2020 In Review: We look back at the biggest stories of a year like no other in Lyme Regis

A rainbow over Lyme’s Cobb harbour, a symbol of hope during an unprecedented and challenging year (photo by Natasha Kate Ward)
A major fire broke out at the Rousdon Village Bakery in January

JANUARY

Back when coronavirus had barely crept into our vocabulary, more than 500 swimmers kicked off a new decade by dashing into the sea for the annual Lyme Lunge – the largest number of entrants the event had ever seen, rounding off a record-breaking festive season in Lyme Regis.

In local politics, Cheryl Reynolds made her return to the town council chamber – having resigned seven months earlier – after standing uncontested to fill a vacancy left by Jeff Scowen, who resigned and moved away from the town in December 2019. Veteran councillor Stan Williams was elected deputy mayor to replace Mr Scowen.

The popular Rousdon Village Bakery and adjoining workshop and flats suffered severe damage after a fire started in a fuse box, leaving the flourishing business closed throughout 2020.

The Charmouth community was left shocked after 90-year-old Peter Bide was killed in a fatal hit and run incident in the village.

The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Brian Larcombe MBE, gets a close up look at the church clock during his tour of the tower refurbishments

FEBRUARY

Lyme Regis Town Council allocated grants totalling more than £340,000 for the next five years to seven local organisations. Councillors struggled to reach a decision after the grants budget was reduced from £130,000 to £80,000, eventually agreeing on grants for the Marine Theatre, LymeForward, The Hub, B Sharp, Bridport & District CAB, Axe Valley and West Dorset Ring & Ride and Lyme Regis Museum.

Organisers of the popular Guitars On The Beach announced this year’s event would be the last ever – it would later be called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Palmers Brewery unveiled scaled-back plans to redevelop the former Three Cups Hotel, which had stood empty for 30 years. They announced work would start in 2021.

A £170,000 project to repair the tower of St Michael’s Parish Church in Lyme Regis came to an end, with scaffolding that had encased the tower for months finally coming down.

Although none were affected, the threat of COVID-19 edged closer to home as students from the Woodroffe School returned from a ski trip in northern Italy – the first area of Europe to be hit by the virus.

Volunteers and supporters pictured at the launch of Lyme Bay Radio (photo courtesy of Lyme Bay Radio)

MARCH

There was some positive news in March before life as we knew it in Lyme Regis completely changed for the remainder of the year.

Community radio station Lyme Bay Radio was launched and the community welcomed a new rector, the Reverend Chris Martin.

Across the border in Devon, Axminster Carpets was saved from closure when it was bought by a consortium of private investors, having fallen into administration in February, but Exeter-based airline Flybe collapsed, described as a “hammer blow to the local economy”.

Fears over coronavirus started to take hold on local life; meetings and events were put on hold, local sport called off, and the first COVID-19 related death in Dorset was reported on March 21.

The first national lockdown eventually came into effect on March 23 with all non-essential shops and businesses closing doors. Suddenly, the outlook for the rest of the year looked very different indeed…

easter-bonnet-parade
A virtual version of the annual Easter Bonnet Parade was held amid lockdown

APRIL

Lyme Regis’ community spirit came to the fore with the establishment of the new Community Support Group, with volunteers carrying out grocery shopping, collecting prescriptions and checking in on the elderly and vulnerable as coronavirus gripped the UK.

The Mayor of Lyme Regis wrote an open letter to residents, encouraging them to focus on positives during the pandemic, including the benefits of living in a small, rural, community-minded town.

Lyme Regis was shocked as HIX Oyster & Fish House, run by celebrity chef Mark Hix MBE, became the first local business to fall victim to the pandemic, with its parent company placed in administration.

The Clap for Carers initiative was launched, which saw Lyme Regis residents join a weekly, nationwide show of appreciation for NHS and frontline workers.

Easter was celebrated in lockdown, with a virtual version of the annual Easter Bonnet Parade held online.

