Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 63 A Walking Weekend

Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 63 A Walking Weekend

I am excited to be leading my first trip as a tour manager for over a year – a walking weekend based in Bournemouth

At last, after more than a year of no tour leading I am leading my first tour this week. As it is based in Bournemouth it is a good excuse to drive to Dorset a few days earlier and indulge my passion for Brownsea Island by volunteering there. This week, week 62 of the coronavirus pandemic is a strange week as we watch the number of new cases undergo a rapid increase. Doubts are cast on the ending of lockdown in 21 June. Even worse, Portugal is removed from the green list and no new destinations are added so the opportunities for holidays abroad without having to self-isolate when returning to the UK are virtually none.

Monday 31 May 2021

I am woken at 5 am this morning by a tern going crazy outside my bedroom window. They are very noisy, argumentative birds. This one is hovering outside my window squawking loudly. I suspect another bird is trespassing on the roof above me. Terns nest up there and I suspect this one is protesting at an invasion by a trespasser – a seagull or a magpie.

The Early Tern

As it is a lovely, fresh morning and I have a review to write I get up and get on. Today is a Bank Holiday and the weather looks promising so I know it will not be long before the crowds start flooding onto the Sandbanks peninsula. I spend the whole day in the flat enjoying the fresh air wafting through its open plan and often strolling to the open patio door to watch people on the beach below. When the tide is out it is a long way to walk to the water and I watch some people making the trip with a paddle board under their arm. After two full days on duty outside the vaccination hub checking-people in and occasional indulgent discussions regarding lack of appointments and reasons why we are not allowed to vaccinate anyone under forty with the Oxford AstraZeneca jab I am exhausted. It takes me all day to write one review.

A Long Walk to the Sea in Poole Harbour, Dorset

COVID-19 Update

Government adviser warns UK on a 'knife edge' as Britons take advantage of sunnier weather and many people flock to beaches, parks and beer gardens, one of the country's top scientists has warned that the next two weeks are critical for the way out of the pandemic. They advise it is important people to do their socialising outdoors, and if they are inside, to make sure windows and doors are open.

Domestic vaccine passport plans as a legal requirement for entry to large events set to be scrapped are set to be dropped, according to a report. Officials working on the ongoing Covid-19 status certification review do not believe that the law will be changed to mandate their use in the UK, with one government source claiming that the plans were “dead”.

New rules for the next step of easing explained Uncertainty remains as ministers weigh up whether to press ahead with lifting England’s coronavirus restrictions on 21 June. The government will wait until 14 June to assess the latest data before deciding whether to proceed with lifting the remaining restrictions in England, and will also consider to what extent they can be lifted.

In the News Today

Australia faces ‘critical’ moment as Covid situation to ‘get worse before it gets better’ the country’s second-most populous state, Victoria, recorded 11 new cases of coronavirus on Monday. This brings its three-month track record of zero community cases to an abrupt end as the state enters a seven-day lockdown.

Tuesday 01 June 2021

I wake at 5 to a glorious morning and get up straightaway. After a quick breakfast I set off for the National Trust jetty on my bike. I have time to do 2 circuits of the spit before storing my bike in the National Trust shed and taking a short walk along the sea front to watch the fishing boats go out.

Fishing Boat Leavinig Poole Harbour in Dorset

The first boat to Brownsea Island departs at 7.30 and I am back on the jetty it time to board this boat. Due to COVID-19 restrictions the small boat is limited to ten passengers but there are only five of us this early in the morning. This includes the local postman who goes across on this boat leaves mail for the islanders in a small hut on the jetty and then gets the next boat back to the mainland.

Arriving on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, Dorset

As soon as I get off the boat I start walking – my shift as a volunteer on the pier does not start until 9.30 so I have time for a good walk. I walk the length of the wooden walkway and then head for the Lily Pond. Two red squirrels scamper past me as I walk. At the pond clumps of bright yellow irises are reflected in the dark water. But the water lilies are not in bloom yet.

