Living in Dorset

My makeshift desk-- which is in fact the dining table in the living room-- is full of notepads and free newspapers. Along with my laptop. The notepads have shopping lists, jobs I've applied for, and walking trails scrawled across them with pens scattered across the table. Next to it is where I'm sat, my laptop plugged into a speaker blasting my favourite tunes- currently Of Monsters & Men's second album. Behind the lid I can see four books stacked up, Rough Guides Ultimate Adventures- the first thing I won for my travel writing, Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling, & the Wild Guide. All of which I'm using to find adventures whilst I'm unemployed. Next to it The Great Gatsby, for the day that will roll around when I can lie on the sofa with numerous cups of tea and read a book in a day.

Man o War Cove, East Durdle Door Beach, Lulworth Estate

It was sat in this pile of miscellany that I was procrastinating on facebook last night to discover that another blogger was headed to Dorset this week, and I surprised myself with the knowledge of the area she would be visiting. So I thought I'd write about it here. 

I live in West Dorset, on the Somerset border around 25 miles from the coast. Did you know even the most landlocked county in the UK is only 70 miles from the beach? Mind, if you live in this part of the world that's a 2 and a half hour drive. Dorset is particularly cool for two reasons, where I live is in part of a Dark Sky Reserve, which is why I was able to so clearly watch the Perseid Meteor Shower from a hammock in my own garden a couple of nights ago-- and boy was I glad I did, last night cloud cover from around 11pm and not a single shooting star when I walked the dog. The other reason that it is cool, that coastline I mentioned back a couple of lines there.

The Dorset Coastline, as it was simply known for years, is these days known as the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast. Although that's a bit of a misconception, too, as parts of it are in fact from the triassic and cretaceous periods. The coastline is 94 miles long stretching from Exmouth in East Devon (that's where I'm going windsurfing) all the way to Old Harry's Rocks near Studland. Believe it or not, you can walk the whole way- it's all part of the South West Coast Path. Altho', as I'll explain soon, parts of it are closed Monday- Friday. It includes popular coastal towns such as Lyme Regis, Weymouth, and Bournemouth, and sights you'll all recognise, like Durdle Door which was a backdrop for Professor Brian Cox's Forces of Nature on the BBC recently.

Glasto fam at Lyme Regis, yes those are my actual sunglasses.

Lyme Regis is on the Dorset/ Devon border. It's well known for it's stunning Cobb, the harbour wall that protects the seaside town from the huge waves that smash into the sides of it during the winter. The Cobb was described by Jane Austen in her novel Persuasion, and she is known to have taken a couple of trips to the seaside town to research it. Lyme Regis, for me is somewhere I always end up going during Glastonbury Festival with my Glasto fam. Last year I raced my friend out to one of the buoys, and was doing well until I swam into a jellyfish and insisted he let me swim on his back all the way back! This year I learnt to paddleboard from Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis.

I have an affection for its steep High Street, although my favourite shop is right at the bottom, it's quaint gift shops are downright cute. I particularly love Pug & Puffin because I never need an excuse to buy a gift for my dog that I know he'll hate (including new bandannas, or a bow tie). My other favourite shop is, of course, The Sanctuary Bookshop. It's a used bookshop (my favourite kind), it kind of makes me think of a real life Black Books (my goal in life is to be drunk and in charge of a bookshop as per Bernard Black). Places to eat, get the Dorset Apple Cake warm with ice cream from the Bell Cliff. There's a cheap and cheerful chippy at the bottom of the High St, they do a mini fish and chips for £3,30, but by far the best fish and chips are the ones you get on the main beach. Lyme Regis is also know for it's crab, so make sure to get a crab sandwich, and if you're feeling extravagant check out Hix!

The famous 'Broadchurch' cliffs at West Bay

West Bay is somewhere that my Mum and Nan love, they take Tiger there for days out all the time. It's gained a lot of attention since it's been the setting of popular ITV drama Broadchurch, and I've written about it before. I've also been known to go down when I know filming is on, because David Tennant (like, he's the best [recent] Dr. Who after all). However, it's not my favourite part of the coast. It's not a beach I can swim at (and that is a make or break for me). It's got a little town, there's an abundance of beach shacks you can get your fish and chips from- but I recommend the one behind the harbour that sells coke floats (when you float ice cream on top of coca cola) for that very reason. More recently it's got a cool market area that's opened up that I think is so sweet, and it's dog friendly, so it's a winner for me. If I'm going to go to the beach there, though, I tend to stick to the east beach. That's the one with the cliff's you'll recognise from Broadchurch. They've a tendency to crumble and crack, mind, being sandstone, so don't be walking to edge of them, and for God's sake don't sit under them. The café there is part of the Hive group, and it does a mean seafood pizza, and I'm dying to try its seafood stew.

