What a difference a week makes. Last week I seemed to be carrying the weight of the world around with me. A few days in Dorset with my family, lovely friends and lots of sunshine and I’ve rediscovered all sorts of simple pleasures. Or rather, I’ve allowed those simple pleasures to re-establish themselves.
On The Beach…
We went camping in Dorset, to a site a couple of hundred yards up from Seatown Beach in Dorset. We’ve visited the area before, but these three days turned into something special. Seatown can’t really qualify as much more than a hamlet, with maybe a dozen houses, a campsite, a beach carpark (field) and a pub. The beach itself is made up of millions of tonnes of pebbles, so isn’t really conducive to games or sports (besides fishing), and it shelves pretty steeply, so not exactly child-friendly for paddling. But we loved it.
As the high tide recedes, we simply threw stones into the water and marvelled at the different types of splash; kind of like the story that Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow – we cut our cloth etc… Even better, we simply sat and listened to the shimmering sound each wave made as it pushed up and sucked back millions of pebbles a few feet at a time. Eleanor described it as
…the sound of a thousand maracas…
which almost brought a tear to my eye. Stick that up your knowledge-based-curriculum Michael-bloody-Gove.
At low tide, a series of streams appear in the steep slopes of the beach, as a river finally finds its way through the pebbles and into the sea. This proved excellent fun for children of all ages, trying to diver the course of these channels, attempting the impossible by hauling larger stones to create dams, marvelling as the force of the water broke through every man-made barrier. Then, before we left the beach for the day, we gathered up bits of driftwood for our campfire brazier.
And all the time, just yards away, is the fantastic Anchor Inn. We had lunch in the sunshine and supper in the fading glow of a sunset here. The food is great – I especially recommend the crab baguettes. The local Palmers Ale from Bridport is smashing, the staff were all great and the setting is among the best I’ve ever enjoyed. Watching the sunlight shift shadows across the cliffs and the light change almost every moment as the sun descended behind The Golden Cap was fabulous.
The South West Coast Path
Apart from the pub and the beach, the other Best Thing About Seatown is the fabulous walking right on your doorstep. We climbed the Golden Cap on Thursday, and went East towards Eype on Friday. Neither of these is more than a few miles there-and-back, but the climbs are steep, the views breathtaking (and let’s not forget we had two young daughters with us). I love the way the Jurassic coastline undulates so dramatically, how the path ahead (or behind) is visible for miles as is climbs grassy cliffs and plummets through gullies.
The real treat was our second walk up to Eype and specifically to Down House Farm. I’m reluctant to even mention this gem of a place, as I’d like to keep it as secret as possible for the next time I return, but frankly I’d like to help them thrive. The café is outstanding, with wonderful cream teas and cakes, but also lovely salads and light lunches, and a fabulous (non-alcoholic) ginger’n'apple punch. Their courtyard is idyllic, a real sun-trap with amazing views. On our way there we took a “wrong” turning across Eype Down and into the woods that cover the hillside above the farm. We kind of got lost wandering around the interlinking paths within the woods, but also were completely spellbound by the seemingly never-ending swathes of bluebells. If you’re ever in this area in May, you simply must see these woods – they’re beautiful.
Camping Lessons (2013)
I’ve talked before about camping as a learning experience, and this time was no exception. Here are a few nuggets…
- Our Ikea Stovetop coffee pot is a tremendous camping accessory. Proper coffee in the morning is a delight.
- Combine that with my new tip for continental camping breakfasts, and you’re in glamping heaven. Take a wide/shallow pan with a lid. Line the pan with a sheet or two of foil, and get it good and hot. Either on a very low heat or even turned off, you can warm croissants and pains au chocolat in the pan with the lid on (check them frequently in case they burn). Classy stuff, and almost no washing up.
- Braziers are better than barbeques. Just cook your burgers in a pan, and have a proper fire instead.
- Wessex FM is a radio station I wouldn’t have believed still existed until I heard it. It was on constantly in the washing-up and toilet blocks, and alongside the ubiquitous Maroon 5, Emili Sandé and Daft Punk, there was a truly classic list of oldies, including If I Could Turn Back Time, Let’s Hear It For The Boy, Easy Lover, When The Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going)… I almost felt like I was at a wedding reception; in 1994.
All this, and I’ve not even mentioned terrific fish & chips on the beach in Lyme Regis, Purbeck ice cream, and the quiet joy of my phone battery dying, meaning I was cut off from the hourly chatter of online news. I do love Devon & Cornwall, as we’ve been there many times, but this stretch of Dorset coastline is closer to us, less crowded and ‘spoiled’, and, most importantly, I feel happier, calmer, better for having been there.