Dorset Photo Diary

26 May

The English countryside had limited appeal to me. I lived in England seven short summers and seven long winters, and felt I’d done my time. I’m a Queenslander. We don’t do grey. Besides I am allergic to flowers, horses and ‘twee’. However for this phase of Stuart’s stroke recovery we needed fresh air, pleasant walks and bicycle paths close to comfortable accommodation. Stuart adores the southwest coastline and countryside, particularly Cornwall and Dorset, so I found us a holiday cottage, Thornicks House, in Winfrith Newburgh, near Wareham, three miles from the coast. With a quiet lane facing meadows in front and a ‘Darling buds of May’ garden behind it’s well equipped for a family of six and perfect for our temporary retreat. These are diary notes of our fortnight in Dorset.

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Monday 14 May
Raining most of the day, windy and cold (8-10 degrees Celsius).
Four-hour drive from North London via supermarket in Dorchester. Shopping for low salt and low fat foods is novel. Stu is lean already with normal cholesterol but we aim to get his bad blood fats down as low as possible. Slog through cold wind to the Red Lion pub for a Badger ale. Maximum two units of alcohol only these days! Late sun briefly lit up the garden.

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Tuesday 15 May
Sun and cloud with stiff wind. Still cold (9-11 degrees Celsius). To Wareham to stride the Saxon Walls and learn more about TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) in the town’s museum. Lawrence spent his latter years here and died when he crashed his motorcycle just down the road. Home via the Castle Inn, West Lulworth. Pastoral views from rear garden of emerald hills dotted with sheep. Bracing evening walk to Fossil Farm started in sun and ended in rain.

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Wednesday 16 May
Sunny all day but chilly (9-11 degrees Celsius). To Lulworth Cove to see Durdle Door (hole in the sea rock) and take the cliff walk but my vertigo forced us back a mile into it and we settled for hill walking amongst the cows. Met Malcolm, the cottage gardener, a charming retired gentleman, who came to cut our lawn. Pub of the day was the Sailors’ Return in Chaldon with its delicious ales and a classic car rally in the car park. Spotted Stuart’s Mother’s Morris Minor station wagon from the 60s.

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Thursday 17 May
Grey day with showers (9-15 degrees Celsius). Rented bicycles at Wareham Station to cycle the trail around Wareham Forest stopping for lunch at the Silent Woman pub. Stuart’s balance and coordination is fine and his aerobic fitness still good. Explanation for the pub’s name is that in the time of smugglers a local woman blabbed in the marketplace about their activities. To silence and punish her the smugglers cut out her tongue.

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Friday 18 May
Grey day with mist in the afternoon (8-15 degrees Celsius). Drove to Weymouth to see the the Olympic yacht race site. BBC news announced a search for three missing local fishermen and their boat. Bought dover sole for dinner from Weyfish shop in the old harbour that the men normally deliver crabs to. Deeply saddening. Lunch at The Boat That Rocks (Radio Caroline) in the marina and a good chin wag with new acquaintance, Chris. Finished the day with a movie at the 30s vintage Rex Cinema in Wareham.

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Saturday 19 May
Started grey then sunny for the rest of the day (9-18 degrees Celsius) News of the missing fishermen is not good. A sunken vessel has been located and one body. Fearing the worst. Our son Tristan came down from London for the weekend. We showed him Lawrence’s marble memorial statue in St Martin’s church and realised it was the anniversary of his death today. Odd. Messed about in a row boat on the Frome and walked seven miles of the Purbeck Way from Studland to Corfe Castle in glorious sunshine amongst grazing animals and glorious views of Poole harbour one way and the English Channel the other. Taxi whizzed us back to Studland’s Bankers Arms for an ale whilst in the background a wedding party sung ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ in the local Norman era church.

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Sunday 20 May
Grey day (9-15 degrees Celsius) The worst possible news for the fishermens’ families. The life raft was found on the sunken boat. The search has been called off. Three families and a community are grieving. A big program for us today starting with a walk from Tyneham to the beach to view the bay and cliffs then wandered through the deserted village of Tyneham. all the families were forcibly evacuated in 1943 when the land was turned over to the army. It’s a tiny time capsule. On to St Mary’s Priory for Tristan to experience coffee in the gardens and home to prepare for the Elliott family lunch celebrating Stuart’s 61st birthday. Happy day!

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Monday 21 May
Mostly sunny (10-18 degrees Celsius) Explored Dorchester. Local writer Thomas Hardy based his ‘Mayor of Castorbridge’ on the town. Stu bought ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ to read. The treat for me was a pair of white swans with six grey fluffy cygnets paddling alongside in a stream bordering the town. Oak Tea Room recreates the genteel ritual of taking tea and the Celtic bakery makes only Dorset pasties and oh, are they good! Our local pub, The Sailors’ Return, put on a folk music jam tonight, ten musicians, including six piano accordions, churned out toe tapping jigs, reels, a sailors’ hornpipe and waltzes. It’s the first time I’ve seen someone play the BBQ tongs as a percussion instrument.

