With my multimap directions all printed out, off we set. The journey down was not too bad, despite the rain we did really good time until we got right to the turn off for Bournemouth. The police had shut the road!! And we had no other directions! Martin did what any red blooded male in that situation would do - took the next turn off. And then for an hour we sat in a traffic jam, as everyone else did the same thing.
Thanks to my brilliant navigational skills we did find our B&B and although rather basic it was comfortable enough and had a wonderful panoramic view from the window. Of course our room was on the 2nd floor, and of course the lift was broken so we did have to climb 6 flights of stairs every time we went up to our room, but Martin was chuffed to get a front door key to the pub!!!
We had soon dumped our bags and went out to have a short look round - we were based about 6 miles from the centre of Bournemouth, and about 1.5 miles from Boscombe Pier. We had intending only a quick recky as it was rather damp and very windy but we seemed to keep walking, wanting to catch the land train that we never saw, and ended up walking all the way to the pier, up through the chine and back again!!!! We did treat ourselves to a MR Whippy ice cream for our troubles though.
One advantage of our long sit in traffic was that we had spotted all the best eating chains on the way so we opted for the Harvester, arriving just in time to catch the end of the half price early bird menu. The portions were so big, I had a large chicken quarter left to put towards the next days picnic.
Our first full day dawned just as predicted by the weather people - chucking it down with rain. But we had our wet weather gear, it wasn't cold, and we were determined. We set out for Lolworth Cove but soon decided it might be better to save that treat for the following promised dryer day, and choose something with indoor opportunities, we then opted for Dorchester which advertised a Tutankhamen exhibition. It may well have but everyone else had a similar idea and the queue for the converted church snaked around the courner. Hmm, and at £8 per person perhaps not. OK we had seen a beautiful flower and plant strewn river walk advertised and it wasn't raining.
We passed the town museum on the way down to the river, where we were enticed by the promise of a 'Toys of the past' presentation .... until we got to the door and were shocked to see the town council demanded £6.50 per person to get in there too. The Teddy Bear Museum and The Terracotta People Exhibition were equally as expensive, and the river walk when we eventually found it was nothing more than an alley between the foundry and small stream on one side, and some corrugated sheds on the other. So we left Dorchester and headed for Weymouth. Weymouth was not quite as I remembered it from when we had taken the girls soon after Laura was born, but it is still the typical British seaside resort, and I took heaps of photos of it before all those traditions disappear for good, including the deckchair hire - not doing any trade in the rain, the flag strewn B&B houses, and one of the trampolines as featured in a very early photo of Kelly 22 years earlier. Alas there were no donkeys though. When we last visited, Laura was but a few months old and I needed a new bra. I went into this M&S where the assistant embarrassed both herself and me by asking when the baby was to be born!!After walking along the seafront and back we got in the car and headed towards Brewers Quay which a leaflet drop had promised held lots of fun and discover. Trouble was, although we found it easily enough, there was no where to park. We finally found atop a large hill, a place to leave the car, have our picnic and walk along the coastal path back to the quay. We had to laugh, as we ate our grub, a lady walking a large dog came by. She was happy to walk past but the dog had other ideas. Having seen our sausage rolls, he was having none of it, refusing to walk on to the extend that he actually dug his claws in and lay down in the grass. He wouldn't even move when she threw his toy. It was only when another puppy appeared that he forgot us (and food) and continued on his way.
Brewery Quay was not as interesting as we had hoped, lots of craft and gift shops but many of them shut. The science exhibition and the time walk were packed but the town museum was free and very interesting.
It was getting late but we were determined to use our newly acquired English Heritage membership so once back in the car we rushed on to Portland for a wander around Portland Castle, which was quite interesting if not a bit bare of character. After that a quick dash to see Portland Bill lighthouse before dusk set in (early because of the rainy and changeable weather).
Day two and another hearty breakfast before setting off for Lulworth cove and castle. It wasn't until we pulled into Lulworth village that we both remembered there is only one car park where you HAVE to park and it cost £2.50 for 2 hours!
Unfortunately the tide was up so it was not possible to get onto the beach (especially since I had forgotten my trainers) and we couldn't do the hikes for the same reason (although looking at the size of the hills I dont think trainers would have helped much there). A few interesting things did catch our eye though.. something strange was happening on the firring range as ever so often the bay would fill with smoke......
the typical Dorset thatched houses and
this strange tree!!
I think we only used about half hour of our car park time, even walking round the rock shop, before heading to the Castle. I had been looking forward to this as they were having jousting shows all through August. Now I admit the horsemanship was very good
but we had both been privileged to watch an enactment group hold a full day of jousting at Chilham castle and this was nothing like an enactment group. It was very obvious that lances were plastic
and this was only acting - not very good acting at that. I was totally gutted as I had been looking forward to this part, I couldn't stand and watch much (the kids were all having fun though).
Our next stop was the children's farm where we got to pet some of the (very few) animals including this little sweetheart, an angora goat.
At the danger of sounding a right misery, I have to also say the castle was a huge let down too - we had paid a hefty entrance fee, so were amazed to find the castle itself had been gutted by a fire in 1929, restoration mearly ensuring it was safe for the public. No attempt at putting back what was lost, the flooring was modern laminate, the stairs metal, the roof the bare minimum. What a lost opportunity. The audio - free in English Heritage places, had to be paid for (I hadn't even noticed it at the entrance but Martin said it was there), and little in the way of posters, pictures or information. We had our picnic in the car park and after a short lay enjoying the little bit of sun, we left to explore the nearby countryside. We recognised that this area was close to where we had camped in Dorset with our friends Jan and Trev and family back in the mid 90's, spotting the pub we had waited for them to meet us on our way down, and the pub we had walked across fields and train tracks to get to. We headed onto the MOD firing range and suddenly found this view. We passed Corfe castle - it was so packed the cars were blocking the whole of the grass verge so I just took a passing photo, and then as we followed the coast line to Swanage and Wareham, we saw this sign! A toll ferry, we hadn't been on one in years.
We were on it a matter of minutes but we reckon it saved us about 20 miles journey and who alone knows how much time. It was also great fun, I got to watch all the big ferry boats crossing to the Chanel Isles right up close while we waited to board.
As if we hadnt packed enough into two days, I desperately wanted to go see the Festival of Candles being held in Bournemouth gardens every wednesday in August. When we got there it was way too early - no time had been mentioned, just that it started at dusk. On the bandstand though the Poole Brass Band were playing. The atmosphere was amazing. Despite the downpour the place was popular, people were happily sitting under umbrellas or trees listening and enjoying.
I didnt see one badly behaved child, they were all bopping away to the music. It really was fantastic. One pair of little girls, abandoned to their own divises sat on the edge of the stream paddling their toes and bouncing up and down to the William Tell overture. We were totally amazed when the band finished their set to see all the children's faces, they were so dissappointed that the music was over, they had all been having so much of a good time.
The Candle festival works this way. On stands ( a bit like those they use for fireworks that are going to give a message) all round the park are little jar tea light holders, arranged in the shapes of various symbols and icons, - a union jack, a butterfly ets. Tapers are free, and as soon as the park keepers have finished on the ladders lighting the top most candles,
it is a free-for-all as both children and adults get to light all the candles.
Again the atmospher was great and soon the whole park was lit up. Saddly the light wasnt good for taking pictures but I did my best.
What a fantastic end to our three nights away.