Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 108 Somerset

Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 108 Somerset

Rolling green hills, villages populated with sandstone cottages and the magnificent cathedral in Wells await me in Somerset during week 108 of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is Easter week, the third time we have celebrated this festival since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic at the beginning of the year 2020. All restrictions have been lifted in England but there are still places where face coverings must be worn and social distancing practised. These include all medical sites and some flights where the country of destination requires these measures to be enforced. Russia continues its war on Ukraine and the latter is still bravely resisting. I have a lovely week, four days in Somerset followed by two days volunteering on Brownsea Island.

Wild Flowers at the Bishops Palace in Wells, Somerset

Monday 11 April 2022

It is dry and sunny this morning with a stiff breeze – ideal weather to dry the washing I have left until the last minute before going away to Somerset tomorrow. Once the washing is flapping in the wind I start preparing for my trip to a lovely bed and breakfast I have stayed at before, The Cross, in the village of Croscombe near Wells. I spent some time in this lovely cathedral city four years ago and I am really looking forward to returning there. It is late afternoon before I go out for some fresh air. By this time the light is soft and sky is glowing. I love this time of day. Finally, early evening, I start packing for our trip to Wells tomorrow. This involves a lot of trying on and discarding clothes that are slightly too tight. I really must make more of an effort to lose weight. I have let the weight creep back up. I cycle for twenty minutes and then have a very light supper – pitta bread filled with cheese salad.

Early Evening Skies Over Poole Harbour in Dorset

COVID-19 Update

The destinations that have scrapped all travel restrictions – regardless of vaccination status The Czech Republic dropped its remaining Covid travel restrictions on Saturday, joining a growing pack of European countries that have done away with all testing and vaccine passport rules for holidaymakers. If you’re looking for the simplest possible holiday this Easter, these 15 destinations - although not the usual big hitters for spring travellers - might be your best bet.

NHS leaders call for return of face masks as Covid pressures mount and have a “major impact” on the health service, health leaders have said. The NHS Confederation called on the Government to reconsider its Living with Covid plan as it said that ministers risk “abandoning” the NHS.

In the News Today

Martin Lewis warns of civil unrest over bills the expert has warned that civil unrest over rising energy bills “isn’t far away”. Lewissaid: “We need to keep people fed. We need to keep them warm. If we get this wrong right now, then we get to the point where westart to risk civil unrest”.

Employment growth up to pre-pandemic levels in the UK in March. The business advisory firm BDO said UK companies reported the fastest growth in the labour market since February 2020. Managers in the manufacturing and services sectors were the most enthusiastic to hire new staff.

Tuesday 12 April 2022

I am feeling out of sorts so do a COVID test as several people I know have recently had COVID 19. Fortunately, it is negative so I load the car and set off for Somerset, collecting my friend on the way. We follow a pretty cross country route to Frome where we stop for a while. We walk down the main street into the centre of town. We turn into Cheap Street a narrow cobbled road lined with independent shops and stop for a coffee at La Strada café at the far end. A display of home-baked cakes and pies tempts us into the Old Bake House next to the café. Inside there is a colourful display of Easter biscuits ready for this festival which will be celebrated at the end of this week. It is difficult to choose from all the tasty bakes on display but we finally settle on pasties and almond tarts (my favourite). Back to the main square we find a bench and we sit there, warmed by a weak winter sun to enjoy an al fresco lunch.

Cheap Street in Frome, Somerset

Next stop the village of Croscombe where we will be staying for the next few days at The Cross, a cosy bed and breakfast establishment. Croscombe is a small village surrounded by green fields but just a few minutes’ drive from the centre of Wells and not far from Bath.

Croscombe Village in Somerset

The Cross is housed in a renovate fourteenth century cottage owned by Terri, a warm personality who takes great care of her guests. She provides an excellent breakfast buffet and cooks a delicious full English. Her six rooms are beautifully furnished and very comfortable and there is a lovely garden at the back of the building. We enjoy a cream tea outside before checking in. That evening we walk the short distance to the local pub, The George, and have dinner there. This cosy, delightfully old-fashioned pub serves very good food.