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Tuesday May 22
Sunny all day (15-24 degrees Celsius) Stuart’s actual birthday. I had a job interview by skype while Stuart walked the three miles to Lulworth. Met up for coffee in the cove then strolled to the lookout. Our celebration lunch was in the Priory Hotel gardens. You really can’t beat it on a sunny day. Delicious food and thoughtful service. Chatted with a lovely couple staying in the Boathouse, Jill and Ron. Stu loves reading in our garden in the late sun, I love siestas… Evening walk dodging nettles to the ‘white horse’ chalk art on the ridge from Sunray Pub in Osmington.

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Wednesay May 23
Cloudless sunny day (13-25 degrees Celsius) Insurance companies have to be amongst the most loathed companies. Four weeks after lodging my detailed claim for damage to rental car and theft of my luggage they ask for more information…. This is the first time I have lodged a travel claim and I doubt I will bother with theft insurance in future. Drove to Ringstead. Private access to beach for which you pay 5 pounds. Funny thing was the young chap who gave us our parking ticket then immediately appeared at the cafe bar when we ordered coffee. Like a Monty Python skit but sadly he had no sense of humour. The cliff walk swarmed with bugs so we took ourselves down to the pebble beach for a picnic of beer and sandwiches. The most fun of the day was trying to hit the empty beer can with our endless supply of ammunition. Stuart’s sister Catharine has joined us for two nights so we walked the lovely loop walk from Smugglers’ Inn, Osmington Mill in afternoon sunshine.

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Thursday May 24
An even hotter sunny day! (13-26 degrees Celsius) Today was a five mile loop walk from the Square and Compas car park in Worth Matravers along the cliff from Winspit and through the fields. The hundreds of steps up were a great workout. I coped with the cliffs and Stu survived the cows. Cheese and veg pie and Apple Blossom beer at the unique Square and Compass pub followed by coffee and rhubarb crumble cake at the village tea shop garden. Very ‘Midsomer Murder’ vibe in this village. Stuart and Catharine have just walked part of the Jubilee Trail to West Knighton ending at the New Inn with its deck overlooking a meadow while I caught up on yoga practice.

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Friday May 25
Blue skies again (14-29 degrees Celsius) Back to Wareham for a stroll beside the Frome River then St Mary’s Priory for one last coffee with Catharine before a trip down memory lane for Stuart. Car ferry to Poole then to Christchurch to see the Priory church where his parents married followed by whitebait lunch on the seafront at Mudeford. So many little boxes with their decks facing the sea. Fishing boats and crab pots reminded us of the loss of the Weymouth fishermen.

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Saturday May 26
Sunny with gusty winds all day (14-28 degrees Celsius) Bovington bicycle shop stopped renting bikes two years ago (would have been nice if you had answered your phone) so on to plan B. Picked up the Lawrence of Arabia trail and part of the Jubilee trail from Moreton village after almond and plum cake and coffee in the garden of the tea shop. Fields of wheat chest high, meadows ringed by oaks and a forest brightened by purple rhododendrons. St Nicholas church is a tiny gem with its etched glass windows. Pleased to see the grave of T E Lawrence well cared for though he would not have approved of the rose bush planted on it. Final coastal walk in sunshine finishing at the panorama of Durdle Door. We saved the last drink for the beer garden of the Weld Arms in East Lulworth where the sun was still warm at 8pm. Home to catch The Hump’s embarrassing Eurovision song…

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Final Note: This has been a wonderful fortnight for both of us and we were delighted family could share some of it. Stuart is 95 per cent of the way to total recovery from his stroke and has embraced the lifestyle changes needed to reduce future stroke risk, even the limitation on alcohol consumption (no small thing for a man who loves his ales and wine). Our walks have rekindled his love of his homeland and I’ve found that with enough antihistamine in my system I too can enjoy the English countryside! Nevertheless we remain true to our roots. I am as one with Dorothea Mackellar while Stuart’s ‘love of field and coppice’ still runs strongly through his veins. If you haven’t read the powerful ‘My Country’, Dorothea’s love poem to Australia, it is well worth a look:

http://www.dorotheamackellar.com.au/archive/mycountry.htm

4 Responses to “Dorset Photo Diary”

  1. Cassie Neilson May 27, 2012 at 2:59 am #

    Well I am finally logged on to this site Sharon, slack I know. But thrilled to hear Stu is doing so well and that you are sort of enjoying your forced R & R.

    • Sharon Tickle May 27, 2012 at 6:22 am #

      Thanks Cassie. I have enjoyed Dorset but equally happy to be moving on to Paris today. Love, Sxx

  2. Michelle Noble May 27, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Hey there. Your photos are better than the tourist office brochures! Looks like you had some wonderful sunshine too. Amazing how a setback can allow us to experience some beautiful things that nature has waiting for us to discover. Continue to make the most of an enforced rest and enjoy! Our best wishes, Michelle and Bryan.x

    • Sharon Tickle May 27, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      Thanks Michelle. Just arrived and settled into Paris apartment with a good friend. Nice to be back in France. Stu will try to call Bryan for a chat this week. Hope you are getting this fabulous weather too. Sxx

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