Irises in the Lily Pond on Brownsea Island in Dorset

Along the path towards the South Shore I see a lone sika deer but I cannot get close enough to get a decent photo. There are clumps of rhododendrons in bloom – splashes of vibrant colour amongst the trees. Until quite recently the island was overrun with them as the last private owner let it return to its natural wild state. It has taken years to rid the island of these intrusive shrubs but it is good to see a few of them remain to brighten up a predominantly green landscape. I am back on the pier in plenty of time to greet the first ferry. We are currently limited to five ferries each day and, as it is half-term, they are all full. I finally wave the last visitors off at 5 pm before catching the boat back to the mainland.

Rhododendrons in Bloom on Brownsea Island  in Dorset

COVID-19 Update

Cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus rise dramatically in a number of areas – this variant, renamed the 'delta' variant by the World Health Organization, has spread quickly in the last three weeks from the north west of England to the Midlands and south England.

UK unlikely to unlock travel to key European destinations, say sources The UK is unlikely to unlock significant new summer destinations this week when changes to travel restrictions are announced, with key holiday countries unlikely to be quarantine-free until later in the summer.

England urged to 'push on' with end of lockdown by senior government COVID-19 adviser despite ongoing concerns about the delta coronavirus variant. Prof Robert Dingwall, a sociologist and member of Nervtag, said "from a societal point of view, I think it’s really important that we go ahead on 21 June". He said there is “no case for delay” given, for example, the backlog of treatments needed for non-COVID health conditions and continued damage lockdown is inflicting on the economy.

Delta variant surge proves test-and-trace system ‘doesn’t work’. According to top biologist Professor James Naismith, the £37bn test-and-trace system hailed as “world-beating” by health secretary Matt Hancock – should have been able to curb the spread when cases were originally low.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Bahrain with one of world’s highest vaccine rates battling record COVID outbreak a reminder that high jab numbers offer no guarantee against massive infection surges. Bahrain, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data website, is the country with the sixth-highest rate of vaccines.

In the News Today

British Airways to trial IATA travel pass British Airways will begin trialling digital travel solution, IATA Travel Pass, on flights from Heathrow to Geneva and Zurich in Switzerland from June 1. The app can be downloaded onto a mobile device so customers can create a secure account be informed of entry requirements for their destination, book a Covid-19 test with an approved provider and the results will be automatically uploaded into the app.

Matt Hancock starts fightback against Dominic Cummings’s damning care homes allegations ordering a detailed timeline of decisions made around care homes during the pandemic, with sources claiming he is "sparing no effort" to rebut the damning allegations against him.

Wednesday 02 June 2021

Today is another day dedicated to writing and I work at the flat all morning. This afternoon I have a one to one pitching tutorial via Zoom. When my tutor appears on the screen she does not look old enough to have left school. But, I soon realise she does know what she is talking about and it is a very useful half-hour session especially as it is relates to my particular needs. By the time I have finished the session I am in need of some fresh air and get ready to go for a walk. As I set off around the harbour I notice a cluster of paddle boards with people on board doing some exercises. I stop to take some photographs and discover this is a yoga session – a bring your own paddle board rather than a mat session. There are a few wobbles and splashes as one participant after another falls into the water.

Yoga on Paddle Boards in Poole Harbour, Dorset

In the News Today

£1.4bn for school catch-up plan as Ministers pledge extra cash to help schools in England tackle the disruption to education caused by the Covid pandemic. The additional funding will be used to provide 100 million hours of tutoring and extra teacher training and development.

Ambulance crews to get bodycams The NHS in England is to give body-worn cameras to ambulance workers after the number of attacks against them increased by a third in five years - with 3,500 such incidents last year. The devices can start recording at the touch of a button and could be used if a patient starts to become aggressive or abusive. The footage can then be shared with the police and used in court as evidence.

Thursday 03 June 2021

I wake up early, looking forward to another day volunteering on Brownsea Island. I decided last night I would make an early start in order to catch the 7.30 boat to the island. It is colder this morning than it has been and I battle against a stiff breeze as I cycle the length of the Sandbanks Spit to the National Trust jetty. As usual I start my walk on the wooden walkway across the wet meadows. No sign yet of the marsh orchids blooming. At the end of this walkway I scramble up a slope to join the path behind the church. A red squirrel appears in front of me and digs up some food then sits on a tree root to eat it. I creep towards him and get close enough to get some good photos and make a video.