MAY

Lyme Regis Fossil Festival and Jazz Jurassica were the first two major, local festivals not to go ahead due to the pandemic. The town’s events calendar was eventually completely decimated with announcements coming later in May that the biggest crowd-pullers of the year – Lifeboat Week and Regatta & Carnival Week – would also not go ahead.

Residents marked the 70th anniversary of VE Day in the midst of a national lockdown, many decorating their houses in red, white and blue, hosting their own garden parties and singing over fences with neighbours.

There was a glimmer of hope as local tennis and golf facilities reopened to the public, and boating returned to the harbour.

Local crews were among those to tackle a devastating fire at Wareham Forest, caused by disposable barbecues. In the dry weather, the fire continued for over a week and destroyed 220 hectares of forest.

george somers statue
The statue of Admiral Sir George Somers in Lyme Regis became the target of vandalism amid anti-racism protests

JUNE

With the UK enjoying spectacular spring weather during lockdown, tensions were raised between residents and visitors in the South West, resulting in the Mayor of Lyme Regis sending out a message to holiday let and second home owners, saying they were a valued part of the community.

Large crowds were seen on beaches across Dorset, coastguards reported their busiest weekend of the year and anti-social behaviour increased, including an incident in which a police officer was assaulted at Monmouth Beach.

Students began a staggered return to school and non-essential shops opened doors after more than two months, with Dorset high streets given a £335k boost from the government.

The Admiral Sir George Somers statue in Lyme Regis was targeted amid anti-racist protests across the country, with the word ‘murderer’ scrawled across an information board next to it.

‘Ammonite’ – the Mary Anning biopic partially filmed in Lyme Regis in 2019 – was selected for a virtual version of the Cannes Film Festival.

The Rock Point Inn opened following extensive refurbishment under the ownership of St Austell Brewery

JULY

As the UK came out of lockdown, pubs and restaurants opened doors, including the new-look Rock Point Inn in Broad Street, now owned by St Austell Brewery, and The Oyster & Fish House in Lister Gardens having been bought back by Mark Hix, who lost his restaurants earlier in the year due to the pandemic.

After a spate in anti-social behaviour during lockdown, Lyme Regis Town Council took the unprecedented decision to hire security guards to patrol the seafront and public gardens during the summer holidays, for a total cost of £10,080.

Lyme Regis mourned the loss of community stalwart and retired vicar, the Reverend Keith Vivian, who died in his 90s following a short stay at Dorset Community Hospital.

Local cricket finally got underway, with the announcement that Uplyme & Lyme Regis would take part in a mini league to get the sport up and running following lockdown.

Tyler Wellman pictured after hitting his third consecutive century for Uplyme & Lyme Regis CC

AUGUST

The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Cllr Brian Larcombe MBE, called for heightened police presence in the town as a spate of crime continued, culminating in a violent altercation in Broad Street, described by witnesses as “truly horrifying”.

A letter dated 1829, written by Lyme Regis fossil hunter Mary Anning to her friend and collaborator Dr William Buckland, sold at auction for a staggering £100,800.

The Woodroffe School in Lyme Regis impressed with A-level and GCSE results, despite national outrage over the system for awarding grades after exams were cancelled.

Tyler Wellman made local sporting history after hitting three centuries in three consecutive weeks for Uplyme & Lyme Regis Cricket Club.

Lyme Regis Tourist Information Centre office was closed down permanently, with staff continuing to offer a remote service from home.

Work continued at pace at the Davey Fort as a £140,000 development programme was brought to an end

SEPTEMBER

Uplyme & Lyme Regis Cricket Club were crowned champions of the Devon Mini-League Tier 5 after completing all their matches undefeated with a home win against Pymouth CS.

Meanwhile, local football was given the green light to start, but Lyme Regis Football Club put off home matches until October to complete improvements to the Davey Fort pitch.

