I live a mile from the Solent and I love living so close to the sea. Mum and I and are down there all year round – whatever the weather – walking along the shoreline and enjoying the views over this busy stretch of water towards the Isle of Wight.
It has to be said though, the scenery lacks a certain…majestic drama. The closest we get to cliffs are the rather lowly affairs along the Meon Shore and in her entire lifetime mum has only ever come across one fossil.
It was a bit of a spur of the moment decision on mum’s part to book four nights away in Dorset, but off we set last Monday for the two hour drive to a village near Bridport.
We stayed at The Sty, booked through Hoseasons, which is half of a converted pig sty on Broad Road Farm which has heifers, orphan lambs, pigs and chickens roaming about on 10 acres.
A thoroughly lovely place to stay for a few nights, with quality fixtures and fittings throughout – mum would highly recommend it. Half a dozen eggs from the farm’s chickens were waiting on arrival, as was a delicious homemade fruit cake, a pint of milk, tea and coffee.
Not only that, but kitchen roll, cling film, tin foil, bubble bath, washing up liquid, soap, tea towel and bath towels were all included.
Even better, there is a large enclosed field just steps from the front door which is perfect for exercising your pooch if you have plans for the day other than taking your dog for a long walk.
Sadly it was rather waterlogged for our visit thanks to recent rainfall, and as mum didn’t fancy me going into The Sty covered in mud we steered clear after our initial visit on arrival.
The downside was limited phone network coverage – 3G at best and that dropped out frequently – and no wifi. I know a lack of wifi is often considered a plus on holiday but not for mum. Still, it was a minor point and it is stated when you book so if wifi is essential you simply stay somewhere else.
Our first full day of walking took us to West Bay, a mere 10 minute drive from The Sty. Those who watched Broadchurch will recognise the area immediately but mum was one of those who didn’t so it was all a bit of a mystery.
Superb scenery! And virtually all to ourselves apart from a few walkers at the car park end (50p for an hour or £2 all day). The geology was so clear to see in the cliff face, even if mum was clueless to what it actually signified. She knew she should have done a bit more research prior to arrival (or could have done it there if there was wifi…)
Of course you have to check the tides but fortunately for all our visits during the week, we arrived at the beaches as the tide was going out.
The thought of getting cut off by the sea was a scary one – the waves were enormous! Even in stormy weather the Solent doesn’t have waves as big as the ones here on the shores of the English Channel. I steered well clear of the sea even though I normally make a beeline for it at home.
There are warnings to keep away from the foot of the cliffs due to the possibility of rockfalls – which was evident to see. In fact, mum is convinced there was a big pile of rocks on the beach on Thursday that weren’t there on Tuesday!
That said, I couldn’t resist exploring and you know me – a photo opportunity is never far away!
Day two was going to see us heading to Chesil Beach, but the 3G kicked in long enough to find out that dogs have to be kept on a lead so we had to rustle up a quick Plan B. That turned out to be Charmouth, billed as one of the best beaches for finding fossils.
Even more exciting (for mum, I wasn’t that fussed to be honest) was the fact people are encouraged to go fossil hunting and can take what they find home with them! There are a few rules attached to this, but in a nutshell if a fossil is loose on the beach and you spot it, it’s yours.
Cue mum keeping her eyes glued to the ground and within just a few minutes we’d spotted this beast in a huge rock!
Obviously this one wasn’t for taking home but over the course of our walk of nearly three hours along this fabulous beach, mum stuffed her pockets with five fossils and wasn’t even looking that hard for them. She probably missed many more but unless you know what to look for it’s hard to know whether you’ve picked up a genuine fossil or just a pebble with some marks on it.
Whatever, mum is thrilled with her haul and is desperate to know what this one is (or was). Anyone got any ideas?
Anyway, like I said I wasn’t that fussed by the fossils but I had a great time running along the sandy beach in the winter sunshine. I did find it irritated my paws a bit though. My beach back home is full of pebbles which I’m used to walking on but the sand on the Jurassic Coast is quite gritty and I did stop every so often to lick my paws and ham it up a bit.
Charmouth is only a short drive from Lyme Regis so we took the opportunity to visit The Cobb – made famous in John Fowles’ novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman and, of course, Meryl Streep in the film adaptation.
It was a spur of the moment decision to go and I’m pleased, otherwise I wouldn’t have put it past mum to find a black cape and drape me in it in the hope I’d look all forlorn and melancholic as young Meryl did back in 1981.
No cape, no matter – I still managed to look just a bit fabulous on The Cobb and mum was particularly impressed (i.e. irritated) by my insistence on walking on the edge of the top walkway so I could get a better look at the sheer drop to the swirling waters below.
Durdle Door was our choice for our final full day. We parked at a holiday park (£4 for two hours!) but it was only a few minutes’ walk to this famous natural limestone arch. Again – a common theme for all our walks – there weren’t many people around, given that it was midweek in January.
We had a wander along the beach and briefly investigated a few caves – bear in mind there are warnings not to because of the dangers of cliff falls – and then decided on a walk along the cliffs.
The downside? I had to be kept on lead otherwise my penchant for peering over the cliff edge would have ended in well, my ending. The upside? Wonderful views back towards Durdle Door…until the weather closed in.
We had planned to visit nearby Lulworth Cove but the wind and rain got the better of us so we drove the 50 minutes back to Bridport and ended the day at West Bay where I could run around for half an hour.
So, that was our holiday. Most of the time for our walks the weather was kind, although at some point on every walk there was at least one heavy shower to soak us. It didn’t spoil our enjoyment though.
It was further proof for us that you don’t need long haul to have a great holiday – there are some truly wonderful places to visit in the UK, and often within just a few hours’ drive from home. Ok, the weather is never guaranteed but as long as you’re dressed for it, it doesn’t have to be too much of a bar to enjoyment.
Has anyone else got any recommendations for good dog-friendly places to visit or stay in the UK?