Friday, 15 August 2014

The Dorset Coast

First impression of Swanage Beach - Aussie standards are hard to beat.
Gramps is a little more optimistic with the picnic blanket at the ready.
The baby gulls love the weed
Willow and Petal wanted beach, sea and sun for their Summer Hols so I chose the Purbeck peninsula on England's south coast to give them a jolly good chance of getting at least one of these.  As it turned out the sun shone often and the gradient of beaches went from - 'Wait. What?' to Fab. Armed with a selection of SPF levels for responsible pasty leg banishment, we headed for the coast.

Just down the rail track from Corfe Castle was the seaside town of Swanage. We had a peek late one afternoon to see if a day trip for beach lounging was in order. Although deck chairs were available for hire we decided not to return. Their week long summer fete was in full swing so it was very crowded, very loud and the beach of mud and stones wasn't made more inviting by the gaudy peer entertainments and kids screaming after too much sugar. Dogs aren't allowed on this beach from May to September. Wandering down through little alleys from the train station to avoid the chest thumpingly loud parade,
Parade through Swanage

The DJ and his generator making the windows shake
Two Charlie Browns having a chat at Swanage

I want to like this! Deck chairs on the promenade.
we came to High street which had several (closed for the parade) stunning art dealers clustered at the south end. Another tourist I chatted to, in the post office back at Corfe a couple of days later, said that the shops on the water front had total power failure so an enormous generator had been hired costing them £6000 to fill with fuel every day to create more noise and heat to keep the economy turning. This bit of the coast is probably very attractive in the off peak seasons.
Out door clothing store named after
some coastal caves.
Sitting on deck chairs on the promenade as the girls head out to paddle
Granny decided to join them
 Back towards the ferry crossing is a long beach that runs from Studland to South Haven Point. This apparently got a bashing during the winter storms but the National Trust had it back ship shape ready for the summer boom. The surface was golden sand and it wasn't impossible to find a family sized pocket of beach to call our own for a few hours. Enthusiastic sand fort builders were making the most of the sticky black mud below the sand along the water's edge, a trap for people carrying picnics and paraphernalia down to their spot! Luckily we all avoided an unintentional splash.  Charlie was allowed on the beach if on a leash.
Charlie enjoying the warmth but disgruntled that he wasn't allowed to frolic.
The shore, behind the short scrubby dunes, was lined with beach huts that are hired and owned. Some families have full kitchens and lounging facilities set up inside them and spend all holiday bronzing up out front. A large boat shed hires out paddle boats, windsurfers, sailing dinghys (£15 per hour) and life jackets. They also hired out wetsuits which would encourage longer hire. The water temp was very crisp, not as cool as a South NZ lake in summer but certainly frostier than our Sydney beaches.
There were public toilets, a Cafe and store up at the National Trust centre halfway down this very long beach behind the boatshed. I had hoped to be able to hire beach umbrellas or the very popular 'beach breaks' used for shelter from the wind but I think mainly used to stake a claim and border the picnic patch. I ended up buying an enormous umbrella shelter that R called a satellite dish when he saw photos of it. The leary colour made sure we could always find home base and it gave a nice big pool of cool.
Told you not to take a selfie on my camera Willow! Lovely spot of colour.
First day swimming in the sun for over a year.
SPF'd for bronze not red. Loving wiggling toes in the sand.
English beach shelters marking out other sun seeker's territory.
 A little further down the Jurassic coast is Lyme Regis. The cliffs of layered mudstone that are still shedding, are where the first Ichthyosaur fossils were found. We went mainly to beachcomb and hopefully find our own little fossil souvenir to take home. Dogs weren't allowed on the main beach but a little beach down towards the cliffs was open for them. It was covered with large stones and the water's edge rock pools were covered with vibrant green weed. Up near the Cobb, it looked like sand had been bought in and it was full of families having a good time. This little town had a lot to be remembered so I'll give a whole entry to it next. I spent a couple of pound on a pretty little windmill in a moment of nostalgia and enjoyed watching it spin in the wind as we walked along the breezy Cobb.
Between the main beach and the dog beach of Lyme Regis
On our way home we followed the coast road and drove through Weymouth. It started to rain as we passed through so we didn't get out to have a close look at their long golden beach. It looked like sand rather than stones from the road.
Lovely curved beaches either side with a steep cliff climb down to each.
The left beach.
 A short drive west of Corfe is a coastal rock formation called the Durdle Door. Just the name of it made us want to investigate. The water was beautiful and clear and the white chalk cliff formations were striking. A fierce wind was coming off the sea but it wasn't stopping the fun on these little beaches.
Right beach
Close by was Lulworth Castle, it was built as a hunting lodge in 1610 to entertain King James I and his court by Thomas Howard, in the guise of  Norman Castle. A true folly! It is now a museum of some sort and has extensive grounds to explore (just make sure you don't go on the days the army is having shell firing drills). We didn't get to go because it was the last day of set up for Camp Bestival, an annual music and arts, Medieval themed family festival that has a license for up to 15 000 people. Book ahead by months if you want a camp site. There were so many people around this little area who had set up camp and were waiting for the festival to begin that we didn't stop into the Cove. It looked as if it would have been a perfect picnic spot. There were Holiday parks at both the Cove(along with well established tourist facilities here) and at   the Door.

Granny and Gramps enjoying the view
without having to walk down to the beach.

Love the motivating cup o'tea


We didn't have time to explore further east but Christchurch has Highcliffe Castle beach and Friars Cliff beach listed as family attractions. I'm not sure that we'll manage the time to visit my hometown's namesake this trip. Christchurch NZ certainly has cliff lined beaches too.
Jurassic Coastal Cruises viewing Old Harry Rocks landing at Swanage then viewing Durlston Castle, Tilly Whim Caves, Dancing Ledge and St Albans Head. Wildlife including puffins, guillemots, and dolphins. Weekends, Easter, May Bank Holidays and from the 7th June all subject to weather. image from: http://www.brownseaislandferries.com
If you would rather look at the coast then spend hours in the car at this time of the year, try out the Brownslea Island Ferries that leave from Poole. http://www.brownseaislandferries.com  They had a variety of trips that go up and down the Jurassic coast of Dorset.

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