If Part 1 of my Dorset tales was all about enjoying the sea, Part 2 seems to be about enjoying views and vistas. We choose to return to the same familiar and much loved places time after time when we visit Dorset and this year was no exception. Sometimes this bothers me a little and I wonder if it must be boring for the Little Peeps, if they wouldn't rather be off discovering new places. But then I listen to Little B exclaim "OH! I remember this place!" when we arrive at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, and I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. His obvious joy at remembering he had been here before is wonderful.
The weather during the second half of our week away was glorious :: chilly at times, but with amazing clear skies and the brightest sunshine, perfect Spring weather actually.
Despite the very stormy winter that Dorset suffered, there didn't appear to be too much damage in the gardens. In fact, it was looking beautiful with the azaleas, magnolias and camellias in full (pink) bloom.
Each time we visit here we fall into something of a routine, arriving late morning and making our way through the first part of the gardens before climbing this gently sloping grassy track to the top....
....which makes for a very scenic picnic lunch spot. It is magical being so high up here, with sweeping views out across the whole expanse of Chesil Beach. The stunning views combined with warm sunshine makes our picnic taste even more yummy than usual, I'm sure of it.
J points out that we can see one of our favourite places from up here too, if I can manage to pull my eyes away from the shoreline and look inland. There it is look, St Catherine's Chapel, sitting up there on it's exposed hill. We'll be going there a bit later on, another one of our family holiday routines.
After lunch, we head back down into the gardens and continue our journey through the lush green foliage. The Little People, fueled by tuna sandwiches and chocolate, are haring along these paths now, laughing and shouting as they race along.
Some things do have the power to stop them in their noisy tracks, such as this wonderfully carved fallen tree which they excitedly remember from our last visit.
Other things manage to stop me in my quiet tracks, such as the carpet of pink petals under this tree.
We are in the very centre of the gardens now, surrounded on all sides by lush planting. This is the watery bit, a series of interconnecting ponds and painted red bridges which the Little People love.
Visually, it's incredibly peaceful here. The gardens are unusually quiet with only a handful of other visitors on this midweek afternoon. But the soundtrack of my family is boisterous, especially thanks to Little B who's excitement leaves his body in the form of a constant stream of noise. Sweet boy, I do so love his enthusiasm for life. I have many photos of the Little Peeps taken at the gardens on this afternoon, mainly blurred images of them in full action. I realise not a lot changes really from year to year even though the LP are growing and changing at such a rate, and that realisation is very reassuring somehow.
There is the usual excitement as we reach the fish pond, the usual scrabble for 20 pence pieces to feed into the little dispensing machine to get handfuls of fish food. Disappointingly, the fish are not remotely hungry this time. They swim lazily around, occasionally coming to the surface for a half hearted investigation of the food that has been purchased and eagerly offered to them. Little B is very sad at this unexpected turn of events so we don't linger for long here, even though it is a very beautiful spot for lingering.
We come down the steps through the Mediterranean Garden which has yet to reach it's full glory (I adore this part of the garden in full summer). The Little People suddenly realise that we are now nearing the café and excited thoughts of ice cream replace the sad thoughts of the unhungry fish.
The café here at the gardens is very lovely indeed with a large outdoor seating area surrounded by greenery. There is a small avery here too with a resident kookaburra, and it's distinctive calling makes me momentarily think I might not be in England at all, but somewhere else entirely. J takes the impatient Little People off to climb, slide and swing in the playground, leaving me suddenly alone for a short while. I close my eyes and drift into a short but pleasurable daydream, fulled by the warm sun on my face and a huge slab of lemon drizzle cake in front of me. It's very pleasant indeed and I'm reluctant to return to reality.
Little People have a suprising amount of energy in them don't they? After we've emerged out of the subtropical gardens, we decide to climb up the hill to visit St Catherines Chapel (just as we do every visit to Dorset), and the decision is met with enthusiasm.
We ease into our familiar routine, we don't even need to communicate to know the ritual here. The blanket comes out and J and I settle down together with our backs against the ancient sun warmed walls. We chat and take in the coastal views while the Little Peeps race around. It's as it always is up here for us, and it feels reassuringly good. The beautiful, peaceful views, and the noisy soundtrack of our children squealing, yelling and laughing.
I find it interesting that when in Dorset, J and I have different favourite places that remain unchanged each year. For me, I love to be right next to the sea, walking the shoreline on any of the beaches where I spent my childhood. I like to be as close to the water as possible without actually being in it or on it. For J, he loves the high-up places of Dorset and no visit is complete unless we take a trip to St Catherines Chapel and also here, to Eggardon Hill.
I love it up here too, and this is also a place of my childhood where I used to come for picnics with my grandparents and cousins. I love the fresh openness of it up here, and on this morning the light was unbelievably bright and the views crystal clear.. It's not often that you can see the sea so clearly from here, it really was beautiful.
We were lucky to see a herd of deer in the valley, including one white albino deer. It's a long way down and the zoom lense on my old camera isn't good enough to show them to you in the above photo. But it was a wonderful sight and the Little People were suitably impressed.
I enjoy the Cloud Shadows as they move slowly across the hillside, one of my most favourite Nature Observations (Reflections-in-still-water and Sunshine-rays-through-clouds are up there at the top of my list too)
We mostly come up to Eggardon Hill for lungfuls of fresh air and to view the views, although the Little People don't really get this at their age. They spend their time devising games, looking for ways to expend energy. Lets scramble up the side of the hill! Lets run down the hill! Lets chase each other round in circles! I find that chocolate does the trick, and for a little while I can persuade them to cosy up with us up on our old picnic blanket while we fill our mouths with easter egg and view the views.
There is a tractor laboriously ploughing the field below us, and it's both ridiculously tedious and absolutely fascinating to watch it's slow progress in such a huge field. I feel a sadness creep in, as this is the last day of our holiday. We have bags to pack, family to say good bye to and a long five hour journey ahead of us.
It has been another really good holiday, and I hold onto the thought that we will be back again at the end of July for our Summer visit. Layering up those memories, building and shaping those precious childhoods.
Happy times indeed xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx