I was having a discussion with my Dad last week about the differences between our respective Countrysides, ie the landscape of South West Dorset that I grew up with (and where he still lives) and the landscape of North Yorkshire which I now call home. He described the Dorset countryside as being " gentle and soft", and I totally get what he means. The hills are generally smaller, with the fields divided by hedges as opposed to the hard dry stone walls of Yorkshire. And yes, it does give the impression of being Gentle. At this time of year, it's also amazingly green and lush looking too.
When we visit Dorset we naturally gravitate towards the coast, but there are a couple of favourite "must-go-to's" which are inland. The picture above shows the impossibly beautiful village of Abbotsbury, which is the starting point for a short, sweet climb up to an amazing place :: St Catherines Chapel. We were here on 20th April, it was a terrifically hot Wednesday as I remember, not a cloud in the sky all day.
There....you can see the chapel perched on top of the hill as if it's sat there waiting for us to arrive. I'm carrying Little B on my back in a carrier, just as I did six years ago when Little Lady was a weeny tot. Uh-huh, we've been coming up to this particular spot to picnic and admire the view for many years. We are regulars to St C's.
Abbotsbury gets smaller and smaller as we climb higher and higher...
...and the coast also comes into view. That little strip of water in the distance is part of the Fleet Lagoon, it's an amazing part of coastline that always fascinated me as a child.
Gorgeous views whichever way you look...if you take a quick squizzy here, you can get a better impression of the chapel's location in relation to the coast/chesil beach, it is totally stunning. I love it.
It's an impressive building, this one. It looks and feels beautifully ancient (it's over 600 years old) and makes me instinctively want to sort of hold my breath and tiptoe around it with respect for it's grand age and Holiness. The Little People do not get it when I try and explain this to them. They hurtle in and out of it's ancient doors, run hell for leather around and around the perimeter playing chase. They go inside and shout at each other to test the awesome echo. I shhhhhhhhhhhhhh them. I ask them to treat this ancient and holy building with respect. They eventually hush down a little, and I spread out a rug and we lean our backs against the old warm walls and enjoy a lovely picnic lunch. Which is precisely what we do every single time we come to St Catherines Chapel, it's another one of our little traditions. I'm sure next year they'll be doing the same sort of running/yelling (along with Little B who is just learning the delights of running and shouting) and I'll be doing the same sort of shhhhsssshing all over again. Then we'll all sit down to eat lunch and admire the view. It's the way it is with us at St C's.
The above picture is another one of our must-go-to places, I know I've chatted about this place before. We usually come up here to fly our kite, but since the kite mysteriously disappeared (not difficult in the chaos that is our cellar), this year we came up here simply to enjoy the light, space, height, views and the roly-polying possibilities.
It's early evening, about 5.30ish, and we are here to eat/drink/stroll/view/roll/toddle/play/sit. As always, I am simultaneously calmed and intoxicated by the sense of space, the scale of the landscape (quite high/expansive for Dorset) and the wonderful golden end-of-day light.
I am thrilled to discover so many cowslips growing too, I don't remember ever seeing so many here before.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh the beautiful Dorset countryside, in all it's soft, gentle, undulating glory!
There look, you can see where we chose to lay down our blanket and picnic for the second meal that day (our lunch was eaten in the photos above at St C's chapel, two picnics in one day, hows that for good going?). It's beautifully sheltered down in the dip between the ridges, and crucially it's safe for Little B who would most certainly not be safe on top of the ridge. Best keep his toddling ways confined to the dip.
After we've eaten, I leave J and the Little Peeps playing frisby and hunting down caterpillars, and off I toddle to enjoy a few moments to myself. I walk along the very top of the ridge and marvel at my own shadow. I reflect on the day, how long and glorious it's been, how many of it's hours we've spent outdoors (at least 8, getting on for 9 by now). I think how much the Little People seem to have enjoyed it, how Little B is growing into the family so beautifully (he loves picnic eating as it happens, the cold sausages, tomatoes, crisps and strawberries barely touched the sides, not to mention the chocolate). And for the umpteenth time this holiday I think how lovely it is that I can share this little patch of my Childhood with my own children year after year. How heart warming that they are growing to love it as much as I do, that my own childhood memories are being layered with theirs.
Sigh. Such happiness. Lucky, lucky me.
Tomorrow, one last chapter...see you then xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx