6th November 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 84 Lynton in Devon
A short break in Lynton, North Devon staying at the fantastic Highcliffe House is an amazing experience this week.
A final fling for me this autumn is a short break in the North Devon towns Lynton & Lynmouth – adjacent conurbations linked by the unique Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway. They are in easy walking distance of each other but many are discouraged from taking the pedestrian route due to the steep gradient. This relatively small town is packed with things to do and see all year round and features three wonderful walks – the cliff path to the Valley of the Rocks, the gradual climb to the top of Hollerday Hill and a stunning trek through a gorge, beside the East Lyn River, to Watersmeet. And the icing on the cake? A stay at Highcliffe House which offers five-star comfort, congeniality and the perfect breakfast.
Monday 25 October 2021
I am woken very early be activity next door. There is a notice by the building announcing building works taking place and they are very extensive. The gardens have already been landscaped and new hedging planted around the perimeter. Now the wooden decking that surrounds this large, low, rectangular building is being ripped up. There is a lot of building work going on in Dorset as lovely old houses are being demolished and replaced by glass and steel apartment blocks. The post lockdown property market is buoyant and the average price of houses has recently increased. My boiler is being serviced this morning. The Boiler Man is a great talker and has some very strong views so we discuss current issues while he goes about his work. He pauses occasionally to launch into a monologue about the great British public and a general reluctance to book a boiler service in mid-summer so he can spread his work evenly throughout the year. Once he has left the premises I start a fruitless discussion with my car insurance company as my friend and I are heading for a short break in Devon tomorrow and I want to add him as a named driver. The proved so difficult as I could not provide the details required so I gave up. By this time my day was nearly over but I managed to escape outside for some fresh air and watched, in fascination, a paddle boarder persuading a very reluctant dog to take a ride with her.
Modelling predicts a fall in Covid infections as ministers come under increasing pressure to implement Plan B, new evidence of Covid confidence has emerged and it is expected coronavirus cases will plummet in November even without a new approach.
In the News Today
NHS gets £6bn Budget boost to reduce backlog – it is Budget week and Rishi Sunak will announce a boost for the NHS for operations and screening in a bid to reduce record backlogs.
Major museums sign up to 'anti-woke' charter The Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of the Home, and the Science Museum are supporting the charter aimed at protecting Britain's heritage from "temporary shifts in public sentiment".
Tuesday 26 October 2021
My friend and I are on the road by 6 am this morning and heading for Lynton in North Devon. The first part of our journey is tricky as it is still dark and the sat nav on my iPhone is sulking and won’t talk to me. Between us we manage to follow the map. We have a short break to fill up with petrol (price has increased dramatically) and drink a restorative coffee and arrive at our bed and breakfast establishment, Highcliffe House, just after 10 am. We leave the car there and set off to explore the locality. It is only a short walk into the centre of Lynton just a few minutes’ away. By the time we had wandered through the narrow streets lined with independent shops we were overtaken by hunger pangs (it had been a very early breakfast) and stopped at Annie and the Flint for generous slices of delicious homemade quiche with some salad.
After eating we set off to find the Valley of the Rocks and followed the signs that took us down the road beside the parish church. We followed the Coast Path admiring the interesting rock formations above us and the bracken covered cliffs that fell away to the sea below us. When we reach the Valley of the Rocks I scramble up a pinnacle to view the valley spread out below me.
When we re-trace out steps back into Lynton we see some of the wild goats for which this area is famous. These nimble creatures are grazing on the steep slopes below us – nonchalantly munching at the undergrowth apparently unaware that a slight stumble would send them bouncing into the sea crashing on the rocks below them.
On our way back into Lynton I notice a path through the woods that clothe the slope to our left signposted to Lynmouth. We follow this leaf strewn path until we emerge on the sea front of Lynmouth a pretty harbour below Lynton The two places are connected by the famous Lynton & Lynton Cliff Railway but there is a long queue so we abandon the idea of an easy ride back to Lynton. We stroll along the quay towards the distinctive Rhenish Tower – an old fashioned bath-house that was built around 1832. Opposite this tower is the Rising Sun, the oldest pub in Lynmouth and the start of a steep path that eventually took us back to Lynton. Bridges on this path cross the track below us and we made frequent stops to watch the two carriages making their way up and down the cliff face.
Back in Lynton we make our way back to Highcliffe House and enjoy a very welcome cream tea before checking in to our room. Our room in this excellent Bed & Breakfast establishment is delightful and has a small balcony overlooking Lynton & Lynmouth below us. We unpack and relax before walking the short distance down the hill to the Crown pub for a traditional pub supper.
Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group claims it is unfair to “bash the UK” over high Covid case numbers and compare it with the rest of Europe because these case rates relate to a high level of testing.
Ministers warn Scotland faces toughest winter in its history because of the twin pressures of Covid and fears over an additional crisis with winter flu cases. Nearly £500m in extra emergency funding for the NHS but opposition parties said that funding was too late.
Wednesday 27 October 2021
After a sumptuous breakfast at Highfield House we set out to explore Lynmouth. It is a short walk, downhill all the way, to the little harbour. We start by visiting the church of Saint John which features a memorial corner inside and a garden outside commemorating the Great Flood of 1952 when the river East Lyn burst its banks and swept away most of the buildings here. Next we visited the Lyn Model Railway. Entrance is free but there are plenty of opportunities to make a donation. The detail in the modelling is impressive and the memorabilia surrounding it is fascinating.
We learn a lot more about the disastrous flood in the Flood Memorial Hall built on the site of the lifeboat station which was swept away by the surging waters of the East Lyn and West Lyn Rivers that converge in Lynmouth. This permanent exhibition includes a scale model of the village before the flood and images of the buildings which were destroyed. There are also many personal accounts and some material on a recent theory that this disaster may have been caused by cloud-seeding experiments undertaken by the military. We stroll along the main shopping street and call in at the Exmoor National Park Centre. Here, we watch a stunning video of some of the attractions this splendid park has to offer.
There is only a very short queue for the Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway today so we do not have to wait long before we are in the single carriage and trundling up the cliff face to Lynton. This unique water operated cliff railway was opened in 1890 to alleviate the hardship of climbing up the steep gradient between Lynton and Lynmouth. Apart from needing a new track in 1908 this railway operates as it has always done since it first opened. But it no longer transports cars up the gradient as it did in the early days of motoring.
After a light lunch at Charlie Friday’s café – a cosy venue with an interesting menu – we visit the Lyn and Exmoor Museum. This museum is housed in St Vincent’s Cottage, a detached house built in the mid eighteenth century. It’s exhibits reflect the history of Exmoor life with information about the local lifeboat and the now defunct Lynton and Barnstaple Railway. Volunteers run this lovely little museum.
We had hoped to visit the town’s Toy Museum and shop but as it is closed on a Wednesday this was not possible so, instead, we went for a walk up Hollerday Hill. Presented with a network of paths near the top we chose the one leading to the site of Hollerday House. As we walk we have good views of the coastline below and when we get to the site of the house we learn that the house was built by George Newnes in the 1880s. This very successful publisher and pioneer of popular journalism was a very positive influence on his home town and by the time of his early death in 1910 he had given away most of his money. Hollerday House was destroyed in a fire in 1913 and never rebuilt. The grounds were subsequently gifted to the people of Lynton & Lynmouth.
Before going out this evening we had a gin and tonic in the Drawing Room at Highcliffe House. We were joined by one of our hosts, Robert a well-travelled raconteur who kept us amused until it was time for us to return to the café Annie and the Flint, drawn back there by the promise of fresh fish.
New rules for British visitors after US travel ban lifts next month and moves away from the country-by-country restrictions applied during the Covid-19 pandemic to adopt an air travel policy that relies primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the US.
Thursday 28 October 2021
This morning, at breakfast, we watch dawn breaking over the cliffs that surround the bay below us. It is a glorious sight. We load the car and drive to Lynmouth where we are intending to walk to Watersmeet, a popular local beauty spot. It is here Hoar Oak Water joins the East Lyn River. We have researched this walk, well, we asked the woman in charge of the local museum how long it takes to walk there from Lynmouth. Confident in her estimate of twenty minutes to get there (and twenty minutes to get back) we found some free parking (for 2 hours) close to the start of the path from Lynmouth and set off. It is a wonderful walk through a gorge with dense woodland on both sides of the East Lyn river that runs through it. We ambled along enjoyed the scenery and watching the dippers flitting from rock to rock as they fished the fast flowing water. I became concerned when, after walking for more than an hour, we still had not arrived at Watersmeet, a Victorian fishing lodge run by the National Trust. I would have been happy to turn back but was persuaded to continue. When we finally arrived we had a quick turnaround before walking briskly back to Lynmouth where, happily, the windscreen of my car was not displaying notice of a parking penalty.
Covid deaths up 16% in England as hospital admissions hit highest rate since February but, according to government data, cases are falling,
Last countries leave red list and more than 30 new vaccines to be recognised by UK in further changes to the UK’s red list to be implemented from Monday 01 November at 4 am and Wales to follow red list changes
A nasal COVID-19 vaccine could be the solution to ending the pandemic, experts say, as early trial data looks promising If we could vaccinate your nose, there's a good chance we'd be able to end this pandemic right now.
