Thursday, 29 August 2013

Delightful Dorset - N S E & W

Our first full day in Dorset we spent the morning catching up with chores, I sorted out the bags (and rubbish) from the car and did the washing, Pam pottered in the garden. Then in the afternoon we revved up the 2 CV and headed South (wards) to Norden.  Norden is just a 'park and ride' at the start of the Swanage Steam Railway. Pam dropped us off for the station and she then drove into Swanage to meet us.
This preserved line runs from Norden down to Swanage through the Isle of Purbeck (which isn't really an island - it's still attached to the mainland).
This railway runs both steam and diesel locomotives, our train was drawn by a 'Battle of Britain' class steam loco. We were surprised by how many carriages were on the train, it was the full quota - just like 'the good old days'. There weren't many people getting on and we had a carriage to ourselves, it was great.
 It really did take us back in time - soot particles in the carriage, in our hair and in our eyes - fabulous!

There was a haze hanging over the coast so we didn't get long, clear views but in a way that added to the atmosphere; especially as we rattled past Corfe Castle up on the hill above the village of Corfe Castle itself.

Pam was waiting on the platform for us as we arrived in Swanage. We then all strolled along the Esplanade by the beach and harbour before finding a little cafe for dinner.

 Swanage is on the end of the Isle of Purbeck so isn't 'on the way to' anywhere, it doesn't get passing traffic but was a nice little town with some interesting architecture, nice sea views and at least one good cafe.
After dinner Pam took us home via the Square and Compass pub in Worth Matravers (don't you love these village names - they get better.) The Square and Compass is well known in the area and was bulging with people enjoying the fine, autumn evening. We sat outside, with nearly everyone else, but did have a quick look inside, in one of the tiny rooms, at their fossil museum. There is nearly always a musician playing at the pub and tonight it was Chris Jagger - Mick's brother.
After a drink we walked into the village, which is at the end of the road - you cannot drive any further.
What an idyllic English country village, complete with duck pond.

The next day Michael and I set out to tour North.We went into Dorchester but the rain kept threatening so we abandoned our walk around, went back to the car and drove around town.
On the outskirts of town is the development of Poundbury. Prince Charles' huge architectural experiment. This area was - in a word - awful! It looks like a new housing estate but the proportions are wrong, the style is wrong and it's deserted! Even one of the guide books describes it as being ' looking as if all it's residents have gone out for a picnic'. Shame that it's in Dorchester, a nice old market town with a long romantic history and connections to Thomas Hardy's novels. The two areas do not gel together.

After Dorchester we carried on northwards towards Sherborne and detoured into the village
of Cerne Abbas. Home to the Giant (more on him later).
Another amazing picture book village, we couldn't resist the cafe so had an early lunch before wandering around the streets and laneways. The village of Cerne Abbas was once a thriving village and in the 18th Century boasted 18 pubs!
The Royal Oak was built around 1540.

Abbey Street is believed to have been built around 1400 and contains some of the few medieval buildings still around in Dorset. The church dates back to 14th Century.
The Abbot's Porch was the entrance to the Abbey, built by Abbot Thomas Sam who died in 1509.
The Abbey is sadly no more but the Porch stands alone and proud in the wooded garden of a private house. It is open to view and is quite imposing yet enchanting.


Then we drove out to the viewing spot to see the Giant.
His origins are disputed - Iron Age or Roman but the first written reference to him is in Church accounts for 1694 when 3 shillings was paid 'for repairing ye Giant'.
He needs a bit of re-outlining now but is impressive non-the-less.

Then we carried on into Sherborne and were pleasantly surprised, what a lovely town.
It reminded us a little of Eton, maybe because it too has a famous public school and the buildings and streets were a similar layout.

We explored back streets and a few shops before returning to the car and turning south again, but a different road. We passed through villages along the banks of the River Piddle or River Trent (that is it's name, I'm not providing an option it's marked on maps as ' The River Piddle or River Trent')
we passed through Piddletrenthide and Piddlehinton. Then we came to 'The Puddles'.  Puddletown, Briantspuddle, Affpuddle, Turners Puddle and Tolpuddle. We were heading for Tolpuddle.

Every working man and woman owes thanks to The Tolpuddle Martyrs.
One dawn in February 1834 six farm labourers were arrested in Tolpuddle.
Their crime? Trying to get a decent wage.
The charge? Swearing an oath of unity.
The punishment? Seven years, transported to Australia.
The outcome? Free pardons, mass celebrations and then new lives in Canada.

