:: DAY 1 ::
Weather report ~ sun and blue sky, pale hazy turning to deep azure. Seriously hot.
Our first day in Dorset always consists of a trip to the sea, it's an absolute must-do as far as I'm concerned. Usually we head to West Bay harbour and pootle around a little, but this time we headed a little further around the coast to the beach at Burton to take advantage of a glorious summers day. I actually forgot to take my camera (well more precisely I had the camera but had forgotten to put the battery back in it) so have no pictures of this day, you'll have to make do with my words. The sun was really hot, honestly, it quite took us by surprise. Had completely forgotten what hot sun feels like, it was bliss! We put up our beach tent and set up camp, and there we stayed for the next five hours. Lounging around on blankets, eating a picnic lunch, digging holes in the shingle, searching for sea glass and paddling in and out of the sea. A short stroll for ice creams, nothing too strenuous. It was the loveliest start to our holiday, we just couldn't believe our luck with the weather. Sunshine! No rain!!! Yaaaayyyy!!!!!
:: DAY 2 ::
Weather report ~ cloudless, clear blue sky. Scorchingly hot, 90°F.
After a very lazy Day 1, Day 2 was destined to have much more in it. It was a day with a Plan as we had somewhere special to go. Some time ago I took advantage of a special offer and pre-ordered a combined ticket for Abbotsbury's three Tourist Attractions. First up was the Subtropical Gardens and we were all looking forward to it, we've been a few times in the past although the Little People could only vaguely remember it.
It's a stunning garden whatever time of year you visit, but last week's incredible summer weather made it even more so. The intense blue of the sky and the bright sunlight transported us out of England and it really felt like we had somehow been magically whisked abroad.
Very funny looking at the pictures I took on this day, there are many containing blurred action shots of the Little People. They barely stood still the whole time we were there, and not for the first time I marvelled at their enthusiasm and energy. It seemed boundless, even on this scorching hot day. On the opposite end of the scale, I felt like I was winding down almost to a stand still, and spent much of my time trying to absorb some cooling, refreshing air from all the lush greenery.
I really loved the lush leafiness of the gardens, it provided a welcome respite from the heat of the day. Many of the pathways meander in and out of dense shrubbery and are shaded by a thick green canopy of leaves overhead so it wasn't quite so hot as the out-in-the-open bits.
The Little People loved that the pathway leading to our picnic spot was marked as a Secret Walk. It's not especially secret, merely a path leading to a gate at the edge of the gardens which takes you up a steep grassy slope to a magnificent coastal view point.
This is the view that greets you as you huff and puff to the top, isn't it gorgeous? This is looking West along the sweep of Lyme Bay....
...and this is the view East along the stunning Chesil beach. You can see the Fleet Lagoon there, with the slice of shingle beach separating it from the sea.
We managed to find some shade under the hedgerow to eat our picnic, it was such a lovely spot with butterflies fluttering all around us and the sound of gentle birdsong. The Little People were kept busy trying to catch grasshoppers in between bites of their sandwich.
After lunch we strolled back down into the gardens and continued our journey. Down through the Himalayan part of the garden, and into the bamboo forest.
It was cool and shady and beautiful.
Out of the shade and into the bright afternoon sun, it's time for the Hydrangea Walk.
I'm still not sure about hydrangeas. Actually, I am sure....I don't much like them. No particular reason, they just don't float my boat.
I did spend time admiring all the colour variations, and I did try to like them just a little bit more, tried to appreciate their papery beauty. But nope, they are not for me. I am a brash Dahlia Girl really, I think hydrangeas are just a bit too refined and subtle for me.
I took some hilarious photos of the Little Peeps posing under these ginormous Gunnera plants, I think these outlandish leaves definitely ranked amongst the Best Bits for them.
The afternoon stretched ahead as we continued to wander around, it's hard to convey how unbelievably hot it was on this day. The dappled shade under the trees was so inviting, I felt like I wanted to lay down there and not move another inch.
