How Lyme Regis has fared in a year of lockdowns

TODAY marks one year since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown in an effort to tackle the quickly-spreading coronavirus pandemic.

To mark the anniversary, we look back at headlines from the past 12 months and how Lyme Regis has fared through one of the most challenging years in modern history.

March 2020

On March 23 2020 Boris Johnson delivered a message to the nation we had all been dreading – the UK was to enter its first national lockdown with the Prime Minister describing COVID-19 as “the biggest threat this country has faced for decades”.

People were told they must stay at home and only leave for essential reason such as buying food or exercising once per day. This was before ‘support bubbles’ were created, so many living alone were left completely isolated.

The early effects of the virus had already been felt in Lyme Regis, with events cancelled, council meetings and sporting fixtures called off, and facilities such as the museum and theatre closed down.

It was announced that Dorset had recorded its first coronavirus-related death just two days earlier – a 72-year-old woman with underlying health issues had died at Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester.

Within days, Lyme Regis Community Support Group had been established with an army of volunteers looking after their vulnerable neighbours, and on March 26 we all stepped outside to take part in the first national ‘Clap For Carers’.

April 2020

As life in lockdown started to sink in, the Mayor of Lyme Regis, Cllr Brian Larcombe MBE, wrote an open letter to residents encouraging them to focus on the positives of living in a rural, community-minded town during the pandemic.

Many residents continued to keep themselves busy by helping others – from grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions, to making much-needed PPE for the NHS and other key workers.

Others joined in virtual events and classes, including the popular weekly quiz nights hosted by Neville and Sarah Causley of Causley Cabs, which went on to become essential viewing during lockdown. 

The nation watched in shock as the Prime Minister, who tested positive for COVID in late March, was taken into intensive care on April 6.

The first major blow to Lyme Regis’ business community came as it was announced that Westbury Street Holdings – owners of the HIX restaurants empire, including HIX Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis – had been placed in administration.

A virtual version of the Easter Bonnet Parade shared online lifted spirits in Lyme Regis.

Dorset Police announced it had issued 118 fines to those breaking ‘stay at home’ rules since lockdown was introduced. This included two divers who sparked a major search and rescue operation after one was reported missing in Lyme Bay. He was eventually picked up by a passing Navy ship.

The national celebrated with Captain Tom Moore as he marked his 100th birthday, having already raised millions for the NHS by walking lengths of his garden.

May 2020

Lyme Regis and the nation celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE Day in their own back gardens, with many holding private garden parties and taking part in a nationwide sing-along of ‘We’ll Meet Again’.

With travel restrictions beginning to ease and scorching spring weather drawing in the crowds, tensions continued to rise between residents and owners of holiday lets and second homes, some saying they would “never view the people of Lyme Regis in quite the same way” after receiving threats.

The national press revealed that Boris Johnson’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings had broken lockdown rules by driving from London to Durham in March, and then to Barnard Castle in April, sparking national outrage and calls for his resignation.

Local fire crews were called to tackle a blaze at Wareham Forest in Dorset. The fire was started by disposable barbecues and, due to the dry and windy weather conditions, continued for over a week destroying 220 hectares of forest. It was later described as one of the most devastating forest and heath fires in Dorset in living memory.

durdle-door
Crowds forced together on Durdle Door beach

June 2020

As Lyme Regis and the surrounding areas saw more and more visitors arrive for ‘staycations’, emergency services experienced some of their busiest days of the year.

This included a distressing incident at Durdle Door in Dorset, where crowds of beach-goers were squeezed together despite social distancing guidelines, to allow an air ambulance to repeatedly land on the beach after several people were injured while ‘tombstoning’.

Anti-racism protests swept across the world after George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on his neck. In England, many statues considered racist were targeted, including the statue of Admiral Sir George Somers in Lyme Regis, with the word “murderer” scrawled across an information board next to it.

Following the collapse of his restaurant empire in April, local chef Mark Hix made a comeback by selling fresh fish and seafood from a converted truck at Felicity’s Farm Shop in Morcombelake.

The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Cllr Brian Larcombe MBE, weighed in on the ongoing debate between residents and visitors, saying second home and holiday let owners were a valued part of the local community.

A 22-year-old man and two teenagers were arrested following an incident at Monmouth Beach in Lyme Regis, in which a police officer was injured, amid concerns over increasing anti-social behaviour in the town.

Lyme Regis Town Council warned it was facing serious financial concerns in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with reserves expected to drop by more than £900,000 over the next year.

