We spent five days down in Dorset last week, it's such a familiar routine for us as year after year it's generally the same. I've been heading "home" for Easter ever since I left to go off to art college when I was 18. I remember with great clarity and fondness my very first visit with J in 1994 (we were both 25) when I introduced him to my home turf and also my parents (isn't that a heart-jumping, memorable thing?!) Like I say we've been back pretty much every Easter since, it's always great family time for us and I look forward to it loads.
We never quite know what the weather is going to throw at us at this time of year, it can be very unpredictable. We pack a whole assortment of layers and footwear and try to cater for extremes of temperature and wetness. Some years it has been scorching hot, other years wet, cold and gloomy, but mostly we end up with something of a mixed bag.
On the morning of our first day we always head to straight to the sea no matter what the weather. We treat ourselves to breakfast at the Watchhouse in West Bay which is one of my most favourite cafes in the whole wide world. The food is delicious and the atmosphere casual, relaxed and perfectly holidayish. Breakfast is followed by a stroll around the familiar harbour and a promenade out along the pier to breathe in the salty sea air and take in the beautiful coastline.
As is our usual style, we never make plans for our week in Dorset. It's such a luxury to start each day with a completely free agenda. I love to wake up each morning, throw open the curtains, take in the weather and feel completely free to use the day in whatever way takes our fancy.
If the weather obliges, we spend as much time as we can outside. We like to pootle and amble, stroll and wander as the mood takes us. We prefer gentle activity and relaxation to full on days of excursions and activities. We love sea views and eating as many meals as possible al fresco, enjoying life's simple pleasures. And I'm happy to say that the Dorset coastline provides all this in abundance, it is such a happy, relaxing, joyful place to spend time.
As you can see, we were terrifically lucky with the weather last week and were treated to days of clear blue skies and gorgeous Spring sunshine. The above photos were taken on Easter Monday when we decided to walk the short coastal path over the cliff tops from West Bay to one of our favourite beaches at Eype. The cliffs are pretty high in places and the views out along the coastline are incredible from up here.
I love love love picnicking, it makes me so happy! The idea of walking somewhere simply to find the perfect little spot to spread out a blanket, sit, relax and eat lunch is such a simple, lovely thing to do in my opinion. When we packed the car up in Yorkshire ready for our trip, I couldn't resist sneaking in my coastal ripple blanket to come along with us, it felt a weeny bit crazy to be treating a blanket like an additional member of the family, asking it kindly if it would like to "go home for a visit?"! But home it came, back to the place where it's yarny life began last year and it gave me a ridiculous amount of pleasure to lounge about with those ripples whilst listening to the sound of the waves.
West Bay was looking as lovely as ever in the late afternoon sun, but my goodness me, it was absolutely rammed to the gills with visitors during Easter Weekend. I don't think I've ever seen it quite so busy and I'm thinking the "Broadchurch Effect" has indeed happened. I truly love this little harbour though, it continues to have a special place in my heart.
We visited some of our favourite picnic spots last week, taking full advantage of the glorious weather.
Abbotsbury village is a real Dorset gem, picturesque and quaint and bursting with visual charm....
....and no trip to Dorset is complete without a climb up this grassy slope to the ancient and scenic St Catherine's Chapel.
We love it up here, it is such a peaceful and unspoilt place to while away an hour or two. We spread a picnic blanket out on the grass, lean our backs against the sun warmed old stone walls and take in the vast sea views. When I say "we", I generally mean J and I as the Little Peeps do not sit up here at all. They swoop in for picnic food like three hungry seagulls, tearing off and away, shovelling food into their mouths as they go. It's always the same, the open space and breezy skies up here seems to activate a strong desire to run and make a rather embarrassingly large amount of noise, yes, always the same each and every year.
On our drive back from Abbotsbury, we took a very spur of the moment detour off the main coast road, winding our way down to the little village of West Bexington. I recalled a distant memory of coming here a few times as a teenager to dog-walk with my friend's family, but couldn't remember an awful lot about the village. Turns out that it's tiny and rather lovely, with a stunning hotel/restaurant and an extremely quirky little beach side cafe run by an equally quirky little lady of maturing years. There is a small car park and rather wonderfully when you have children and also are rather full of coffee oneself, some Public Conveniences in which to take a pee (!) Yes, these things do make all the difference you know, as this is a super-wide unspoilt expanse of exposed shingle beach with nowhere to hide if you need to go (which is the distinct downside of my other favourite beach at Eype)
The beach here is part of Chesil beach, which is a pretty special place. It is 18 miles long and apparently contains 180 billion pebbles, of which I delighted in holding a teensy fraction in the palm of my hand. The sound of the waves moving in and out over the shingle is so mesmerising and soothing, it's one of the most beautiful sounds I know. During our stay in Dorset, we visited West Bexington beach three times, we couldn't get enough of this newly discovered, special slice of coastline.