Gotta touch the sea whenever I'm at the beach- Weymouth

Weymouth is to this day a popular seaside resort. It became so in Victorian times and when it was announced that it would host the 2012 Olympic Sailing the town suddenly got more tidied up, and it's become a nicer place to go than the town I remember as child. The sea is consistently calm, and aside from the beach being riddled with jellyfish the size of dustbin lids most April's, it's a safe beach (the jellyfish are barrel jellyfish and completely harmless, just fucking huge). When the tides out you can walk half a mile out to sea and still be only ankle deep. Actually I didn't realise until I spoke to a family from Sunderland last summer who had brought their children for a weeks holiday how perfect it was for families. It was the kids first time in the sea, and my God was she squealing (which I usually hate) but she was so excited to be in the sea and that I can get on board with. It's got arcades along the beach, donkey rides, and cafe's all along the beach. There's a sand art school that runs through the summer for kids- the sand is extra fine at Weymouth so perfect for that sort of thing. It keeps people entertained and the lack of a real current makes it safer for kids than other places they might go out to sea.

Ringstead Bay

Ringstead Bay, pretty much this beach is a local spot for local people and their dogs. Unless you want to pay extortionate parking fees, it can be a bit of a 'mare to get to, the National Trust car park at the top is free but on a huge hill and then a footpath down to the beach. There's a café on the beach and wee shack selling snacks too. There's also a caravan park on the beach, but they tend to stick to the west side of the beach. The right side is my favourite. When I visited the beach for the first time there was a single boat moored up and the view to Portland was stunning. If the clouds hadn't come to ruin my afternoon it would have been my favourite place; because of the effort it can take to clamber down to the beach a lot of people go to easier to reach places. Which suits me just fine. Along the South West Coast Path between Ringstead and Durdle Door, is a place called White Nothe, there is a beach at the bottom an old smuggler's path leads down there, I have yet to do this, but it's high up on my list.

Tiger loving the summer at Man o' War Cove

A very busy Saturday (last Saturday in fact) at Durdle Door

The Lulworth Estate is probably the area of the coast I know the best, and is by far my favourite because I can take Tiger there. In spite of the £5 for 4 hours car parking fee. Depending on your ability you could always find parking in the village of West Lulworth and walk around instead of parking in the allocated car parks. So, say we're starting in West Lulworth, the Cove is a geologists wet dream. The cove is thought to have formed by the combined forces of melting ice and the river and the sea meeting during the last Ice Age. Close to Lulworth Cove is the Stairhole which is how geologists believe Lulworth Cove started out, there's a wicked sea cave there you should totally visit, too. There's a pub and a few options of where to get food in the summer on the way down to the cove. You should also check out Jurassic Coast Adventures Kayak tour to Durdle Door and back, as they take you to the Stairhole and give you a real comprehensive talk about the geology on this bit of coastline.

Durdle Door, and Man O' War Cove are my favourite parts of Lulworth Estate. The door is fab to swim, or kayak through, I don't think that experience will ever get old. Legend has it that, in spite of what geologists may say about the door, it is in fact a dragon that got frozen whilst taking a drink from the salty water. The beach is popular with tourists, as the seas are a shade of azure rarely seen in this country, and in the summer I tend to head to Man O' War Cove as it's slightly quieter. Plus the sea is still completely clear. The walk down to the beach from the coast path is at a 16% gradient, so I suggest wearing trainers. At the top by the car park during the summer there is a Dorset tea van, some toilets and Lulworth Estate store. I'm glad it's there, because during the winter it can be a pig when you've forgotten a drink to have to walk all the way into the campsite and hope Nisa is open.

As well as the beaches and coves that are encompassed in the 5 miles of coastline that make up part of Lulworth Estate, you can also find a fossilised forest towards Mupe Bay, however the footpath is military controlled, and closed most of the time. Currently it's closed due to a land slip almost a year ago, and you can't get down to see them. Plus there's a 17th century castle, which opens its grounds to the Luna open air cinema. I've been a massive retard though, and booked a train ticket elsewhere on the day its on, so won't be able to attend.

The signs along the Lulworth Ranges footpath

Tyneham & Worbarrow Bay. Tyneham is going to be one of the coolest parts of Dorset's history, well it already is, but all the work that's going on in the village is going to make it incredible. Tyneham is one of the UK's ghost villages, evacuated on Christmas Eve 1943, the village became military land and is used as such to this day- although the village is now open to visitors most weekends. It's also a pig to find, but worth it, basically you follow this road up, and up, and up, and ignore any odd lanes your Sat Nav might tell you to go down. You'll go through a huge military gate, which will be open-- if it isn't that's your signal to turn back because it means the army are up to something. Feel free to ignore the red flags, though, they're always flying. You'll know you're getting close when you look over what appears to be barren farmland inland and huge black boards with yellow numbers on towards the sea. They're restoring buildings in the village, including the farm and its houses, the village school and the church. You can walk up through the firing range- this is part of the south west coast path, and walk all the way to Kimmeridge, altho' I've yet to do that, Or you can go the other way and walk to Worbarrow Bay, which is much closer. The view down to the bay is one of my favourites. Make sure to keep between the yellow markers, as there is the potential for military debris that could explode and kill you. Tho' I've yet to find anything since I first visited Tyneham. I do still keep Tiger on a lead when I walk through that area.

One of my best friends, Mel, Tiger & I at Worbarrow Bay in November

So, which beach are we gonna visit when you come to Dorset? 


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