Garden at The Cross in Croscombe, Somerset

In the News Today

‘Chemical weapon’ claim in Mariupol Authorities in Ukraine have claimed Russia dropped a drone carrying a toxic substance on the city of Mariupol. Ukrainian MP Ivanna Klympush said the unknown substance was “most likely” a chemical weapon. President Zelenskyy did not confirm the claim.

Consumer confidence collapses Fears over the rising cost of living led to the sharpest drop in consumer confidence since the 2008 financial crisis, according to industry data.

Wednesday 13 April 2022

After a full English breakfast, we walk down the road to The George where we get the bus into Wells. It stops by the market square but the driver does not give us time to get off. The next stop is the bus station so we get off there and walk back to the market square. It is not far as there is a short cut. Wednesday is market day so we have a walk around the market stalls and then go into the Bishops Palace. We start with a guided tour of the gardens. They are laid out around the ruins of the Great Hall. And reflect the once fashionable requirement of a folly (one of the four towers) and a ruin (one wall of the hall). Within the gardens are five wells, the moat around the palace and a quiet garden currently ablaze with brilliant hues of tulips in bloom.

A Folly and a Ruin in the Garden of the Bishops Palace in Wells, Somerset

As the tour ends it begins to rain – a soft drizzle at first and then a heavy downpour. We take shelter in a doorway and discover it is a side entrance into the palace itself. We enter and explore the rooms that are open to the public. These include an impressive entrance hall the leads into the undercroft, a flight of Jacobean wooden stairs and the Long Gallery upstairs. Next to the original palace is a private chapel but, as a service was in progress, we could only peek inside from the porch.

The Bishops Palace in Wells, Somerset

By this time was are ready for some lunch and return to the market square and go into the first café we find with empty tables inside, the Market Square Café. It is a good choice as it offers a savoury cream tea comprising tasty cheese scones with cream cheese and pickle. Refreshed and ready for more sightseeing we head for the cathedral. Strolling around the interior we admire the unusual scissor arches and the famous Wells clock, the second oldest clock mechanism in Britain, in its original condition and still working. When we leave we walk across the Cathedral Green from which we have a good view of the town’s magnificent cathedral.

Scissor Arches in Wells Cathedral, Wells in Somerset

This evening we go back to The George for our evening meal dinner. It is steak night and we both like the idea of steak for dinner. It is a good choice.

The Geroge in Croscombe village in Somerset

COVID-19 Update

PM rejects calls to resign after being fined by police for breaking lockdown rules in June 2020. Johnson, who is now the UK’s first serving PM to be sanctioned for breaking the law, said he felt “an even greater sense of obligation to deliver on the priorities of the British people”.

In the News Today

Jobless rate at pre-Covid level as unemployment fell to its lowest level in almost 50 years in February. However, British people’s earnings shrank by the most since 2013 in February when adjusted for surging inflation.

Patel was warned about travel chaos The home secretary was warned a month ago about an impending wave of travel chaos after passport control staff were sent to deal with the Dover migrant crisis. The Telegraph reported that airline bosses told Priti Patel in March that a lack of Border Force workers could cause massive passenger queues at terminals across Britain.

Thursday 14 April 2022

We set off for Glastonbury after breakfast – a birthday meal as my friend is celebrating his birthday today. First call, Tourist Information in the public car park. I get a street map and a good tip regarding parking. Morrison’s is within walking distance of the town centre and parking there is free for three hours. Our objective today is to climb the Glastonbury Tor. But, as we walk through the town centre we are drawn into the fourteenth century George & Pilgrims pub, an amazing old building with rugged stone window sills. We have a coffee before continuing our quest.

