"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 7 July 2014

DORSET - Part 1 27th and 28th June: Arrival and Swanage

We had such a wonderful family holiday last year in Lyme Regis that we decided to visit Dorset again this summer. It was very tempting to return to the same area but instead we decided to stay on the Isle of Purbeck in East Dorset and explore a new area.

Our holiday cottage was in Langton Matravers, a small village a mile or so from Swanage. The garden was just beautiful - sadly the photos don't really do it justice - but it was like a very mini version of a National Trust garden.

The borders were full of lavenders, nepeta, valerian and roses and were constantly humming with bees.

The views were stunning - this was taken from the garden looking towards the chalk Purbeck Ridge - opposite the cottage was Nine Barrow Down and looking to the right you could also see Ballard Down.

E could see a flock of soay sheep from her window

and this is the view from upstairs.

It was good to see a "green roof" on the conservatory.

Usually when we go on holiday we buy a cheap bird feeder and some seed to see which species we can attract to the garden but at this cottage there were already several feeders and a bin full of bird food.

On Saturday the weather forecast wasn't looking good with the suggestion of heavy showers so we decided to visit Swanage so we could take refuge in shops if it rained heavily. I have to admit that walking round seaside towns and in and out of shops is not really my idea of fun so this was probably my least favourite day of the holiday. It was a family holiday though so I didn't spend as much time on the many, many nature reserves that I would have liked but I did get to indulge 2 of my other passions - history and geology and we managed to find things to do that would appeal to us all.

I had two holidays in Swanage when I was a child and my main memory is that of my father sitting on the beach in 1966 listening to the radio commentary as England won the World Cup. (No televised football in pubs in those days!!!or tv's in cottages!!). I also remember being fascinated by the idea of all the tumuli on Nine Barrow Down, visiting Corfe Castle and walks along the cliff path and on heathland with my father. He used to cook sausages on a primus stove for lunch which mum used to serve with chipsticks (a rare treat for us!!). Somewhere at my mother's house there is some rather amusing cine film of my brother jumping rather rapidly out of the way as the fat from the sausages spat in his direction.

Swanage is an ancient settlement that is mentioned in the Domesday Book but it only became popular as a seaside resort in the 19th century when a railway link to Wareham was constructed.

In Lyme Regis we had ammonites on the lamp-posts and here in Swanage it is dolphins.

They nearly got the name of the boat right!!

Swanage Pier

The original Swanage Pier was built in 1859/61 and used primarily for shipping coal, timber, fish and stone. However, in 1871 when a steamer service began between Swanage, Poole and Bournemouth it became apparent that the pier could not cope with cargo and day-trippers so a new Pier was built between 1895 and 1897. In 1994 the Swanage Pier Trust acquired control of the pier with the aim of restoring it and keeping it open to residents and visitors.

To the left of this photo you can see the Wellington Tower (called the Clock Tower by residents). The clock was originally constructed at the southern approach to London Bridge in the capital but it soon became clear it was impeding traffic. After much discussion about whether it should be removed and its new location, it was eventually taken down stone by stone by the John Mowlem Company and shipped to Dorset and re-constructed. The clock itself remained in London and the original spire was removed and replaced by a cupola in 1904.

You can just make out Old Harry Rocks in the distance in this photo.

You can follow an Art Trail through Swanage featuring 9 famous visiting artists.

Nina Camplin and Antonia Phillips are local artists who painted the murals shown on the above two photos during Purbeck Art Week in 2007. The Pier Head Building was built in the 1940's as a mess hut and it was used subsquently as a wind surfing school, cafe and bingo hall. It was closed in the 1990's when it was deemed to be unsafe but the owners are hoping to eventually re-open it. The images in the murals represent an illusion of reality - past, present and possible future of the site.

This is the "Cooler" or "Lock-up". Before the arrival of police in the town in 1851, the elders of the church acted as law enforcers. They built the "Lock-up" in 1802 to deal with certain people in the town who were not taking the threat of invasion by Napoleon seriously enough!

The Town Hall - the front of the building was once the frontage of the old Mercers Hall in London.

I thought it was very kind of someone to name a cottage after me!

Thomas Hardy who was born in 1840 at Higher Bockhampton near Dorchester wrote most of his fifth novel "The Hand of Ethelberta" when he and his first wife lodged in a house in Swanage not long after their marriage. He also wrote several poems about the town and he and Emma enjoyed sketching in the town too.

More recently Enid Blyton found inspiration from holidays in Purbeck for many of the locations and characters in her books. She and her husband Kenneth stayed in the Grosvenor Hotel (now a sewage pumping station!!) and the Grosvenor Hotel. She was elected President of the annual Swanage Carnival and Regatta.

By the way the forecasted rain never arrived and the day was sunny and dry!!


Countryside Tales said...

I know the purbecks countryside well as it isn't all that far from here and is our nearest bit of interesting sea/ coast. I don't know Swanage though so it was interesting to walk round it with you. That mural showing the inside of the house is fantastic! Fascinating how much of London has found its way down to Dorset in terms of building bits and bobs.

I love your idea about buying bird feeders and seed for a holiday cottage and will 'borrow' that when we go to Canterbury this August :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks :) You are fortunate to live so close. Swanage was 3.5 hours from here :( Son picked up an interesting booklet called "Swanage Rediscovered" that has lots of interesting info and a Historical Walk. Two residents from the eighteenth and nineteenth century (John Mowlem and George Burt) seemed to bring quite a few stone bits back from London with them. Fascinating stuff - could have gone on for ages but try not to waffle too much!

Good luck with the feeders in Canterbury - we used to take a cheap one from home but these days don't have the room in the boot so just get a cheap one from nearest supermarket where we always do a shop when we arrive. I was most upset we didn't have room for the moth trap as I reckon I could have trapped lots of species never seen here! Did take the caterpillars though!!

Margaret Adamson said...

HI RR What a wonderful tour you have given us today. So varied and interesting. great idea about he bird feeder. Great shots.

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks so much Margaret - glad you enjoyed the tour :)

Em Parkinson said...

I spent a lot of my childhood being driven round Dorset by a local and I recognised lots of these places. Thanks for a walk down memory lane and I love 'your cottage'!

Ragged Robin said...

Em Parkinson - Thanks so much :)Glad the post brought back so many memories - a beautiful county :)

Pete Duxon said...

i first went to Swanage when I was 17? given I am 50 today a right nostalgia trip.....

I think somewhere for next years holiday list is dorset!!

Ragged Robin said...

Pete Duxon - Thanks so much - I am so pleased it brought back such memories :) I was about 14 when we first went and then 17 on our second visit. Sad in a way because it was the last main summer holiday I ever went on with my parents. I just felt too "grown up" to go with them any more :( I suppose I am fortunate in that D and E are still happy to come along with us :)

Yes, you must go :) I can then see all the NT properties I couldn't persuade the family to visit and some churches :) !!!! Seriously though I would wholeheartedly recommend it. West Dorset last year was brilliant and East Dorset this year possibly even better. The whole county is wonderful :)