Monday 10 July – Tuesday 11 July 2017 – Devon and Dorset, England.
I am writing this after July turned into August and the big news is that I have finally started my new job; the job I applied for in January. I am now a civil servant, at least for the next two years, working in an IT role with the Cabinet Office in London.
Four weeks ago, back in blog time, my daughter arrived from her extended stay in India and Nepal. I haven’t seen much of her in the past 18 months; she was in a different part of India when I visited there and New Zealand last November and we all know what happened on my India trip. So I did not get to see here then. It was with much excitement that I headed out to Heathrow Airport to meet her and bring her back to our place in Walthamstow.
It was kind of bad timing as El and I had a holiday booked for the following week, however Meliesha and I got to hang out for a few days before we went away, including a walk in my favourite forest.
Meliesha had been living in Bristol when I arrived in the UK five years ago and she still has numerous friends there. Bristol is sort of on the way to Exmouth so we dropped Meliesha there on the way, and I suspect now she is with her crew I won’t see much of her again for a while!
Our plan for this week-long break was to drive along the south coast of the UK from Exeter in Devon to Rye in East Sussex. We are scoping possible locations to buy a property, and escape some or all of the time from London. The idea is to find a few potential places and then go back and spend a few more nights and see how it ‘feels’ over a longer period. While the overall distances are not vast, there will be a bit of driving each day, but it’s a good excuse to go and hang out in a variety of places on the coast. I love this part of the UK.
I thought we left home at a reasonable enough hour to miss the worst of the M25, but I got that call badly wrong. It was a really slow drive to Bristol, taking close to 4 ½ hours. This set the whole journey back and we did not arrive on the coast at Exmouth until almost 2:00. Lunch time. We stopped for a pub lunch by the quite nice beach – lime and soda for me. Even though I am in my mid-fifties I still find it weird/uncomfortable ordering a non-alcoholic drink in a pub.
Lunch was very average, setting an unfortunate precedent for the rest of the week. It was here that I discovered I had failed to pack a camera! I had originally planned on bringing the big Canon DSLR, and then rejected it in favour of bringing the small G16. This was a holiday and not a photography trip. I just failed to pack the G16, though I did have the charger, a spare battery and the tripod… So all photos were taken on my Samsung S7 phone.
Our next stop, and the first on our new list of places to return to, was Budleigh Salterton, just along the coast from Exmouth, but with a totally different feel, and a totally different beach. Budleigh Salterton was also where I started my 50th birthday 50 or so km run. A place that has ‘good’ memories for me.
We also liked Sidmouth, and will return there as well, though it was a drive-by liking, as we could not find anywhere to park and I was getting tired and we still had a way to go. We did stop in Beer, for an ice-cream. I like Beer, and beer, though it is a little too remote for us to consider buying somewhere here, plus it is a bit pricey.
Plan A, before we left home, was to lunch in Lyme Regis, but that was blown right out of the water by the traffic leaving London. We have both been to Lyme in the past, so decided to skip it today. It is a lovely town, too expensive for us, and there are so many other places to explore. I was tired, and getting over the whole driving thing, so we carried on through Bridport, where El’s sister once lived, and then down to West Bay. I finished my birthday run in West Bay so while my memories of Budleigh Salterton are good, my memories of West Bay are clouded in pain and tiredness. Not really, I was very happy to finish my run, and my memory of West Bay was filled with the joy of completing something pretty amazing. Shame it did not live up to that memory. We didn’t stop.
We didn’t stop again until we found our B & B for the next two nights in Piddlehinton, Dorset, so small it could hardly be described as a village. It had a pub, but nothing else. Naturally we went to the pub for dinner. It was a lovely building, had some pretty good beer, though the food was disappointing. It had been a long day, 10 hours in the car.
We are staying in a 16th century house that is now a B & B. As we had such a long day we called it a night pretty early, and it was great to just be able to blob out on the bed and watch TV for a while.
We had breakfast booked for 8:30 on Tuesday morning, we are on holiday so no rush. Today’s weather forecast was not looking too good, and after 10 hours of driving yesterday I had no real desire to spend a lot of the day in the car.
Our first stop was the village of Cerne Abbas, to pay our respects to the Cerne Giant. We arrived in Cerne Abbas about 9:30, and it was very quiet, a beautiful old English village, we both immediately fell in love with it. So we parked up and went for a short walk,
Past the old church and its lovely little garden,
Through the grounds of the old abbey,
And into a field of wheat, so far un-trampled by our illustrious leader!
The Cerne Giant was just above the field, though the view was not very good, so we walked back to the car and drove round to the viewing area. The Cerne Giant is a 180 feet tall human figure carved into the chalk hillside. It is the largest hill figure in the UK. There is much uncertainty over the origins of the giant, it could be pre-Roman or it could be from the English Civil War and a mockery of Oliver Cromwell, a mystery yet to be solved. The figure was quite unclear and my cell phone hardly did it in any justice either.
Our next stop was Abbotsbury Swannery. I wanted to visit here last time I was in the area, but did not get the chance. As we arrived it started to drizzle so we stopped in the cafe for was the first in a seemingly never ending run of awful cups of coffee. When the rain stopped we walked around the swannery, it was not overly exciting, lots of swans! It started to rain more heavily as we left, and that was pretty much the end of the nice weather for the rest of the day.
The swannery is the only place in the world where you can visit an active swan nesting sight. It was established by Benedictine monks in the mid 11th century as a source of food for the many banqueting halls in the area. The monastery was destroyed during the dissolution in 1539, but the management of the swannery continued.
It was raining quite heavily when we left. We did not stop at the ruins of the abbey as I had intended, and decided to go on to Weymouth for lunch. It was tiring driving in the rain on these narrow and quiet roads, but I don’t mind too much, there are so many little stone villages, like Fleet.
I love driving like this, so much nicer than the busy roads of London. We arrived in the outskirts of Weymouth and it was madly busy. It was raining heavily so we decided to turn around and go somewhere else for lunch. The thought of parking and walking miles in the rain did not appeal. I did stop, nip out of the car and take a photo up Chesil Beach, an area I wanted to explore more. Another day.
We decided to go to Sherborne, inland and north of where we are staying, it was another nice drive through the lovely Dorset countryside, even though it was constantly raining. El has been to Sherborne before, with an old friend living here, though we did not make contact this time. We parked the car (so many bloody parking metres – is there no free parking left in the UK ?) and had lunch and a quick walk around. Sherborne looks really nice, though with only one hour of parking we did not stay in town long. Shame.
We did stay local and went to visit the ruins of 12th century Sherborne old Castle. There is a newer privately owned ‘castle’, but the old one is the one that interested me. Though it was pouring with rain we still chose to visit. I somehow managed to set my phone into some weird setting that made the photos look like they were taken on some old Holga type camera. I am not sure if I like these or not, but I could not edit them back to ‘normal’. We will be back to Sherborne, and I will come back to the castle as well.
It was getting late in the day so we went back to the B & B for a rest before heading into nearby Dorchester for dinner. We wanted to explore the town a bit, but it was absolutely tipping down by then so we found a big car park near a mall and had dinner in Carluccio’s. It was better than the pub the night before. I will leave it at that.