The George and Pilgrims in Glastonbury, Somerset

After following the main road out of town for a while we find a footpath signposted the Tor and follow that. We climb gradually and stop occasionally to enjoy the views of the town below us. We can’t see the tor on this section but we emerge in a field and there it is, right in front of us. We cross the field and walk along a lane for a while before going through a gate and picking up a path that takes us to the top of the tor. The path is well constructed combining flights of steps with footpaths. We stop occasionally to rest and look around us. 

View from the Glastonbury Tor in Somerset

When we get to the top we spend a lot of time there enjoying the views and watching the people around us – although most of them are normal despite being promised lots of bare footed, strangely dressed individuals. We walk back down the other side of the tor to the Chalice Well gardens hoping it will have a café. It does not but we the café at the Somerset Rural Life Museum is recommended to us.

The Folly on Glastonbury Tor in Somerset

We carry on down the road into town and this brings us to the museum. We are taken through the museum to the café where we decide to eat outside in the yard. This features one of the expositions of the museum – the farmyard – and a striking sculpture of a horse.

The Farmyard at Glastonbury in Somerset  MG 8154

When we return to Wells later today the city is bathed in the golden light of early evening. I re-visit the Bishops Palace and the Cathedral before joining my friend in Rugantino’s where we are having dinner tonight. This very popular restaurant, based in one of the old gatehouses in the city, offers authentic Italian cuisine. This is not an idle boast and we enjoy an excellent meal there.

Wells Cathedral in Wells, Somerset

COVID-19 Update

Covid cases down but too soon to tell if UK has passed peak, say experts Coronavirus infections have fallen slightly in most of the UK, figures from the Office for National Statistics show, but experts analysing the data say it is too soon to say whether infections have passed their peak.

Hong Kong to ease COVID-19 restrictions as infections fall it will ease some social distancing measures later this month, allowing people to dine in at restaurants in the evening and lifting restrictions on private gatherings, as the number of COVID-19 infections declined in recent weeks.

In the News Today

UK to send migrants to Rwanda Some asylum seekers will be flown 4,500 miles to Rwanda to have their applications processed under plans to be announced by Priti Patel today.

Friday 15 April 2022

Good Friday today and time to leave Somerset. We are stopping off in Bridport in Dorset on our way home. Bridport has a very wide High Street with independent shops on either side. We started with a coffee at the More Than Tea café. It has tables and chairs on the pavement so we sit in the sun under a blue, cloudless sky. Then we stroll down one side of the road and back up the other side occasionally browsing an independent shop but buying nothing except a sourdough loaf. We are drawn back to the More Than Tea café by the thought of a genuine Cornish pasty (him) and a large slice of lemon and blueberry sponge cake (her).

More Than Tea Cafe in Bridport, Dorset

COVID-19 Update

South Korea to remove most virus restrictions as omicron slows these include indoor gathering limits, as the omicron outbreak stabilizes. People will still be required to wear masks indoors, but authorities could remove an outdoor mask mandate if it further slows over the next two weeks.

In the News Today

Russian warship sinks the key Russian warship damaged by an explosion has sunk, Moscow’s defence ministry has said. There are conflicting accounts of how Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, met its fate. Ukraine says its missiles hit the warship.

Saturday 16 April 2022

Early this morning I cycle to the National Trust jetty to catch the 7.30 am boat to Brownsea Island where I am volunteering today. I set off for a walk as soon as I get off the boat. Two Oyster Catcher are sitting on the wall by the pier but I am not quick enough to get my camera out and take a photo. As my shift at the Outdoor Centre does not start until 11 am I have time for a long walk. But I start behind the church and put some nuts down in the hope of attracting a red squirrel. I actually attract two red squirrels and take some photos – I have brought my Canon camera with me.

