We were incredibly lucky with the weather last week and were gifted a perfect slice of English summer. It was great to wake up each day to the promise of many glorious hours of hot temperatures, bright sunshine and blue skies. Several times during the week we contemplated heading out to spend a whole day at the beach, but truthfully none of us could really face sitting out for so many hours under the blazing sun and there always seemed to be better things to do with our daytime hours.
What we did really enjoy though was beaching in the evenings. We would generally head down around 5 pm and set up camp, enjoying a good four of five hours of beachy fun before bedtime. It's a magical time of day to enjoy the best of being beside the sea.
With the temperatures reaching well into the 80's last week in Dorset, the days were very hot by UK standards, and at 5pm it was still deliciously warm down on the beach. Our first evening was spent at Burton, and as you can see from the photo above, the beach was by no means deserted at this time of day. There were still plenty of folk hanging out enjoying the early evening sun, with many families like us chilling out and preparing to eat their dinner.
There is a certain feeling of calm relaxation on the beach in the early evening, and after the hustle and bustle of the daytime it's very much quieter and more peaceful.
Remember I said we ate all of our evening meals outside last week? Well two of those meals were barbecue beach-dinners, the very best kind of al fresco holiday eating in my opinion. We had forgotten to pack our trusty portable barbecue, but fortunately we found one for sale in the local co-op for only £7 and it did the job beautifully.
When it comes to barbecue cooking, J is our man for the job. He loves doing Fire Things and he is a very happy and competent cook. When J is cooking a beach dinner, he operates a strict rule of Burgers Only, which is actually mighty fine with the rest of us. Good burgers are good! They are relatively cheap to buy, they are simple and quick to cook, and they barbecue very well, crisping up nicely on the outside and taking on the smoky flavour of the coals whilst still remaining gorgeously moist and succulent inside. And from my point of view, the labour involved in simply splitting some bread rolls and offering them up for the cooked burger is sufficiently minimal. Add a cheese slice on top and dollop in some tomato sauce and you have great beach food with very little fuss.
Our first barbecue evening was especially lovely, as we had the company of my Dad and Lady B. They are both spice-lovers so we cooked up some delicious Piri-piri burgers for the grown ups and added in some Reggae Raggae sauce, it really was incredibly delicious. I had made a bowl of chunky salad (cherry tomatoes, chunks of cucumber, cubes of feta cheese and black olives) which could be eaten with fingers, and honestly, it was a very simple but wonderful family meal. The Little People love eating this way as they can literally eat on the run. They grab a burger into their hungry little hands and run off with it, stuffing it in whilst simultaneously digging holes (Little Man), reading a book (Little Lady) or running round in circles (crazy Little B).
The beach at Burton is made up of shingle and the pebbles are teeny tiny neat little pea-sized things. So although it's not possible to make sandcastles here, there is still plenty of fun to be had with buckets and spades. The fun here mainly involves shoveling, with variations of hole-digging, mountain-making and burying one's sibbling up to the neck so that only the head remains exposed. I would dearly love to show you the pictures I took here but you will just have to imagine it...imagine what a shingle beach looks like with a 10 year old's head sticking out of it, grinning wildly. And imagine what a crazy-proud 11 year old looks like layed flat out in a two foot deep huuuuge coffin shaped hole that took almost 2 full hours to excavate.
Little B generally supervised from the sidelines, although he did play a large part in submerging his sister in the shingle.
The Little Peeps also spent a lot of time in and out of the sea that evening, which they absolutely loved. I would like to say that the sea was warm, but that would be an out and out lie. It was still bloody cold, but thanks to many weeks of warm sunshine in Dorset at least you could paddle/swim without turning a worrisome shade of shivery purple. I loved that they enjoyed the sea so much, it was wonderful to watch. At the end of this first evening, it was about 9.30pm when we finally got them to come out of the water. I simply wrapped them up in towels and old fleece blankets, ushered them straight into the car still in their wet swimming things, then threw them one by one into the bath to wash off all the salt and sand when we got back to base. What better way is there to end a Summer's day than that?
The following evening, we decided to eat in the garden at home before hitting the beach for a gentle bit of post-dinner evening relaxation. We headed to my favourite-most-favourite beach of all at Eype. I so love this beach for it's simplicity, there is something indescribably magical about being down here in the evening, surrounded by all that gorgeous coastal nature. There are always fishermen on this beach in the evenings, and usually a sprinkling of other people doing pretty much the same as us....cooking dinner, sharing a few drinks, hanging out with loved ones and enjoying the peaceful evening ambiance. It almost feels as if you are part of a gentle, communal beach party when you come down to Eype beach in the evening time, and there is definitely a feeling of happy celebration in the air.
