Chesil Beach & the Fleet, Dorset

Chesil Beach & the Fleet, Dorset
Chesil Beach & the Fleet, Dorset


Undoubtedly my favourite county. I try to visit at least once a year. Where I stay is in the village of Uplyme, just outside Lyme Regis. Although this is technically in Devon, the border with Dorset is right outside the house, and I spend most of my time in Dorset.

My friends Pat & Peter Dench run a superb B&B there - see the link on the left for The Old Black Dog
So, here we go................Dorset

This is ABBOTSBURY. Abbotsbury Swannery on the Fleet Lagoon in Dorset is unique. This is the only place in the world where you are able to walk through the heart of a colony of nesting Mute Swans.
The Swannery was established by Benedictine Monks who built a monastery at Abbotsbury during the 1040's. The monks farmed the swans to produce food for their lavish Dorset banquets. St Peter's monastery was destroyed in 1539 during the dissolution. Some of the ruins are still visible around St Nicholas' Church in the village.


Set north of the Purbeck Hills between Wareham and Corfe Castle off the A351.

The Blue Pool at Furzebrook constantly varies in colour. Very fine clay in suspension in the water diffracts light in different ways producing a spectrum of colour sometimes green sometimes turquoise.
Set in a deep clay bowl, steps lead down to the waters edge or up to views of the Purbeck Hills. The Pool is surrounded by 25 acres of heath woodland and gorse interlaced with sandy paths that seem to take you to another world.
The web-site says 'discover the luxury of silence'. How right they are!

I'll cover the tank museum at a later date. However, if you go down King George V road, at the end of Bovington Camp, you'll find a car park and viewing place. As well as being an excellent spot from which to watch armoured vehicles coming over the top of what almost amounts to a small mountain, it is here that you will find a memorial stone to T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia).
In the corner of the car park, there is a marked footpath. Walk a little way down here, and there is another marker, this time marking a spot close to where he died, when he crashed his Brough Superior motorcycle.

In fact, he was returning to his home at Clouds Hill from Bovington Camp, when he clipped the back of a push bike and was thrown from his motorcycle, sustaining fatal head injuries. Clouds Hill is only a little further down, at the end of King George V Road.

Of course, Cerne Abbas is renowned for the huge chalk carving of The Giant. This Scheduled Ancient Monument lies just north of the village, and there is a well-designed viewing point where you can see him in all his glory

However, there is far more to Cerne Abbas than just the giant. Take the time to wander down into the village itself. It's really quite beautiful, with a wealth of houses dating from Early Tudor times to the Georgian period. There's several little tea rooms and public houses too.
A Benedictine monastery was founded there in the 10th century, but only the porch to the Abbot's hall remains. There is also a 14th. century tithe barn.

Corfe is a beautiful little village. In its small space, it includes a model of the village itself, and a most impressive castle ruin. Parking is pretty nigh impossible there, so I hopped on the Swanage Steam Railway, which conveniently stops almost in the heart of the village.

An historic town, with two excellent museums, and this Art Deco cinema. One of the suburbs of Dorchester is Poundbury, designed by HRH Charles, Prince Of Wales. A more soul=less place I've seldom been.....

situated 1 mile from Swanage in Dorset, is a fabulous 280 acre countryside paradise, consisting of sea-cliffs, coastal limestone downland, haymeadows, hedgerows and woodland. With stunning views, walking trails, the historic Great Globe, superb geology and fascinating wildlife.

Lulworth castle, built in the early 17th Century as a hunting lodge, became a country house at the heart of a large estate. Thomas Howard, 3rd Lord Bindon, built the Castle in order to entertain hunting parties for the King and Court. The Howards owned it until 1641 when it was purchased by Humphrey Weld, the direct ancestor of the present owners.

The exterior of the Castle changed little over the years but the interior evolved in line with changing fashions until it was gutted by a disasterous fire in 1929. Restoration work began on the ruin by the Department of the Environment and was followed through to completion in 1998 by English Heritage.
The fascinating thing is, the fire started in the basement kitchens and spread upwards. The decision was taken to simply replace the roof and windows, but leave the shell gutted. Hence you can see at ground level how the castle was constructed, upwards through various layers to the top floor with its 1920s decor.

