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Cambodia,  England,  Laos,  Lens-Artists,  Vietnam

2020: my (pandemic) year in review

The year that has just past will remain long in all our memories, no doubt, and not for the best of reasons. A year ago the new coronavirus was just seeping into our consciousnesses and we had no idea how it would turn our lives upside down. We certainly know that now!

For the first Lens-Artist challenge of 2021 we are invited to share favourite photos from last year. Like Tina in setting us the challenge, I’ve chosen to share some images that tell my 2020 story – favourites from each month rather than my overall favourites.


Walking through our local park on a frosty morning I paused to take a few photos. I had no idea how many walks I would end up taking in this park during the course of the year; no idea that many of my plans for the year would come to nothing; no idea of the storm that was about to hit us all.

Frosty park with trees and small pond
Lammas Park in January

At the start of February we were off on what we thought at the time would be the first of several trips abroad this year; it turned out to be our only one. We toured Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as the pandemic started to take its hold it that region, but fortunately before things got bad enough to impact on our trip. We had a wonderful time but came home at the end of the month to a country just starting to realise that COVID would affect us too.


At the start of the month we still didn’t appreciate the severity of the challenge facing the world. We met friends in London for lunch; saw a play, a film and a comedy show; and hoped that those who said it was ‘nothing more than flu’ and we could develop ‘herd immunity’ were right. They weren’t.

Lockdown. It was a glorious spring, and the blossom was beautiful, but little else was normal. We learned the new rules, took our daily walks in our immediate area and hunted down toilet rolls. We still had no idea what a long and bumpy ride this would be.

White blossom on a tree
White blossom detail
Spring blossom

Restricted to walks in our immediate area, and tiring of our nearest parks, we ventured to one a little further away, Boston Manor. It soon became a firm favourite for our daily walks and we often followed its very short nature trail down to the Grand Union Canal, which meets the River Brent near here.

Blue narrowboat on a canal
By a lock on the Grand Union Canal, Brentford

The weather was wonderful. I should have been hosting the international Virtual Tourist meeting in Newcastle at the end of the month but instead we were still confined to London. But the rules relaxed enough to allow us to take a short drive from home, so we ventured to Black Park (near Slough) and Runnymede for longer walks in new surroundings.

Path past rhododendrons in flower
Rhododendron walk, Black Park

With a further relaxation of the rules we were able to see my sister and her husband for a socially distanced lunch in our garden, and to meet a friend for coffee. We also returned to Runnymede to explore its historic memorials to the signing of Magna Carta, and to John F. Kennedy.

Round temple structure on a grassy slope
Magna Carta Memorial, Runnymede

Still stuck in London we made the most of the great summer weather with walks by the Thames. Pubs and restaurants re-opened and we ate out for the first time since early March. It felt strange at first to have to wear a mask while moving around inside, register our details, and sit at well-spaced tables, but it soon became our ‘new normal’.

Plate with meringue and red berries
Dessert at the pub
Glass of rose wine with skyscrapers behind
Wine by the Thames

For the first time since February we were able to take a holiday – not abroad, but nevertheless a holiday. We spent a week in Newcastle upon Tyne, as we usually do around this time of year. And before returning home we added on a few days in the Yorkshire Dales, staying in a holiday rental apartment in Leyburn.

Green fields with barns and blue sky above
Landscape above Swaledale

Making the most of the relative freedom, we had another short holiday, renting a little mews cottage behind a hotel in Wells, England’s smallest cathedral city. With fun day trips to Glastonbury, Cheddar Gorge and Brean Down, this was a lovely little staycation. We also managed to catch up with an old university friend, meeting up for a pub lunch on our way down to Wells, and squeezed in an extra bit of sight-seeing, exploring Avebury for an hour or so on our way home.


We took our final ‘staycation’ of the year, in Whitstable – our favourite seaside spot in the south east of England. We rented a lovely little house in the centre of town and had some wonderful walks by the sea, the obligatory beer in the Old Neptune pub on the beach, and a side trip to Margate and Broadstairs. Another ‘proper’ holiday, albeit short.

Pebble beach with houses beyond
By the sea in Whitstable
White pub on a pebble beach
The Old Neptune

Before the UK went into full lockdown again we managed to fit in an afternoon walk at nearby Osterley Park. It’s only a short drive from our home but we hadn’t been for years. The house was closed of course but we had a very pleasant walk around the lakes in the park, spotting a very untimid heron. Take-away coffee at the stable café and a brief look at the formal gardens rounded off our outing very nicely.

Heron by a lake
Heron at Osterley Park

We also went back to Ruislip, the London suburb where I grew up, for a walk in the ancient woodlands there.

Woodland walk
Looking up at trees with brown leaves
Ruislip Woods in November

I managed a brief Christmas shopping trip in central London before strict restrictions came in again later in the month, with all but essential shops closed and no mixing of households even on Christmas Day.

Statue of man with umbrella
In Leicester Square
Glass angel in a Christmas tree
On our Christmas tree

We had a quiet but pleasant Christmas, and toasted the New Year on the 31st with hopes that the vaccines will give us a brighter and freer 2021.

Waxing moon seen through tree branches
December waxing moon


  • Anne Sandler

    It was wonderful to travel with you through your great photos. You did manage to get out to some beautiful places. We are all waiting to have this pandemic over. Stay safe.