We all love this pond, and it was remembered fondly from previous years. The Little People ran straight to the fish food dispenser with their 20p's, and it was super sweet watching Little B join in. I did try to photograph the fish (some huge koi carp and lots of smaller goldfish), but they would not co-operate. Plus I did rather have my hands full trying to prevent Little B from throwing his whole body into the water.
I think this is my favourite bit of the garden, it's a hot, dry sunny bank that leads down from the pond in a series of terraces and steps.
The flowers are so incredibly bright and vibrant here, and the scent also lovely....herbs and pine resin and hot dusty earth, it reminded me of many summers spent on the Greek Islands when I was in my twenties.
Ahhhhhh refreshment! I was soooo ready to sit down in this fabulous outdoor café, flip off my sandals and partake in a bit of restorative munching and slurping under the shade of a large umbrella.
Mmmmmmm mmmmmmm. Lovely.
The last part of our visit to the gardens consisted of a wistful browse through the small but beautiful garden shop, and a lengthy stint in the playground. There is a very long tall slide there, and it was quite difficult to extract our two year old from its delights.
I think this particular day (Monday 23rd July) was my favourite of the whole week, and one of the reasons I loved it so much was its length. It went on and on and on and on. Many, many hours of sun drenched pleasure.
We are into the evening now on the same day as the subtropical gardens, and we are down at Eype beach to cook and eat dinner. It is about 6pm in the above photo, and still rather hot and gorgeous as you can see.
I love love love coming down to this small beach in the evenings, it's become something of a little ritual for us if the weather is right for it. Other families are here doing the same thing as us, lighting up barbecues, dipping toes in the water and generally enjoying a relaxing, happy end-of-day.
We make camp, oh how I love doing this! Our beach tent goes up, blankets are arranged, ice and beers go into a bucket and then it's time to simply sit and stare. It's heavenly. The sea is calm, the air is warm, and soon the scent of smoking barbecue coals fills the air.
We tend to eat simply when we're out and about, with J in charge of cooking the Aberdeen Angus beef burgers and me in charge of the accompaniments.
I make Greek Salad and open a tub of tsatsiki. Rip up some chunks of fresh bread. Job done. Pass me another cold beer will you?
As we sit and wait for our burgers to cook, we witness a most amazing sight. Can you see in the above photo the dark shadows in the water? A large shoal of mackerel passes by in the midst of a feeding frenzy, and the sea is positively alive and jumping with the sprats that they are scoffing. We watch amazed as fishermen up and down the beach run to the waters edge, cast out their lines and pull in half a dozen mackerel within seconds. How great is that? Almost makes me want to take up fishing.
The sun is making it's journey slowly but surely towards the horizon, casting everything in it's golden glow.
We sit and chat and drink beer, and it is all so near perfect that my heart feels like it wants to leap out of my body and into the sea.
It is beautiful, oh so beautiful down here on the warm pebbles at this time of day.
8.30pm and our camp is in shadow now. Although it is still warm, we decide to light up a camp fire.
I set off down the beach with the Little People to collect driftwood and indulge in a bit of pebble therapy.
Small pieces of driftwood are fairly easy to come by on the beach and we soon have a couple of buckets to take back.
The rock table makes a perfect setting for our campfire, and a sleepy Little B at last decides he might quite like to sit still with Daddy.
The Little People are not sitting still, of course they're not, how bizarre to think that they might! I cannot quite remember what they were up to, but it involved a large peice of wood and much running and shouting. My heart did that jumpy thing again as I watched them play, soo happy.
Time check :: 9pm now, and for the first time that day I begin to feel very slightly chilly on my bare arms. The fire's going a treat and it's quite wonderful to snuggle up near it's warmth and wrap a blanket around my shoulders.
There was a beautiful crescent moon hanging in the sky that night. We stayed down near the shore until almost 10pm to wait for the first evening star to appear so that we could make our wishes upon it. It was so exciting when we first saw it! Even Little B, in his sweet baby voice declared he was making a Star Wish. He scrunched his eyes up tight and listened to his sister say the rhyme "Star Light Star Bright, The first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight".
I did too. I closed my eyes and made my wish upon that first night star. It was absolutely magical.