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Powdermill Wood, taken by Josie Barnes

Four seasons: lockdown through the lens

Life in lockdown changed everything. What we once took for granted: meeting friends, going out for work or leisure, even exchanging pleasantries with strangers – was taken from us. Nearly a year on, our society is still coming to terms with the new normal that replaced these commonplaces. Photographer Josie Barnes and writer Dan Flanagan reflect on the changing seasons in this most turbulent of years.

And as everyday life faced great upheaval, so too did the areas which we inhabit. In particular, the green spaces that surround us in Hastings were reinvigorated, freed from the impact of human beings for a prolonged period. Internationally, the natural world showed that it is always there, waiting in the wings to reclaim the earth from the excesses of human beings. From areas as diverse as Powdermill Wood, Rock-a-Nore and Beaney’s Lane, it was apparent in our town, too, that Mother Nature intended to encroach once more on mankind’s monuments.


Fairlight Country Park, taken by Josie Barnes

A year like no other offered a chance for reconnection with nature, and perhaps a fresh understanding of the seasonal ebbs and flows that can pass unnoticed in the bustling life of a coastal town. We begin in spring, where here we can see the verdant greens and fresh leaves of that most hopeful of seasons.

Powdermill Wood, taken by Josie Barnes

But even as the natural processes of birth and rebirth continued untroubled, humanity reeled in the wake of the virus. Spots which formerly teemed with life and activity were becalmed; man-made structures left untenanted as we hid indoors. If a tree falls in the forest, and you’ve accidentally muted yourself, do you truly make a sound?

Powdermill Wood, taken by Josie Barnes

The woods readjusted to life without us. Society’s contributions to the freedom of our environs appeared shabby in comparison to nature’s majesty. Conversely, even so, time out in woodland, fields and parks increased in importance, after the inertia of life stuck in our homes began to wear on the collective spirit. We, too, needed a taste of the liberty that nature provides.


Fairlight Country Park, taken by Josie Barnes

Our coastline, harbinger of adventure, excitement and exploration, was now confining us. Each person an island atop this island; the sense of isolation grew despite national calls for unity. Yet, although we may not all be in the same boat, we are each battling the same storm. Gazing on the supreme breadth of the horizon, we know there is more to life than this.

Fairlight Country Park, taken by Josie Barnes

As we waited and clapped and Zoomed, time caught up with us. Summer arrived. And with it, the chance to pretend that a flicker of normality was still ablaze after the buffets of a gloomy spring. Beaches, both nudist and otherwise, were full as our seaside community re-emerged from its government imposed hibernation.

Rye Habour Nature Reserve, taken by Josie Barnes

Camber Sands Beach, taken by Josie Barnes

Invocations to go out and revitalise our slumbering society flew in from on high. Perhaps more significantly for our law-makers, the economy needed a boost too. Businesses, overgrown with the detritus of lockdown, were dusted down as tourists returned, regardless of whether the nebulous regulations so encouraged them. Social skills – rusted through lack of use – creaked into service, as we wondered if our period of relaxation could possibly last.


Spindlewood Country Holiday Park, taken by Josie Barnes

Our eternal search for connection has had to find alternative means over the last year. Train tracks and roads lay largely abandoned, and essential journeys to all but the most picturesque of northern castles were off the cards, so routes shifted. Walking within the local area replaced other modes of transport: even forcing us literally off the beaten track as we dodged to avoid other ramblers. It was a return to a more innocent time – long, long ago, before human beings cut vast swathes through the countryside.

Spindlewood Country Holiday Park, taken by Josie Barnes

Nature itself seemed to triumph in its brief victory over the machines which are slowly destroying it, one fume at a time. And when we return to find a clearing where once these relics of the minutiae of human life stood, who’s to say whether they were removed by council intervention or by a grander, earthly force – one that has underpinned our experiences forever?


Marline Valley Nature Reserve, taken by Josie Barnes

But as the seasons change, moods surely alter with them. As the frost set in and the biting cold began to chap lips and dampen spirits in the early days of winter, so too the freedoms we enjoyed over summer withered and faded away.

Church In The Wood, taken by Josie Barnes

Is this to be the new rhythm of the seasons? Much as the flora and fauna of the earth we inhabit flourishes and then, in time, expires, must the same be true of our lives? With lockdown returning yet again, it seems we daren’t ask for anything else.

Old Roar Gill, taken by Josie Barnes

This cycle of closing down, reopening, and then restricting further – could it be that we must adapt to these previously novel circumstances? Just like wildlife finds ways to thrive even in the harsh months at year’s end, humanity too may have to adjust permanently to this gravest of challenges to us all.

Church In The Wood, taken by Josie Barnes

Even in the darkest times, though, a little light shines through. Hope remains. In spite of the absence of our fellow man from these journeys around the many woods Hastings plays host to, this year of lockdown has lent us the opportunity to reassess the lives we lead. Hidden sides of our famous town were revealed, as we finally took the time to pause and appreciate what we have around us.

Photography by Josie Barnes. Written by Dan Flanagan.
Reach Josie via her website or josiebarnesphotography on Instagram
Or email Dan at:

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Posted 21:57 Wednesday, Feb 24, 2021 In: Photography

1 Comment

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  1. Sayeed Ahmed

    An explicit expression of changing mood with the changing seasons during Covid times… yet on reading it feels like a continuum just as time is and seasons are. Dan has blended the changing mood beautifully into one of optimism. Josie’s photographs are stunning and capture the moods and the seasons as beautifully as the author has narrated. I particularly like the grave stones picture amongst the winter woods… more please Dan and Josie!

    Comment by Sayeed Ahmed — Saturday, Feb 27, 2021 @ 12:03

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