Red Squirrel on Brownsea Island in Dorset

Continuing on my way I emerge by the old vineyard and join the path towards the lily pond. I hear something crashing through the trees. I look around and spot five Sika deer staring at me intently. This time I get a few photos before then bounce off into the trees.

Sika Deer on Brownsea Island in Dorset

I move on to the lily pond where a pair of ducks are feeding among the lily pads. I sit for a while before walking back to the Villano Café for this morning’s briefing. On my way back I spot a peacock with his feathers on display but he has put them down by the time I get to him. He flies up on to a wall and exchanges screeches with a distant pea hen. He flies back down to the ground, displays very briefly and then struts away.

A Peacock on Brownsea Island in Dorset

COVID-19 Update

World Health Organisation ‘not aware’ of Nepal variant The World Health Organisation has said it is “not aware” of any variant of concern detected in Nepal. It comes after reports that Portugal may be dropped from the green list amid fears a new variant is spreading there.

Shapps warns of new Covid mutation as Portugal is removed from green travel list Portugal will be added to the amber travel list as the Transport Secretary raised concerns of a new coronavirus mutation and rising cases. The holiday hotspot, including the islands of Madeira and the Azores, will be removed from the green list exempting the need to quarantine on return from 4am on Tuesday. No countries were added to the green list, but seven more – Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Trinidad and Tobago – were moved from the amber list to the red list.

UK infections at highest level since 26 March amid Nepal mutation fears which could start a third wave in Britain. It comes as Public Health England (PHE) announced that cases of the Indian, or Delta, variant had risen by 79 per cent across the UK in the past week. Experts confirm the presence of a mutant, potentially more vaccine-resistant, version of the Delta variant in Britain.

Friday 04 June 2021

Today I am doing a shift as a volunteer COVID-19 steward outside the BIC in Bournemouth. I responded to an email asking for volunteers to fill in the many gaps in the rota. It seems the initial glut of volunteers is now turning into a famine as people drop out for one reason or another. The main bone of contention seems to be the requirement to take regular rapid lateral flow tests. I find it quite comforting to know that I am ‘probably not infectious’ at the time of taking the test. I volunteer to do the evening shift outside. They are short of people for this role which is quite complicated as we have first and second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and first doses of the Pfizer vaccine. My role is to feed them into the right queues before they enter the building. Initially, I am left on my own and, as I have never been good at telling my right from my left and can’t remember all the questions I have to ask each patient I am fighting the urge to tear off my high vis tabard and run away. I settle down when the duty manager appears and spends some time helping me – while trying to establish the whereabouts of my partner on this shift. Partner located and advised to remain where she should be and my confidence restored the rest of the shift passes quite pleasantly. When my shift ends I stroll up to the town centre to do a quick shop at the Tesco metro. The town centre is quite lively, in particular the Lower Gardens where people are strolling and sitting to enjoy the last rays of the setting sun.

By the River Bourne in Bournemouth Dorset

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Evidence two doses of Pfizer's vaccine may be 'critical' to protect against emerging variants after a lab study found the shot produced the lowest antibody response against the delta variant from India, especially after one dose. The Delta variant first found in India is known to have mutations that can help it to avoid the antibody response and is more infectious.

Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine approved for use in 12 to 15-year-olds it was the first to be authorised for use in the UK at the end of last year. The MHRA have concluded the vaccine is safe and effective in this age group and that the benefits of this vaccine outweigh any risk.

In the News Today

Scientist nearly 'loses it' on live TV over 'ridiculous and unethical' response to Indian variant while being interviewed on TV as her frustration boiled over at what she says is the UK government's "ridiculous" and "unethical" border control policy. Gurdasani said he threat posed by Delta variant - previously known as the Indian variant - had been underplayed in recent weeks.

