Tag Archive | Dorset

Out the Window

Exploring England #40

Even with careful research and diligent attention to the details on booking websites, there’s no guarantee that what you see is what you will get when it comes to accommodation. On our journey around England, we stayed in eight different places and fortunately all were exactly what we expected. What we usually didn’t expect was the wonderful view we had out the windows of our vacation homes.

Our first night in England was spent in a small family-run guest house in Cranford, a few kilometres from Heathrow. The building was surrounded by a pretty cottage garden, filled with late summer flowers and apple trees laden with ripening fruit.

The only hotel we stayed in was in Portsmouth. As its name implies, the Royal Beach Hotel is located on the seafront. From the top of the shingle beach we could see across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.

Our Airbnb studio near Bridport was the top floor of a converted barn, on farmland owned by the same family for more than a century. The walk up Colmer’s Hill was tempting, but we couldn’t fit it in this time.

We knew from the photos on the website this Airbnb apartment in Falmouth had wonderful views. That was partly why we chose it and we weren’t disappointed. Looking out over the waters of Carrick Roads to the village of Flushing, we were intrigued by the constantly changing colours before us. We weren’t the only ones enjoying the view one morning!

We knew our Airbnb apartment in Manchester would have neither rural nor ocean views, but we weren’t expecting to see a worksite. From our living room we looked into the backyards of the Victorian terraces in the next street. We were fascinated by the renovations over the fence and wondered what the final outcome would be.

Every morning we watched the antics of this hungry little fellow, who helped himself to breakfast from a bird feeder in a tree.

Our next Airbnb home was in Holme Mills, just outside the Lake District. Once again we had beautiful rural views, this time accompanied by the rich rural aroma only cows can provide. The millpond lay behind our cottage and, at the top of the hill, was Lancaster Canal.

On the outskirts of York, our Airbnb cottage was a one in a modern complex located in the grounds of a plant nursery, so it wasn’t a surprise to find a beautifully landscaped formal garden on our doorstep.

While we admired the carefully tended garden beds, it was the local birds who kept us entertained every morning.

In London, we were back in familiar territory. From our studio in Cartwright Gardens, we could see the top of BT Tower above the neighbouring apartment block and, if we looked down, the tiny patch of lawn behind our building.

It would have been tempting to stay home all day in every place we stayed, but after travelling more than 15,000 km to get there we had more to do than look out the window!

00&h=450]

Revealed

Exploring England #5

November: Woodland

From our airbnb home just outside Bridport, the rural view was green and serene. Hidden behind a veil of early morning mist, Colmer’s Hill seemed distant and mysterious.

p1150429

As the mist began to lift, the surrounding woodland became clearer,

p1150430

and soon the Caledonian pines atop the hill were revealed.

p1150434

Jude’s Garden theme in October is Woodland

Buried Treasure

Exploring England #4

Like many people, we visited Dorset’s spectacular Jurassic Coast for one reason. Well-trod paths over dramatic cliffs lead to pretty coastal villages but we weren’t looking up. With heads down and eyes on the ground we had one goal¬† – to find fossils.

The 154 km stretch of coast between Exmouth and Studland Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage area, with geology spanning the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Millions of ancient creatures and plants are preserved in the sedimentary layers of the cliffs, waiting to be revealed when the cliffs crumble away during wild weather.

p1150675

At the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre we saw huge ammonites dating from the Jurassic Period. With high hopes we joined the crowds on Charmouth beach and, although we found many tiny treasures, there were no 185 million year old fossils lying around waiting to be discovered.

p1120993

p1120981

p1120992

p1130004

Continuing our search, we travelled west to Lyme Regis, a very busy town with very narrow streets. Avoiding the congestion and costly parking, we left the car at Charmouth Road car park. From the top of the cliffs it was a gentle downhill walk to the foreshore where a wide wall, built to protect the cliffs from erosion by the sea, doubles as a walking route into town.  It was only 400 metres but we took our time, enjoying wonderful views of the English Channel, the Jurassic limestone cliffs and the stony beach connecting Charmouth and Lyme Regis .

p1130024

p1130026

p1130034

Evidence of fossils was everywhere in Lyme Regis.

p11506201

The Lyme Regis Museum houses a vast collection. Some fossils were collected by Mary Anning, who made her living finding and selling them in the first half of the 19th century, while others have been found by modern enthusiasts. Along with more beautiful ammonites, there were fossilised plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs, sea creatures whose descendants include whales and dolphins.

p1120986

Fossils are still sold in Lyme Regis but we didn’t want to find our first fossil in a shop. The best way to achieve our aim was to join one of the museum’s guided walks, led by paleontologists Chris, Paddy and Tom.