Red Squirrel on Brownsea Island in Dorset

I move on and take the pink path to the far end of the island.  It is a lovely walk and passes the natural playground, as yet empty of happy children. When I get to Maryland the path is currently closed so I go down to the beach and sit there for a while. The sea laps gently on the sand, the air is still and carries the distinctive cry of Oyster Catchers across the water to me. I stay there so long I do not have time to re-trace my steps and find another route around the huge piles of logs on either side of the path. As it is Saturday and there are no workmen on the island, plus no-one else around, I breach the ropes across the path and walk briskly towards the Outdoor Centre where I am on duty today.

Natural Playground on Brownsea Island in Dorset

Visitor numbers are improving on Brownsea Island now that all COVID restrictions have been lifted and the outdoor centre is busy with families picnicking at the tables on the wooden terrace and queuing for ice creams from the Snack Van parked there. I spend the day greeting people and answering their questions. There are a lot of queries about camping on the island – especially when they see our new bell tents that offer camping in comfort. Suddenly, the area is empty as people leave to make their way back to the pier for the last ferry at 5 o’clock. There is nothing else for me to do so I walk back to the pier and catch the next boat back to Sandbanks.

Bell Tent on Brownsea Island

COVID-19 Update

Long Covid: The pandemic restrictions that just won’t go away Britain is supposedly “living with Covid”, but large parts of life - from courts and museums, to airports and local councils - are still being blighted by restrictions imposed to control the virus.

In the News Today

Zelensky sounds nuclear alarm saying the world should be prepared for the possibility Russia will target Ukraine with a nuclear strike. His words came after Russia formally warned the West of “unpredictable consequences” if the US and allies keep supplying weapons to Ukraine.

Rwanda plan ‘illegal’ says UN

The UN’s refugee agency said the government’s plan to send some asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda are a breach of international law. The UNHCR said attempting to “shift responsibility” for claims of refugee status was “unacceptable”.

Sunday 17 April 2022

Easter Sunday and I am looking forward to spending the day on the pier of Brownsea Island. I cycle to the National Trust jetty in time to catch the 7.30 am boat. I am delighted to see the Oyster Catchers are by the pier again and this time I have my camera ready. After leaving the pier I walk through the woods behind the church and linger for a while in case there are any red squirrels around. There are and I watch a lone red squirrel scampering around, leaping from tree stumps to logs before climbing up a tree and disappearing into the foliage above me.

Oyster Catchers on Brownsea Island in Dorset

I get back to the pier in time to make a coffee and then attend the daily briefing. I am on my own today and it is busy as the ferries are more frequent, half-hourly rather than hourly as the schools are on holiday. Time passes quickly and during the few minutes’ I have between ferries I sit on the pier enjoying some sunshine and watching the boats coming and going. The most impressive boat today is TS Royalist, the Royal Navy’s Sea Cadets flagship. This training brig takes twenty-four cadets to sea for voyages lasting six days.

TS Royalist

In the News Today

‘Inhuman’ situation in Mariupol Moscow ordered Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to surrender by Sunday morning, but the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zekensky, has called the situation in the city “inhuman,” saying any further Russian war crimes would make negotiations impossible. Russia is planning to restrict access to Mariupol from Monday. Meanwhile, Russia has banned Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other senior ministers from entering Russia due to the UK’s “hostile” stance on the war in Ukraine.

Bed blockers take up more space than Covid patients in England’s overwhelmed hospitals it has emerged, as the Government was urged to do more to fund social care. Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, warned there were 20,000 medically fit patients who were ready to be discharged, but currently have nowhere to go.

Some Government Statistics

The government has changed the way it reports COVID-19 statistics and no longer gives daily totals but from Monday to Friday it gives a 7-day total with no statistics reported on Saturday and Sunday. In the last 6 days, by Thursday 14 April (no statistics on bank holidays or weekends), the number of people who tested positive is 238,938 bringing the cumulative total to 21,747,638. The number of deaths within 28 days of positive test is 1,984 in the last 7 days bringing the cumulative total of deaths to 171,396. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate this week 188,991 an increase this week of 1,061.

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 four books she turned to online travel writing.