Whereas the Castle is in East Lulworth, the Cove is just down the road in West Lulworth.
Lulworth Cove was formed approximately 10,000 years ago by the awesome powers of a river and the sea. It continues to evolve behind a narrow Portland Stone entrance as the softer Purbeck, Wealden, Greensand and Chalk exposures are eroded.

and this is the Castle Inn in West Lulworth. I stayed here once, and the accommodation was excellent. The pub is also renowned for its' food.

Lyme Regis is a quaint, genteel sort of town. It has a beautiful sea front, facing the broad expanse of Lyme Bay, and the Cobb harbour, made world-famous when it was featured in the film 'The French Lieutenant's Woman'

Apart from the spectacular white horse, complete with rider, on the hills overlooking Osmington village, the Smugglers' Inn is really all there is at Osmington Mills. It lies in a sunken hollow at the end of a dead-end road, and you can just imagine smugglers using its' tucked-away location for their nefarious deeds!

The Bill is an important way-point for coastal traffic, and so three lighthouses have been built to protect shipping, in particular from its strong tidal race and shallow reef.

The most recent lighthouse is the distinctively white and red striped Portland Bill Lighthouse, which was built in 1906 and is 35 metres (115 ft) high
It's one of the few places in Dorset with a FREE dedicated motorcycle park. The views across Chesil Beach and the Fleet as you descend the steep road back towards Weymouth are unsurpassed.

This narrow promontory sticking out across the entrance to Poole harbour interests me for its' large number of Streamline Art Deco houses. Sadly, because Sandbanks is a property hot spot, and one of the most expensive places to live in the UK, many of them are being torn down and replaced with modern apartments, to maximise the income from the land.
At the far end of the spit is a chain ferry, taking traffic across the harbour entrance to Nine Barrow Hill and Studland - and some of the most spectacular scenery Dorset has to offer.

Shaftesbury's biggest claim to fame is Gold Hill, which once purported to be somewhere 'oop North' in a famous Hovis TV advert!

With its abundance of medieval buildings, superb Abbey, world famous Schools, picturesque Almshouse and two Castles, Sherborne has much to offer visitors. Ideally located on the Dorset and Somerset border.

Swanage itself, whilst attractive, is quite an ordinary seaside town. However, the steam railway that links it to Norden, near Corfe, is well worth a trip.

Oh yes, and they also run diesel locos..........

In 1834, when six farm workers from the tiny village of Tolpuddle in Dorset were sentenced to seven years’ transportation, a massive protest swept across the country. Thousands of people marched through London and many more organised petitions and protest meetings to demand their freedom.
Their ‘crime’ was to take an oath of solidarity in forming a trade union. This is the monument outside the Martyrs' Museum.

Tyneham Village in Dorset has been deserted for over 60 years, since the second world war. Before that it was an idyllic countryside village, only a couple of miles from the sea and the delightful Worbarrow Bay. It had it's own school, church and post office, several farms and lots of cottages and the mansion called Tyneham House, or the Great House as it was known.

Life for the villagers was idyllic and simple. There was no electricity or running water but it was still a lovely place to live, free from the trouble and strife of the outside world. All this changed just before the Christmas of 1943 when the villagers were told they must leave temporarily,however they have not been allowed to return to this day and the village of Tyneham has remained as if frozen in time for the last 60 years.
It remains in the middle of the MoD tank range, but is now cared for, and open to the public at weekends.
Despite it being a lovely Summer's day when I went there, I felt tinged with sadness for the people who were forced out of such an idyllic place - no more so, than in the restored little church, with its' beautifully tended churchyard.

It's only a tiny little place, but I love going there of an evening, for fish and chips from one of the little chalets lining the pretty harbour. In fact, loads of bikes go there on a Summer's evening. The harbour, both sea and river side, is attractive enough, but if you take the time to walk down to the beach, the cliffs are spectacular in the late evening, when the dying sun's rays make them positively glow.

and on a busy Summer Sunday, it looks like this............

a lot of families take their kids there, just to see the bikes - quite a mini free bike show

Another pretty conventional seaside town, although the area around the river is nice. However, this Art Deco building on the seafront has always caught my eye.

Wimborne has a tiny Minster, dedicated to St. Cuthberga, who founded it. It also has a pretty amazing model town, which is an exact replica of the real thing, and which changes when the town does.

This is just a taste of what Dorset has to offer. I hope you have enjoyed it.

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