Children returned to school and residents were encouraged to ‘shop local’ as non-essential retail reopened following months in lockdown.

Armed police carried out a major search in Lyme Regis after receiving concerning reports about a man in possession of a knife

July 2020

As pubs and restaurants reopened and the peak summer season got underway, Dorset Police upped its patrols as it anticipated an influx of visitors to the area.

Businesses to open included the new-look Rock Point Inn in Broad Street and The Oyster & Fish House in Lister Gardens, having been bought back by Mark Hix.

As concerns about anti-social behaviour continued, 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.

A man and two women were arrested at Monmouth Beach on suspicion of drug offences and child neglect, after two children were found locked in a car with an unresponsive female passenger.

Armed police also carried out a major search operation in the Charmouth Road and seafront area after receiving concerning reports about a man in possession of a knife. A man was eventually arrested on suspicion of possessing a knife blade or sharp pointed article in a public place.

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.

Having previously announced it was expected to lose £900,000 from reserves over the next year, Lyme Regis Town Council said its finances were improving with the busy summer season, but there would still be “difficult decisions” ahead.

August 2020

The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Cllr Brian Larcombe MBE, called for heightened police presence in the town as increased anti-social behaviour, crime and serious incidents over the summer culminated in a violent altercation in Broad Street, described by witnesses as “truly horrifying”.

A man was also arrested after threatening and attacking a woman with a knife on the coast path just outside Lyme Regis.

Meanwhile, local pubs and restaurants saw a boom in trade as the government announced its ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme.

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.

September 2020

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.

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.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister announced that a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic had arrived in the UK.

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.

October 2020

The new Tier system was introduced in England, with Dorset placed in the lowest risk Tier 1.

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.

November 2020

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.

The Woodroffe School in Lyme Regis confirmed its first case of coronavirus.

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.

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

December 2020

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.

The first case of COVID-19 at St Michael’s Primary School in Lyme Regis was reported.

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.

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.

January 2021

On January 4 2021 Boris Johnson announced the third national lockdown as new variants of the coronavirus continues to sweep across the country.

Following Christmas and New Year celebrations, Lyme Regis saw coronavirus case numbers peak in the mid-30s. Although figures were not revealed until February, the area also recorded its first two COVID-related deaths in January.

Vaccinations at Bridport Medical Centre continued at pace, with two clinics a week being held by the end of January.

Dorset Council introduced its new controversial regulations regarding dogs on beaches in Lyme Regis, which mean they must be kept on leads at all times on the main sandy beach and Cobb gate shingle beach.

Captain Tom Moore – an inspiration to all

February 2021

Following a New Year peak, COVID case numbers in Lyme Regis and across Dorset continued to drop again, although it was later revealed that one more coronavirus-related death was recorded in the Lyme Regis area in February.

The Mary Anning Rocks campaign reached its fundraising target of £100,000 to erect a statue of the famous palaeontologist in Lyme Regis.

Meanwhile, anticipation built for the UK release of the ‘Ammonite’ movie, partially filmed in Lyme Regis, as it was long-listed for BAFTA awards.

Residents donated their unwanted laptops and tables to schoolchildren learning from home and Lyme Regis Community Support Group announces it plans to continue its work helping residents in need after the pandemic.

The Prime Minister announced the ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ for England, saying that all regulations on social contact could be lifted on June 21st.

Sir Captain Tom Moore, who had become a face of hope during the pandemic, died with coronavirus at the age of 100, having raised almost £33million for the NHS.

March 2021

COVID cases remain low across the area, but with lockdown restrictions still in place, two people from London were fined by Dorset Police after travelling to Lyme Regis.

Following the government announcement on the ‘roadmap out of lockdown’, Lyme Regis looks forward to a bit more normality this summer.

Many businesses and event organisers announce their plans for the year, including the news that Lifeboat Week and Regatta & Carnival Week will make a return.

Meanwhile, councils make preparations for an anticipated huge influx of visitors. Lyme Regis Town Council agrees to spend an additional £21,000 of keeping its seafront clean and opening toilets late, while also agreeing to additional outdoor seating for some local restaurants.

Woodmead Halls

1 Comment

  1. Brilliant stories and videos of the year. Incredible how much happened, how much we all adapted and looked after each other so well.

    I’m so proud to be a part of the amazing community here.

    Well done, Francesca and all the video artists and thank you, Lyme Regis!

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