The Dorset Diary pt 1 - Piddles & Puddles

Don’t worry, I’ll explain the latter part of the title later, but as the first part suggests, we are in Dorset, with Patsy (of course) on a site right in Wareham Forest. Having been out and about this morning, eyeing up a  very big erection - amongst other things - it is now time to tell you about the first couple of days of our latest trip.

First though, why Dorset? Well, Trev passed through Weymouth years back when catching  a ferry to Guernsey and was here for less than a day. My only visit was to see the mighty (?) Cambridge United play AFC Bournemouth at Dean Court in Boscombe many years ago. Cambridge actually won then, they used to, in those days.

The promise of dry, if cold weather and with no sign of an interview on the horizon despite putting in numerous job applications encouraged us to book up, albeit at the last minute and see  a bit more of our wonderful country

The fun actually started on Saturday afternoon, before we had even come away. We’d been to the cinema to catch the last instalment of the ‘Twilight’ saga which was ok, although it has to be said that Mr Lautner didn’t get his top off nearly enough. Then we descended on Rottingdean for their annual ‘Smugglers Night’ celebration. Rottingdean is a real picture postcard village - at least it would be without the traffic blocking up the high street - and is known for it’s connections with Rudyard Kipling. It’s also home to the club where we do most of our drinking and to a number of other licensed establishments all within staggering distance of one another. Smugglers night remembers the day when French & Spanish Pirates came ashore here to launch a raid on the town of Lewes. It’s a good excuse to get dressed up and carry flaming torches through the high street - and many do. Others (like us) prefer to watch and, at varying intervals, avail ourselves of the services of the aforementioned local hostelries.

Well, it was a cold night but good fun. We decided on some liquid refreshment first and headed to the club. The plan was just to have the one then go and grab a burger from one of the stalls and watch one of the early marches, but you know, best laid plans and some exceedingly tasty and warming dark ale, brewed for the occasion kept us in there a little longer than was perhaps wise. We did head outside again, wolfing down a promised burger each and then a large box of chips as the last of the parades came past and the firework display lit up the night. It was thoroughly enjoyable and the ale helped insulate from the cold, at least until it began it’s inevitable descent south.

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The journey on Sunday morning, some 120 or so miles was pretty straight forward although it was a little windy. The combination of all the rich dark ale and greasy chips and burgers the night before was having a toxic effect, so much so that windows were opened at frequent intervals throughout the journey…..

We found the site easily enough, having previously looked it up on Google Earth, and checked in  a little after midday. Most of the site is closed now but they keep the hardstanding pitches open through out the winter for those, like us, that don’t mind a bit of winter caravanning. This is a private site but further down the road is a Caravan Club site, which also opens throughout the winter and we were going to stay on that. However, fifteen quid cheaper and free Wi-Fi sealed the deal and we picked this one. So far it looks a good decision. Large spacious pitches, water and waste nearby and a clean, tidy and heated toilet block.

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It took a little to get Pasty to habitable temperature and with both the onboard blown air system and our freestanding halogen heather on full blast we were getting close to the hook-up limit. By the time we had got the awning up though, she was much more comfortable. We sampled the showers after dinner and both agreed that the facilities are some of the best we’ve even had on a site. Quite different to the last offerings at Canterbury.

Monday, and with the closely monitored weather forecasts being, so far, accurate we headed west, to Lyme Regis in the farthest corner of Dorset. One of England’s popular seaside resorts of days gone by it does have some claim to fame. ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ was set here and the iconic Cobb harbour can been in the film version of the book. Walking out along the harbour wall gave us the first glimpse of the cliffs which form part of the Jurassic Coast - now a world heritage site. Fossils abound here and can apparently be found on the beach although a tour of the towns cafe’s and shops will turn up just as many… Seriously though, it was a lovely place, well kept and far from deserted on a cold but bright December morning. We walked from the harbour along the seafront promenade pausing for a very healthy lunch of erm, coffee and chips.

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Eschewing the dubious delights of the A35 for any longer than necessary, we headed back east via the coast road, pausing for a first hazy glimpse of the 18 mile stretch of Chesil Beach. The Isle of Portland was next, although of course it’s not exactly an Island, joined to the rest of Dorset by the ridge of Chesil Beach. It is where you will find the unique and well known white Portland Limestone, famous for it’s use in the construction of the British Museum and St Pauls Cathedral, amongst others. We drove down to the southern tip, to the rather stark and windswept landscape at Portland Bill and the lighthouse, grabbing some more pictures of Chesil Beach on the way back.

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We paused in Weymouth, planning only to stop for a cuppa, but was talked into a couple of scones laden with cream and jam too. With full bellies but empty wallets we returned to the site from the southern end of Wareham Forest passing, not only the Caravan Club site mentioned earlier but one occupied by a load of pik - sorry, travellers too. An odd name I always think, given that it usually takes a court order to get ‘em to er, travel. Oh well.

Tuesday, and we woke to another chilly but bright morning. Only a half day was planned and Dorchester was first on the list. Dorset’s county town it is a pretty little town with a healthy number of independent shops that plays upon it’s Thomas Hardy connections. Hardy’s fictional town of Casterbridge, featured in a number of his novels was based on Dorchester. I’ve only managed one Hardy novel and it actually took me over twenty years to finish it. Far from the Madding crowd was one of the books we had to study for for our English Literature O-Level, but I found it so mind numbingly boring that I never did read it all  - something that didn’t go un-noticed by the exam markers. I picked up a copy in a charity shop a few years ago and finally read it properly, but I enjoyed about as much as a turkey does Christmas. Tess of the D'Urbervilles, procured more recently still sits on the bookshelf unread.

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A few miles north of Dorchester lies the quaint archetypal Dorset village of Cerne Abbas, home to the oddity that is the Cerne Giant. Instantly recognisable in the hillside is the chalk outline of a man, some 60 metres high, extremely well endowed and clearly in a state of some excitement.

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We returned to base through a shortcut of narrow back roads winding it’s way through tiny hamlets with wonderful names such as Piddlehinton & Piddletrenhide. Further along Tolpuddle and Affpuddle competed for attention. All in all, a good couple of days out and about. From what we have seen so far, Dorset is certainly a beautiful county.

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