The changing light is always amazing here, as are the views and general feeling of being away from it all. It's refreshingly unspoilt with no facilities, although this does have a major downside after a few bottles of beer in that there is nowhere to go take a pee! The Little People manage (I won't go into detail here), but for Big People it pretty much means squeezing hard and holding it in till you get home, which on some evenings is actually quite a challenge. Anyhow, moving on............
We made a proper camp for this visit, that's our sun tent in the picture above look, there on the left near the sea. I'm off on a little wander up the beach.....
....enjoying the incredible golden light and long shadows....
....and collecting a bag of driftwood. It's 8pm now, time to build a campfire, yippeee!!!
There is no shortage of dry sticks and bits of driftwood on Eype beach and we easily gather enough to start up a little fire. It's not cold by any means, but then we haven't lit the fire for warmth. No, we've done it purely for the purpose of melting......
.......mmmmmmmmmmm! Melty marshmallow and chocolate digestive S'mores, the best possible type of camp-out beach treat. After we made these for the first time last year at the caravan, they have become something of a must-have whenever we barbecue/camp. They are too sweet for me, but the Little People really love them and devour them with appreciative mmmm's, licking their sticky fingers afterwards and begging for Just One More S'more.
After the sticky campfire treat, some leisurely pootling was in order. J and I settled down to drink cold beer and chat with my Dad and Lady B who had come to join us again. The Little People engaged in various Little People things, stringing together a number of activities one after another. Piling up rocks to make a target practice tower, then throwing pebbles at the aforementioned rock pile (Little Man). Paddling/swimming/wave jumping (all three). Lobbing the biggest possible pebbles/rocks into the sea to make the biggest possible splash (Little B's personal favourite). Rolling yourself up completely in a blanket and calling yourself a sausage roll (Little B again). Quiet reading (Little Lady, above). Play fighting (the Boys). My personal favourite? Watching my children do all of the above, it makes me so, so happy!
Oh, and hunting for great pebbles too, that's the other of my best favourite beachy pastimes. The Little People enjoy doing this too and we spend quite a time scouring the beach for pebble treasure. We especially like to look for Hag Stones (stones with a naturally occurring hole in them), as these are said to be lucky charms. Little Man found this one for me last week, I do love these simple treasures from our holiday and find places around the house to display them when we return home. Reminders of a happy summer.
On this particular evening at Eype last week I was also attempting to photograph my coastal ripple blanket :: laying it out in the location that inspired it's creation seemed like a great thing to do and I really had fun with it. Whilst I was in the throes of spreading out my blanket and rearranging it for the umpteenth time, I came across this amazing pebble, isn't it fab? The ♥ shape is actually a naturally occuring mark in the surface of the pebble, and I just love it so much. It's as big as the palm of my hand, a wonderful gift from nature.
The sky scape is truly spectacular at Eype, it's such a beautiful place to sit and witness dusk descending.
Over the years, spending an evening at Eype beach has become a very special part of our Summer holiday. Magical times indeed.
We are back at Burton again now look, our third and final evening beach trip last week. This day had been particularly hot (it was the same day we visited Abbotsbury Gardens), and as soon as we arrived the Little People stripped off a layer of clothing and dashed to the water...
I went and sat close to the waters edge to watch them play, and to take some photographs, suddenly marvelling at the fact that we have three children. One, Two, Three!! The surprise of that fact still catches me unawares from time to time, four and a half years after Little B landed in the world. Well I never.
Little B, sweet, sweet boy. Such a blessing.
I love making camp on the beach, setting our tent up and filling it with blankets, settling down for a lengthy stint of evening loafing. We cooked burgers (again) and they were just as good as the first time. More s'mores too, the marshmallows toasted to melty perfection over the barbecue. During the summer months, the Hive Beach Café is open till 9pm and on this beautiful evening it was absolutely packed out with Fine Diners with not an empty seat to be seen. The café does operate a take-out service though, so as a special after dinner treat, I made the journey across the beach to fetch J and I a delicious cup of fresh coffee. I have this wonderful memory of us both sitting in the golden light of the setting sun sipping a delicious cappuccino whilst the Little People played together on the beach.
When I look back into my memory archives and pull out my most favourite elements of our summer holidays over the years, it is always these beach evenings which surface first. They encapsulate everything I love so much about summer holiday's in Dorset :: the beautiful scenery, the amazing light, the sound of the waves, the concentrated family time, the slow pace, the relaxation, the tasty food, the happy soundtrack of the children playing. The sheer pleasure of it all combined makes for some very, very happy memories. It's what summer holidays are all about ♥
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