Shots in the arm aren't always great at preventing the sniffles - as injectable COVID-19 vaccines are designed to give a person's body good systemic immunity against the virus, but don’t protect the nose. A vaccinated person exposed to COVID-19, they may still contract a flu-like COVID-19 illness.
Friday 29 October 2021
Instead of going straight back to Dorset I diverted to the flat in Hertfordshire. This morning I do some errands locally. Roadworks abound and my sat nav takes me along country lanes I have never been aware of before. And i discover a new beauty spot, the Spring Ponds in Stanmore. I can’t spend too much time exploring as I need to do a shop in the local Tesco superstore. It is manic as Christmas shopping has started in earnest. I have a list of items we need but find that although the shelves are full the choice is limited – especially in the soup section where simple varieties like cream of chicken are not available. At the self-service check-out I discover I cannot buy both Paracetamol and Lemsip – my friend is suffering from a heavy cold and sore throat and has eaten all my Paracetamol and drunk all my Lemsip. I am told I have to choose between the two despite pleading that they are not both for me. I choose the Paracetamol and then creep back to the pharmacy section and get another packet of Lemsip. I make sure I use a different section of the self-service check out area so a different assistant authorises my purchase. The store car park is one large traffic jam as everyone, those arriving, departing and trying to get petrol has to use the same entrance.
Restrictions in Wales may return if cases don’t drop in the next three weeks, first minister Mark Drakeford warned. Wales currently has the worst Covid rate in the UK and new measures are being introduced to curb soaring infection numbers.
Inexpensive antidepressant can cut Covid hospitalisation risk – according to a new study the commonly prescribed antidepressant fluvoxamine can cut hospital admissions by up to 30 per cent, and potentially save lives.
Britain must be punished for Brexit and be shown that Brexit is "damaging", the French prime minister told Brussels as he called for support for tougher sanctions in the fish war.
In the News Today
Poland's justice minister accused of blackmailing government over row with Brussels after a
row exploded earlier this week when the European Court of Justice imposed a €1m fine a day on Poland for failing to comply with a ruling made in July.
Saturday 30 October 2021
Today I am meeting a close friend for lunch at the Teatro bar in the Radlett Centre. This cosy café is our favourite meeting place. The tables are well spaced out which is good as my friend is vulnerable regarding COVID-19 and a lot of eateries have gone back to cramming as many tables as possible into the available space. I have a lovely baked potato with a chicken and mango filling. After eating I walk back to the flat, we pack up the car and set off for Dorset. All my favourite household items are gradually making their way to Dorset as my temporary stay is extended once again and nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic now. This time it is a pine kitchen clock and my ‘guard dog’ Spot – a lovely stone dog I found in a garden centre many years ago. I just could not resist him and it is good to have him outside my front door again.
In the News Today
Why this winter won’t be as bleak as the last “There is no alternative. From Thursday until the start of December, you must stay at home.” These words were uttered on national television a year ago today by Boris Johnson as he stood at his Downing Street podium.
Sunday 31 October 2021
Overnight the weather has broken and I am woken very early this morning by heavy rain pounding on the roof above my bedroom. Outside the wind is so strong there are white horses on Whitley Bay, a lake in Poole Harbour and the sea is crashing on the sand of Kite Beach, the small beach that fringes the lake. Both are unusual sites on this usually calm stretch of water. A strong wind ripples the surface of the large puddles that have formed on the road around the harbour and cars regularly splash through them. It is not a day for going out – so I don’t. I stay in and sort out the hundreds of photographs I took during my stay in North Devon.
Boris Johnson stresses importance of Covid booster jabs warning double-vaccinated Britons that waning immunity over time meant booster jabs were vital for continued protection.
In the News Today
The EU is locked in a momentous fight with Poland. And the UK is backing the wrong side The Polish government is actually doing what the UK Justice Secretary is only contemplating. In a case brought by Poland’s prime minister, earlier this month Poland’s supreme court ruled that legal challenges, based on EU law incorporated in EU treaties, would be constitutionally inadmissible.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 25 October, a total of 8,809,774 (total that day 36,567) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 139,571 including a daily total of 38. By the end of the week on Sunday 31 October, the total of positive cases had risen to 9,057,029 (total that day 38,009) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 140,632 including a daily total of 74. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 163,515, an increase this week of 890. (this statistic lags behind the daily statistics as it is updated on a weekly basis).
More next week
Valery Collins is 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 four books she turned to online travel writing.