months. “This is the moment when we must act,” Johnson said, admitting the curbs could continue well beyond Christmas “unless we palpably make progress” in controlling the spread of the virus. The country, he said, is at a “perilous turning point.” He encouraged office workers who can work from home to do so, a reversal of the government’s previous messaging. We already knew that from Thursday, all pubs, bars and restaurants must operate table service only and close at 10 pm. But takeaways can continue to operate after that time. Staff in retail, all taxi users and all hospitality workers and customers must wear a face mask – except when seated at a table to eat or drink. COVID-19-secure guidelines will become a legal obligation for businesses in the retail, leisure and tourism sectors. Businesses face fines or closures for breaches. Weddings ceremonies and receptions reduced from 30 people to 15. Attendances at business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events will not go ahead from 1 October, as previously planned.

The Prime Minister’s new restrictions are markedly different from those outlined in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon has banned households visiting each other from Wednesday – a rule which goes further than any of the new measures announced by the PM just two hours earlier and further than his existing 'Rule of 6' approach, which allows groups of six from multiple households to meet indoors or outside.

Wednesday 23 September 2020

The weather has taken a change for the worst and it has turned very cold with a strong wind and showers. I spend the morning catching up on some work. I find an interesting headline announcing that COVID-19 sniffer dogs are being used at Helsinki Airport. This is such a great idea I write an article about it for the Travel Radar website. While browsing the internet for information about the local area I discover that the Sandbanks sea pavilion is going to be demolished and a new two-storey complex with replace it. This will include more beach huts. They are always building more beach huts – they line the promenade from Sandbanks to Bournemouth. But, I very rarely see many of them being used. I decide to take advantage of a break in the weather, grab my camera, and head for the pavilion. This pavilion, a part of Sandbanks’ history, was opened in 1927. Originally there was a lawn in front of it but within a year the grass was hidden under sand. The lawn was dug up and replaced with paving stones.

Sandbanks Pavilion in Sandbanks, Dorset

Thursday 24 September 2020

I am woken during the night by strong winds and torrential rain. As it is still raining when I get so this a good time to write another article about my visit to the region of "Latgale in Latvia": During the morning a huge puddle forms at the bottom of our drive. I would need Wellington boots to get out. Fortunately, a lorry arrives, the drain is unblocked and the puddle soon drains away. But it had been fun watching the traffic dealing with the floods some crept through them and some took a more cavalier approach sending plumes of water up into the air.

Floods in Sandbanks, Dorset

The government is urging over 16s in England and Wales to download the official Track and Trace app. NHS COVID-19 instructs users to self-isolate for 14 days if it detects they were in close contact with someone who has the virus. It also has a check-in scanner to alert owners if a venue they have visited has an outbreak. I immediately obey this instruction and discover I am in a medium-risk area but next to a high-risk area, St Albans.

NHS Track and Trace App

Friday 25 September 2020

It is cold and very dark when my alarm wakes me at 6 am this morning. I realise it is time to change my routine and to work first before going out for some exercise. I set off on my bike this afternoon to visit Rosmarie. She has not been able to join me on my morning walks due to health problems so we are going to have a catch up over tea and cake – at a social distance. Although I have a talent for getting lost I decide I can remember the route so I don’t bother. I am delighted to find I do know the route and even more pleased that I manage to cycle all the way up both hills on my journey. As I am approaching the top of the second hill I realise I am lacking one vital piece of information – Rosmarie’s address. I know I am close and hope a road name will trigger my memory. It does and I turn onto that road but sail straight past her house and have to walk back up the hill. After my visit I do a food shop in Poole and then cycle back to Sandbanks around Poole Harbour. It is a lovely evening so I take my time.

Boats in Poole Harbour, Dorset

Saturday 26 September 2020

I went to bed in despair last night wondering how I can make my deadline for an article and visit Swanage. I set my alarm for 5 am and manage to get up soon after it goes off. I read through some articles while having some breakfast and a plan forms in my mind. I start writing and soon get the text done. I download it straight and work on the images while getting dressed. I get those done and submit the article for review. Despair turns to elation. I finish getting ready and I am at the bus stop in good time - waiting for a bus that is never going to come. The timetable changed on Sunday but has not yet been corrected on the internet. I return to the flat and set off again an hour later. The bus is quite full but there is room on the top – in the open air. I shiver all the way to Swanage it is so cold. But I am warmed by the thought of coffee and cake at the lovely 1859 Pier Café and Bistro when I get there.

1859 Pier Café and Bistro

Warm and replete I walk along the seafront beyond Swanage Pier. I stop to admire the lovely old Wellington Clock Tower that started life in London – a long story – before walking past the lifeboat station. I follow the signs to Peveril Point where I have fabulous views of Swanage on one side and Durlston Park and Nature Reserve on the other. The wind is so strong on this exposed headland that I fear I am going to be blown off my feet so I do not linger there very long.

Wellington Clock Tower in Swanage, Dorset

I continue along the coastal path which goes across the grassy area on top of the cliffs. I take the steps down into the woods and continue through Durlston Country Park and Nature Reserve. After passing the renovated Victorian Castle and huge stone globe I head for the lighthouse. There is a very steep bit down and then up again just before the lighthouse. There are some steps down the sharp incline but I decide to walk straight down it using the walking poles I had in my rucksack. It is a lovely walk along the coast but I take the inland path to return to Swanage and the bus station. Another great day out.

Durlston Park in Swanage, Dorset

Sunday 27 September 2020

Today I am off to Brownsea Island again as no-one has reserved any of the six places available to staff and volunteers. There are still some areas I have not visited including the paths around the Villa, the wildlife centre. I start by walking through the trees behind the church and immediately see a red squirrel. I take one shot and it fills my card. I put my camera down on the trunk of a tree and the squirrel comes to investigate. It is so close I could have touched. It scampers away when I move and then comes back for a closer look at the little case I keep my cards in. Another squirrel appears but by the time I have put a new card in my camera they have both gone. I take a short cut down a slope confident I will emerge by the turning to the Villa. But I don’t and after heading in the wrong direction for a while I have to turn back. I find the turning and walk along a woodland trail to the Villa. At the Villa, I climb up a path that emerges on the cliff top. I am rewarded with some stunning views of the nature reserve that fringes this side of the island and the sea beyond.

View from the Cliffs on Brownsea Island In Dorset

I make my way back to the Villa along a path through the woods. The natural beauty of these woods is enhanced the sun filtering through the trees. At the Villa, the same people are still sitting in front of the squirrel feeder hoping to see a red squirrel. There is at least one in the vicinity but it is in the trees behind them watching them. As I am walking back towards the church I hear and see, a woodpecker at work. I do spend some time in the woods but a lot of visitors arrive soon after I get there so I walk through the trees to Church Field and sit on a bench in the sun. Some peahens with their young are also basking in the warm rays. I stay here soaking up some memories until it is time to walk back to the quay. I pass a young Sika deer grazing under the trees on my way. I get the boat back to the mainland and the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sika Deer on Brownsea Island in Dorset

COVID-19 Update

Four more regions in Wales went into local lockdown today – 11 out of the 22 regions are now in local lockdown.

Some Government Statistics

By 5 pm on 21 September, a total of 398,625 positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 41,788 including a daily total of 11. A week later on 27 September, the total of positive cases had risen to 434,969 (today 5,693) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 41,988 including a daily total of 17.

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