When in Dorset, the sea air always takes me by surprise, it has a very particular scent which I adore. You can honestly smell the sea on the breeze and it happens to be extremely soporific. Oh my goodness, Dorset air makes me sooooo sleepy! Not just me either, but the whole family, and during our week we fall into an early to bed, early to rise routine. Waking early (5.30-6am) means we get to sit in bed sipping mugs of steaming hot tea whilst crocheting/reading and waiting for the sun to rise. It's a wonderful way to start the day.
I did loooooooooooooads of crochet last week, oh it was bliss! During the early mornings and early evenings I would sit in my Mum's old chair by the back door, or in bed in my old childhood bedroom, hooking up squares for my new Harmony blanket. These are such cute squares to make, I'm loving doing them. I'm working in groups of 14 (which is one vertical strip), with each square having five rounds.
The above picture shows the first 28 squares (2 strips), although I've since added two more strips, it's looking good! There will be 9 strips in total (126 squares), then a lovely colourful border to finish it all off.
On Wednesday last week we were met with another gloriously sunny Spring day and decided to pack up a picnic and head along the coast as far as Weymouth.
I've not been here since my childhood days and my memory of it was a little hazy. It's a bustling, traditional seaside resort with a long promenade and wide sandy beach and I thought the Little People might enjoy it.
We parked the car near the marina and strolled down to the harbour admiring the many boats and expensive looking yachts.
The town was as bustling as I remembered it, crowded even.
There were parts of the harbour that were charming....
....but truthfully the busy beach and abundance of Tourist Attractions didn't really do it for us. The Little People didn't like it either, which surprised me but secretly, deep down I gave a little whoop of joy to myself. Just like me, it seems they had fallen in love with the quiet, unspoilt West Bexington and couldn't wait to leave the hustle and bustle of Weymouth behind.
Weymouth is a sizeable town, and behind the facade of the busy promenade there are some very nice little shopping streets.....
....pretty cute for a main shopping street don't you think?! There was some holiday spending money burning a few holes in little pockets, so after one or two (miraculously speedy) shop stops we came out with a Lego book and a charm bracelet and two smiley Little Peeps. J and I stopped to purchase a traditional wind break and wooden mallet (don't we know how to spoil ourseleves), and Little Man wisely chose to keep a hold of his precious cash in his pockets, saved for another day.
Ah yes, here we have the classic stripes of a good ol' windbreak - an essential bit of seaside kit here in the UK. It turned out to be a very good purchase indeed on this bright and breezy day as we were back at the lovely West Bex beach for an evening of this..........
.........and a barbecue dinner. This has become something of a family tradition for us when we visit Dorset, although as far as I can remember we've never had warm enough weather to do this at Easter before. We invite my Dad and Lady B to join us and J cooks up a very good beefy dinner for us all over white hot coals. I didn't take all that many pictures, but please do feel free to picture me wrapped up in crochet blankets with a cup of chilled white wine in one hand, a delicious jalapeno spiced burger going down nicely in the other hand, the sound of happy family banter on top of the sound of the sea, a glorious sunset and a huuuuuuuuge smile on my face. Talk about being in my happy place. AND best of all there was a place to go when I needed to go!!!!!!!!!!!! I felt a bit disloyal to Eype, but really, the convenience of the conveniences gives West Bexington the edge. Sorry Eype.
The Little People were beside themselves with our continuing tradition of making English S'mores when we cook outside (toast a marshmallow over the bbq coals until it is hot, golden and oozing, them squidge it between two chocolate digestive biscuits so that the chocolate melts....) they ate so many!! They are too sweet for me, but the LP absolutely adore them.
We stayed on the beach until 9pm, snuggled up in blankets and keeping warm around the barbecue coals, not wanting the day to end. At this time of year, 9pm is dark and the night sky is already sprinkled with stars. We made our wishes, and I know we will be back here again soon to while away some Summertime hours on our new favourite beach. Here's to the Good Times, may there be many, many more.