p1120985

We met the our group outside the museum and, after a short explanation about the geology of the coast, our guides led the way to the beach, where early morning wanderers were already scouring the shore.

p1130063

Paddy showed us how to look for signs of fossils in the stones and demonstrated safe techniques for breaking them apart.

p1130074

p1130072

p1130091

Armed with a little knowledge and much anticipation the group spread out, and before long fossils were turning up everywhere.

p1130076

p1130081

p1130067

Our guides made sure everyone ended the walk with a handful of history. Ours included a tiny ammonite encased in mudstone and two belemnites, distant relatives of today’s cuttlefish.

20161126_143417

With our goal accomplished and our walk completed, our perspective changed. It was time to look at more than just the beach!

 

See more walks all around the world at Jo’s Monday Walks.

Lyme Regis Museum is currently closed for refurbishment but daily fossil walks are still taking place. Check the timetable for costs, dates and times.

The Sum of Its Parts

Exploring England #3

Think of beaches and images of never-ending sand, wide blue skies and brilliant sunshine come to mind. But Chesil Beach, on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset is anything but sandy.

p1120933

The beach, formed at the end of the last ice age, is 28 km long, up to 12 metres high and completely composed of pebbles. The size of the pebbles varies from one end of the beach to the other. At West Bay in the north the pebbles are tiny while south at Portland they are much larger. It’s said that fishermen landing on the coast at night can pinpoint their location according to the size of the stones on the beach.

Fleet Lagoon runs parallel to the ocean behind Chesil Beach between Portland and Abbotsbury. The lagoon is tidal and at low tide there’s just a puddle of brackish water left. A boardwalk across the tidal flats is decorated with wooden carvings of local wildlife.

p1120930

p1120929

p1120950

p1120949

p1120948

After the bridge crossing, the pebbles begin. It’s an arduous climb to the top of the mound and the slope on the other side, down to the water’s edge, is just as steep.

p1150572

p1150569

The beach may be vast, but each of its parts is tiny.

p1120937

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Tiny

Swanning Around!

Exploring England #2

It’s a warm sunny day in late summer and a walking expedition on the Dorset coast beckons. It’s not far to the village of Abbotsbury and there’s also a coastal path, but today we’re visiting Abbotsbury Swannery, one of the largest colonies of mute swans in the world.

p1120791

The swannery is located in the calm waters of Fleet lagoon, a long stretch of brackish water protected by Chesil Bank. The waters weren’t always so calm; at the end of the last Ice Age massive waves created the bank, a narrow wall of rocks between Lyme Bay and the coast. The land behind the bank was flooded as sea levels rose, creating the perfect breeding environment for water birds.

p1150437

There have been mute swans in the lagoon since the 11th century, when the Benedictine monks of St Peter’s Abbey began farming the birds. In 1543, after the dissolution of the monastery, Sir Giles Strangways bought the land from Henry VIII and the swans have been cared for by his descendants ever since. While the swannery is not a zoo and the swans are free to come and go, the colony is carefully managed. We must purchase tickets at the shop before entering the grounds of the swannery.

p1120793

p1120806

p1120796

From the entrance it’s a pleasant walk in the summer sun past grass covered fields and curious sheep. A stream flows beside the path and wildflowers bloom on its banks.

p1120803

p1120802

We enter the woodland closer to the coast and find hydrangeas flourishing in the dappled shade.

p1120821

Our first sighting of a swan is a thrilling moment. A single white bird stands on the path ahead of us as if guiding the way.

p1120823

Another swan with her half grown cygnets accompanies us for a while as she glides on a fast flowing stream.

p1120830

As we walk there are more swans,

p1120846

p1120816

but these glimpses do not prepare us for the spectacle waiting at the end of the path – dozens of swans, a sea of white on the sparkling waters of Fleet Lagoon.

20160901_115639

They might be called mute swans, but they are noisy. We’ve arrived at midday in time for a feeding session and the swans are excited. We learn that they receive limited feeding, sick or injured swans are captured and cared for before returning to the lagoon, and cygnets are monitored to ensure they remain healthy.

p1120855

Young visitors are invited to help feed the birds who gather close to shore.

p1120864

From a raised platform there’s a beautiful view of Fleet Lagoon, Chesil Bank and the swannery.

p1120894

But it’s the opportunity to see these magnificent birds up close that we have all come for.

p1120875

Abbotsbury Swannery is open every day from March to October, 10 am to 5 pm

See more great walks from around the world at Restless Jo’s Monday Walks.