Lyme Regis Museum opened its doors for the first time in six months but coronavirus continued to play havoc with the local events calendar, with several winter events, such as bonfire night, called off.

The Nag’s Head became the final Lyme Regis pub to reopen, under the management of new landlord Tony Allen.

Lyme Regis Town Council held discussions on how it could make savings over the coming years, announcing that it had lost an estimated £300,000 due to the coronavirus pandemic and a second lockdown in spring 2021 could wipe out its finances.

A preview screening of ‘Ammonite’, starring Kate Winslet as Mary Anning, was held in cinemas across the UK

OCTOBER

Plans for a new primary school in Uplyme, that would provide a “21st century education” for pupils, were given the final go ahead, despite concerns that the proposed access would cause safety issues at the petrol station opposite.

A preview screening of ‘Ammonite’, the Mary Anning biopic partially filmed in Lyme Regis in 2019, was held in cinemas across the UK as part of the British Film Festival, winning rave reviews from critics.

The quality of Lyme Regis Town Council’s £650,000 project to resurface the flat roof area above Marine Parade was called into question as it began to pool water during heavy rain and after one of the panels of the new glass fencing was broken, with smashed glass showering on to the seafront below.

Work began on the much-anticipated pedestrian crossing in Lyme Regis. The work was initially scheduled to take three weeks, but disruptions in Broad Street continued until December.

A sign praising the NHS was defaced at the Charmouth roundabout after the second national lockdown was announced

NOVEMBER

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called a second national lockdown following a spike in coronavirus cases, which saw all non-essential shops, restaurants and pubs close for the second time.

A sign on the Charmouth roundabout thanking NHS staff for their efforts during the pandemic was defaced.

Lyme Regis’ only travel agents, Your World Travel, announced it would be closing permanently having become unviable due to restrictions implemented during the pandemic.

The annual Remembrance parade and church service were called off, but scaled-back wreath laying events still went ahead.

Mary Anning Rocks launched its long-awaited £100,000 crowdfunding campaign to see a statue of the fossil hunter erected in Lyme Regis.

Lyme enjoyed some early festive cheer as the Christmas lights were switched on, but without any major events.

Lyme Regis Christmas lights display 2020 (photo by Richard Austin)

DECEMBER

The second national lockdown was lifted and Lyme Regis was placed in Tier 2, along with the rest of Dorset, despite objection from local MP Chris Loder.

Following a spate of crime over the summer months, Lyme Regis was promised that police officers would be stationed in the town once again, when new recruits arrived in West Dorset.

Residents and visitors expressed outrage as Dorset Council agreed to quadruple all-day charges at its car parks in Lyme Regis, from £2 to £8, although it scrapped plans to charge up until 8pm in the evening.

The pedestrian crossing in Broad Street was completed and switched on after years of debate and discussion.

Lyme Regis celebrated a very different Christmas season to usual, with favourite events such as Carols Around the Tree, the Charmouth Christmas Day Swim and Lyme Lunge all called off due to COVID restrictions.

The first wave of the COVID-19 vaccine was rolled out, with Lyme’s population of over 80s offered the injection at Bridport Medical Centre.

On December 30 2020, it was announced that Dorset would be placed in Tier 3 as the fight against coronavirus heightened with new strains of the virus sweeping across the country, meaning pubs and restaurants would be closed on New Year’s Eve for the first time ever.

