Thursday, October 14, 2021

2020 - Lockdown in Dorset

Many times through 2020, I often thought to myself "what a year to choose to re-settle back in the UK", having spent 20 years in the USA, moving to rural Dorset (southwest England) in December 2019. 2020 looked like being a year of few adventures, and a lot of couch time.

But, despite 2020 being extraordinary, unprecedented, and often frustrating; the one thing that remained the same was the natural beauty that surrounds us all. This natural beauty we were all still allowed to access thankfully, albeit with certain restrictions.

As is common these days in Southern England, the winters are wet and mild, and often cloudy; but when you get a crisp clear winter day, the Dorset coast is a great place to head for virtually tourist free (even in normal years) stunning scenery.

Golden Cap

The magic in Dorset really happens in Spring though, and Spring arrives early in the southwest of England. With a National Lockdown looming in early Spring, the sight of colour returning to gardens, blossom on trees, and bouncing lambs was a real boost to moral after a wet winter.

Garden colour returns

Spring lambs

During the first UK wide National Lockdown (March to June), the only outside recreation allowed was to stay local, with your household, and restricted to once a day. These restrictions did mean that many people re-discovered what is on their doorsteps, for us though we were discovering our local area one bootprint at a time from new.

West Dorset farming country

Bluebells in local woods

When May arrived, "staying local" was a little more open to interpretation for exercise; whilst no amenities were open, driving somewhere for a walk was allowed. Being a little braver, and more adventurous, we took a wonderful walk from Sturminster Newton along the River Stour.

Sturminster Newton Mill circa 1650

Old Railway Bridge across River Stour

Cutt Mill

During Lockdown we had not ventured to the Dorset coast (a 40 minute drive), but by the end of May the urge to take in the relaxing sight of the sea was too strong to resist, and Ringstead Bay just east of Weymouth is a great spot to take a coastal path walk with outstanding views. When we arrived at the car park (National Trust) it was packed: campervans, picnickers, sightseers; but stepping beyond the car park, we had the footpaths to ourselves.

Bridlepath at Ringstead looking west

View from White Nothe looking east

White Nothe old Coastguard buildings

Cycling during Lockdown number 1 was allowed as the "once a day exercise" allowance, and many of the places I discovered by bicycle, I later returned to with the better half by car to explore on foot. Two of these places were Eggardon Hill Fort, and Powerstock Common Nature Reserve.

Powerstock Common Nature Reserve

Eggardon Hill Fort

View to the Coast from Eggardon

Once summer arrived in England, National Lockdown had been lifted with certain restrictions. The restrictions meant that many people chose to holiday in the UK, which meant Dorset did get very busy, especially campsites and beauty spots. Shortly after the easing of lockdown, and re-opening of pubs, we headed to the Isle of Purbeck for a beautiful coastal walk to Winspit Quarry.

Chapman's Pool

St Aldhelm's head

Winspit Quarry

The summer of 2020 seemed exceptionally short, and Autumn in Dorset seemed to be even shorter this year. One of the real "hotspots" for Autumn colour in the South/Southwest is the National Trust's Stourhead gardens, now whilst it is not in Dorset, it is almost on the border. Unfortunately due to having to pre-book to visit, we missed out visiting during prime colours.

The Pantheon, Stourhead

The Classic Stourhead view

As Autumn was coming to an end, England was plunged into a new 4-week National Lockdown for the month of November. Once again outdoor spaces were allowed to remain open, and be used with restrictions in place (pre-booking, limited numbers etc etc). Abbotsbury Tropical Gardens was one such place, and for £5 you got entry and a hot drink!. The Autumn colours lingered on here well into November.

Abbotsbury Gardens

Abbotsbury Gardens

With Lockdown lifted again in December, the country was preparing for a scaled down Christmas celebration, but with Covid cases rising again, Christmas was cancelled at the eleventh hour.

With holiday days to use or lose, and family gatherings all but banned, I had extra days to burn before 2021 rolled around. The festive season fortunately had a few decent cold but sunny days, and there was no better way to end the year than a Studland hike, and fish and chips at the Hive Cafe at Burton Bradstock.

Old Harry Rocks

Burton Bradstock Beach

Abbotsbury & Chesil Beach

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