In his defence the 'leader' George Loveless said 
" If we have violated any law, it was not done intentionally. We have injured no person or property. We were uniting to preserve ourselves, our wives and our children from utter degradation and starvation."
The trial was a travesty of justice and the sentence created mass protests, with the Government forced to back down and pardon the men. Their release took longer due to tardy communications with Australian authorities. The martyrs dreadful experiences fanned the embers of trades unions.
In the village of Tolpuddle  the museum is housed in one of six terraced cottages built by the Trades Union Council for retired agricultural workers. The museum shop is in another cottage but the remaining 4 are occupied by retired workers. Each cottage is named after a Tolpuddle Martyr.

After the museum we drove through the village. The famous tree where the six met to hold meetings, is no more but there is a memorial.  Then we headed back 'home'.

The next day Pam was our tour leader and we headed East to some hidden Dorset delights.
We didn't leave until late morning so the first stop was for lunch  -at Downhouse Farm, near Eype.


Pam discovered this cafe a while back, you would have to know it was there to find it. It's down a lane which at times deteriorated into a rough track and then eventually opens into the farm yard. The tables are outside in a courtyard and the atmosphere and food are great. Being England there were, of course, dogs at every table but they were all very well behaved. The farm dog was asleep next to our table and didn't even notice when a Shrew ran across his paws! It was a great place.


We stirred ourselves and left to carry on with the tour. We were heading for the beach at West Bexington when we saw a sign for an 'Open Day'. That turned out to be at a Dorset Chilli Growers property. We stopped and did a tour of the hot houses and then listened to a talk on 'Heat and Chillies' - very interesting and educational. What a pity that we couldn't buy any seeds to take back to Aus.

We drove a little further on, towards the beach, and Pam realised that we were passing the home of one of her dancing group. Their farm was also having an Open Day. They had held demonstrations on apple pressing, sheep shearing, flour grinding and bread making, so we parked up and joined a small group in the garden for afternoon tea. How very civilised and very English it all was.
We had a quick drive down to the sea side but didn't stop for a walk along the pebbles.
It was early evening as we drove across the top of the hills, looking down on Abbotsbury and Chesil Beach, into Weymouth for dinner.

The 'Quayside Festival' was in full swing with the pubs, restaurants and streets packed with people. It was the middle of a long weekend after all. We walked along the harbour and then into Hope Square just off the main thoroughfare. Here we found a nice Ristorante and sat outside people watching. After dinner Pam took another scenic route home (she aims to go a different way each time to maximise the villages that we see, it's great). We stopped at a nice village pub in a quaint village, Preston, with a stream running through it and a lovely duck pond. A lovely end to a great day out.

The next day was the last day of the long weekend and we knew that we'd meet crowds where ever we went but we planned a tour route to hopefully avoid the holiday traffic jams. We were heading West today.
We went to the little village of Tyneham, in the Purbeck Hills. In 1943 the Government decided that the village was needed to help the war effort. The village was to be evacuated and the area surrounding it used to prepare the troops for the D-Day landings. In November 1943, 106 properties in a 12 square mile area  were given one month to leave.The villagers were promised that they could return once the war was over - that never happened.

The village is now in the middle of the MoD Lulworth Ranges and is only open to the public 3 weekends out of 4. The road was busy but there was plenty of room in the carpark. We walked around the abandoned village, where the shells of the buildings remain. The church is still intact and has an historic display. It is still used for special services for ex-villagers.


After a picnic lunch Michael rested while Pam and I walked down the track to the beach at Worbarrow Bay. Another abandoned village but with no remaining houses. There used to be a large active Coast guard station here but there's no sign now. The beach was crowded but the water looked sooo cold! Fantastic scenery though - really beautiful. It must have been amazing living here.

 Then we drove out of Tyneham, out of the Purbeck Hills into heavy traffic and into Lulworth Cove.
The Cove is at the end of the road, one road in, same road out so we expected heavy traffic.

We parked on the edge of the village and walked down to the sea, in the Cove. It was really busy - people carrying kayaks down to the water, kids with buckets and spades, families (including the dog) slowly strolling along, and young and old alike eating ice-creams. The only seaside feature missing was the funfair!
Everyone was out enjoying the sunshine and the sea air. Hundreds of people were walking over the hill, on the Coastal Path to 'Durdle Door'. The Poms were really getting the most out of this lovely summer weather. We walked down to the beach, which in my view came second to the cove at Worbarrow, then we joined the masses and bought an ice-cream before heading back.

We headed home through more 'chocolate box' villages with equally charming names.
The next morning and our time in Dorset was almost over, time to head North to Salisbury, find a B & B and then tick the last box on the UK wish list - visit The Great Dorset Steam Fair.

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