LymeOnline’s top 20 most read stories of 2020

  1. Hix makes a comeback with new fish truck – Local chef and restaurateur Mark Hix MBE got back into business after losing his restaurants during lockdown with the launch of a truck selling fresh fish and seafood in Morcombelake – read 5,842 times.
  2. Dine in style with the Eat Out to Help Out scheme – The government launched its unique Eat Out to Help Out scheme in August 2020 to give a boost to the hospitality industry after months of lockdown – read 5,335 times.
  3. ‘Horrifying’ altercation watched by dozens in Broad Street – A violent altercations broke out in broad daylight in Lyme’s high street in August, the culmination of a spate of crime and anti-social behaviour – read 5,310 times.
  4. Damage revealed after Rousdon Bakery blaze – The popular Rousdon Village Bakery was severely damaged by a fire in early January, which also affected the adjoining workshop and two flats above – read 5,087 times.
  5. Phoenician ship completes Atlantic voyage – A replica of a wooden Phoenician ship, which visited Lyme Regis in 2019, completed its 6,000 mile voyage across the Atlantic – read 4,959 times.
  6. Large areas of Lyme Regis beach currently closed – Lyme Regis’ sandy beach and areas of the shingle beach were cordoned off while re-profiling work was carried out, coinciding with one of the hottest weeks of the year resulting in crowded areas that were left open amid social distancing rules – read 4,766 times.
  7. Dorset Council to reopen car parks and toilets in ‘key locations’ – Readers were keen to find out what facilities would be open as lockdown restrictions were eased in May – read 4,440 times.
  8. What will be open in Lyme Regis this summer? – Residents and visitors to Lyme were keen to find out what shops, businesses, attractions and facilities would be open following the first national lockdown – read 4,134 times.
  9. Three arrested and police officer injured in Monmouth Beach incident – Two teenagers and a 22-year-old man were arrested following an incident at Monmouth Beach car park in Lyme Regis, during which a police officer was assaulted – read 3,771 times.
  10. George Somers statue targeted amid anti-racism protests – A statue of former Mayor of Lyme Regis and founder of Bermuda, Admiral Sir George Somers, was targeted amid worldwide anti-racism protests, with the word ‘murderer’ scrawled across an information board next to the statue – read 3,199 times.
  11. WATCH: Kate Winslet as Mary Anning in official ‘Ammonite’ trailer – The first official trailer for ‘Ammonite’, the upcoming movie based on Lyme Regis’ famous fossil hunter Mary Anning, was released in August – read/watched 3,169 times.
  12. Twenty-six coastguards rescue three from cliffs – Two days after Christmas a major emergency services operation was launched to rescue three people from the cliffs between Lyme Regis and Charmouth, one stuck up to their thighs in mud – read 3,028 times.
  13. Three arrested on drug offences after children left locked in car – A man and two women were arrested at Monmouth Beach in Lyme Regis after two 11-year-old children were found locked in a car with an unconscious female passenger – read 2,968 times.
  14. Lifeboat crew’s dramatic rescue to feature on BBC series this month – It was announced that Lyme Regis lifeboat crew’s dramatic rescue of two teenage boys being swept out to sea from Axmouth, which took place in 2019, would feature on the popular BBC TV series ‘Saving Lives at Sea’ – read 2,909 times.
  15. New seafront takeaway opens for business amid lockdown – Takeaway Kiosk opened on Marine Parade in June, despite lockdown restrictions, and has proved one of the biggest local success stories of the year with customers making the most of the beach-side location and outdoor seating – read 2,848 times.
  16. SHOP LOCAL: LymeOnline launches campaign to support local traders – We launched a campaign to support local traders as they reopened doors after the first national lockdown – read 2,777 times.
  17. Fatal hit and run in Charmouth – The Charmouth community was left shocked after 90-year-old Peter Bide was killed in a fatal hit and run incident in the village – read 2,715 times.
  18. Man arrested after assaulting and threatening woman – A 29-year-old man was arrested in Lyme Regis after assaulting and threatening a woman walking on the coast path. The woman did not sustain any serious injuries – read 2,611 times.
  19. Young animator wins award for autism filmAnimator Joe Blandamer, a former Woodroffe School student from Axminster, won an Into Film award for one of his latest projects which raises awareness of autism – read 2,592 times.
  20. Armed police search for man with knife – Armed police carried out a major search operation in Lyme Regis after receiving concerning reports about a man in possession of a knife. He was arrested after a two-hour search on suspicion of possessing a knife blade or sharp pointed article in a public place – read 2,548 times.
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