  • Henna

    What a pretty photos of not so pretty year! I wonder if it was from Finland who named the Lammas Park, lammas means sheep in finnish 😉

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks for the nice comment about the photos Henna 🙂 No, Lammas comes from an old English word meaning a meadow where people could graze their cattle for part of the year. It was used for crops during the summer but traditionally freed up for grazing on Lammas Day (1st August) – hence the name. This park is on land formerly used for that purpose.

  • JohnRH

    Great series. Well done. It coincidentally brought back many memories of my 4+ years living in England, ’88-’92, previous century. I did my first Half Marathon in Newcastle, for which I trained by jogging from Wanborough to Avebury Circle, then hitchhiking back. I also have visited Wells, Glastonbury Tor, and Saturdays we would take the train from Swindon to London and buy last-minute theater tickets in Leicester Square for a matinee that day. Almost another lifetime ago.

  • Teresa

    Lucky you were able to travel right before the pandemic was in full outbreak. Take care my friend, I am hearing on the news that cases there are getting out of hand. Hopefully the vaccine is on its way!

  • rosalieann37

    I was lucky in that a) I had no trips planned this year and b) the lady who ran the pool therapy class knew right away what a problem the virus would be and c) based on this knowledge I was able to predict that it wouldn’t be over soon. There was none of the “cutting off the dogs tail by inches” that some people were doing, postponing trips until they finally had to be canceled. Unlucky in that since the pool was closed, I couldn’t exercise very well and my ability to move deteriorated. I’m in pool therapy again for now.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      The only trip I had booked was the VT meet in Chicago, but postponing all the events planned for the Newcastle meet was a chore! Glad you’re back in therapy Rosalie 🙂 I just heard my chiropractor is staying closed through January because of our latest lockdown 🙁

  • Easymalc

    I really enjoyed reading your summary of a year that none of us will forget, but you definitely won’t now that you’ve put it all down for posterity – and of course as we all realise, some people have had it much harder than others. We just hope, don’t we, that we get through it all to tell others what it was like back in 2020.

  • VO

    What a perfect series. July is my favourite! Pavlova in sunny London seems like a very special treat right now. Happy New Year to you Sarah!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you – yes a sunny pub garden would be a wonderful treat right now indeed 🙂 But as a passionate traveller I have to say that my own favourite was February. I can’t wait to be able to get out into the world again, but we have a way to go yet … Happy New Year to you too!

      • VO

        I heard the news from England this morning about the lockdown. I know you’ve been in it for a couple of weeks already but… bloody hell, I feel for you. Sending you a bit of freedom vibes (while I still can!!!).
        By the way, I have a collaborative project I might need your help with. Where can I contact you for more details?

  • Lesley R.

    All around the world people have had to find ways to adapt to the changes this virus has brought to to their lives. Your resumé of your year is a lovely record of how you made the best of the opportunities you found to enjoy the things available to you and find bright moments to cherish. This has certainly been a year we will all remember.

  • Natalie

    Your 2020 looked lovely. We were so lucky with the weather and it has given us the opportunity to appreciate our own countries. I know its not quite the same as travelling overseas but think of the adventures we still have waiting for us. A wonderful read.

  • Tina Schell

    Like you Sarah, I find it difficult to complain considering my year vs that of so many others. Your post reads like a lovely travelogue, even if your journeys were less far flung than your norm. Thank you for sharing all of the lovely spots you’ve frequented throughout the year – think what fun it would be for a non-resident to make a similar foray into the UK countryside! BTW, over here the news is filled with reports of the U.K. changing the rules of the vaccinations – going with longer delays for round 2 so that round 1 can reach further, and allowing a mix of 2 different vaccine types. How do you feel about all that? We are frustrated that our own rollout is going so much slower than expected although I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised at this point! But I digress, loved your post and very much appreciate your support of our challenge. Here’s to a much-improved 2021 for us all!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Hi Tina, and thank you! Yes, our government has decided that given the extra challenges brought by the new mutation of the virus, which is much more easily transmissable, it would be better to get a first dose of vaccination to more people more quickly. Apparently the largest degree of protection comes from that first dose (as much as 90% in the case of Pfizer, more like 70% for the Oxford one). And the Oxford vaccine has been found to offer increased protection if the second dose is delayed a bit (there’s no evidence either way on Pfizer). But that story about mixing the two vaccines isn’t completely accurate. According to the BBC our public health body has said ‘that experts did “not recommend mixing” the jabs, but on the “extremely rare occasions” where the same vaccine is unavailable or it is unknown which jab the patient received, it is “better to give a second dose of another vaccine than not at all”‘. As someone who’s in one of the priority groups (because of my age) but not way up the list (because I don’t have any relevant health issues) I’ll probably benefit by getting my first dose sooner, but it means it will take longer before I get the full protection – swings and roundabouts I guess.

      • Tina Schell

        Swings and roundabouts indeed Sarah. Like you I’m old enough to be relatively early but have no health issues so who knows. Our rollout has been disappointingly slow.

        • Sarah Wilkie

          Hopefully it will speed up once it gets going. We’re off to a reasonable start – nearly 1M first doses done already. But there’s still a long long way to go …

  • Larry Sampson

    As you saw from my blog we got to travel some what locally also this year. It made us appreciate places I kind of took for granted over the years. I think it might remain challenging for a while yet but can’t wait to see you and other friends again soon.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I was lucky to have a less challenging year than you had Larry, and yes, I did get to appreciate places closer to home, but I’m still glad to see the back of 2020. I do hope we get to meet up some time this year 🙂

  • SandyL

    It looks like a good year Sarah. You were fortunate to have gotten that one good trip abroad, as well as all the little staycations 🙂

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