Saturday 05 June 2021

I am excited and slightly nervous as today is my first day back in the role of Tour Manager – leading a walking weekend on the Jurassic Coast. We are based at the Marsham Court Hotel in Bournemouth. I arrive just before 2 pm aware that some of my group may arrive early. As the company I work for specialises in organising groups of individual travellers they will be arriving at different times. I check-in and then settle down to wait for my group at a table in the bar but in sight of reception. I do not have long to wait and the first arrival joins me as his room is not yet ready. By late afternoon I am only missing one member of my group so I go for a walk to acquaint myself with the immediate area and find the bus stop for our excursion on Monday. I return in plenty of time to meet the group for our Welcome Drink followed by a socially distanced dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Bournemouth in Dorset

COVID-19 Update

Exit from lockdown may be delayed by two weeks as Covid cases surge a two-week delay to the planned easing of restrictions in England on June 21 is reportedly being considered after the number of Covid-19 cases rose by 75 per cent. Multiple reports have also suggested plans to lift restrictions could be scaled down, with social distancing and the wearing of face coverings set to continue.

Sunday 06 June 2021

Today is a full day walking with the group so I am up very early. The hotel has kindly agreed we can start breakfast earlier than they normally do on a Sunday as we have a bus picking us up at 8.30 am. Due to COVID-19 safeguards breakfast is not the normal help yourself buffet. We are given a menu listing choices of fruit juice, hot drinks, toast and cereals. After indicating our choices these menus are collected the items selected are brought to our table. A very good, nicely cooked, selection of hot food is set out buffet style. A waitress is on duty at this buffet to plate up our individual choices. Breakfast is dealt with quickly and efficiently. We are all aboard the bus at the designated time and set off for Studland Village on the Isle of Purbeck where we are starting our first walk.

Studland Village on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset

Leaving the Studland Village, we start the climb up to ‘the ridge’ behind the village. This ridge runs along the top of the cliffs that form the start of the Jurassic Coast. We follow the path to Old Harry Rocks and spend some time there enjoying the spectacular scenery. It is believed these rocks are named after Harry Paye, an infamous smuggler along this coast from the end of the fourteenth century to the beginning of the fifteenth century. Harry Paye Pirate Day is celebrated in Poole every year – except during a coronavirus pandemic.

Old Harry Rocks on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset

We turn inland and make our way back to Studland Village on a different path. We cross the road that runs through the village and make our way up to Agglestone Rock via the Isle of Purbeck Golf Course which is sprinkled with gorse bushes now in bloom. We stop for our picnic lunch at the base of Agglestone Rock.

Aggleston Rock on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset

We continue across country to Corfe Castle Village – the end of our twelve-mile walk. By this time most of us are ready for a sit down and a Dorset Cream Tea so we head for the Model Village Café where we enjoy both a very generous cream tea (the first time I have not been able to eat all the jam and cream provided) and a stroll around the lovely model village in the back garden of the café. Our bus is waiting for us in the castle car park. We make our way through the villages on the Isle of Purbeck back to our hotel.

Corfe Castle in Corfe Castle Village, Dorset

COVID-19 Update

Army to help vaccine roll-out in variant response in Scotland and north-west England, it will start helping with the vaccination programme in NHS Lothian and NHS Lanarkshire as part of Operation Rescript for up to five weeks. The Army is also being deployed to assist the vaccine roll-out in north-west England and will provide "ongoing assistance" with administering vaccines, logistics, planning support and carrying out "surge testing" where needed.

In the News Today

The Queen, Prince William and Kate ‘delighted’ at news of Harry and Meghan’s new baby but maybe not so delighted at the name – Lilibet the Queen’s sweet family nickname and one used by her late husband Prince Phillip. The child will be known as Lili.

Some Government Statistics

By 5 pm on 31 May, a total of 4,487,339 (total that day 3,383) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 127,782 including a daily total of 1. By the end of the week on 06 June, the total of positive cases had risen to 4,516,892 (total that day 5,431) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 127,840 including a daily total of 4. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 152,183, an increase this week of 115 (this statistic lags behind the daily statistics as it is updated on a weekly basis).

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