Saturday, 2 November 2013

A Blustery Visit To Durdle Dor, Tyneham Village Where Time Stands Still, and A Lovely Meal Out With M

It's been ages since M and I went out for supper together so last night we ditched the kids, put on posh frocks (well, I did) and escaped for a grown up dinner in a local pub.

It was heaven.

The pub is old, full of beams and ingelnook fireplaces and serves scrumptious food (I had celeriac soup, hake, chilli and chorizo cassoulet, and chocolate hazelnut mousse with chantilly cream for pud all washed down with a few glasses of ice-cool chardonnay. M ate a burger (!)). 

We had a fab time, even allowing for the exceedingly irritating couple who stupidly thought it would be a good idea to bring their very precocious eight year old out to dinner with them, and proceeded to encourage her to show off in the most annoying and hyper way, despite the obvious fed-upedness of almost all the other diners. Also despite our handsome waiter who, for some unaccountable reason  known only to himself, decided to tip a bottle of table water over me. I was eyeing him up for J but swiftly went off the idea after that.

We had ear-marked today as a trip to London but L baulked at the eleventh hour and, not particularly relishing dragging a recalcitrant twelve-year-old who is more than capable of letting the entire world know his feelings, round town on trains, the underground, and to London's various sites, we settled on a trip to the sea instead.

Our trips to the sea are not like most families. We tend to eschew sit-down sandy beaches and venture out to places that either contain fossils or the promise of them. This invariably means they are more difficult to get to and therefore less crowded, but also Usually Worth The Effort.

Today was no exception. We packed lunches (refusing to pay £25 for sarnies for five from a cafe), got in the car and drove down to the Purbecks, a groups of Chalk Hills in Dorset that stretch down to the sea and boast some of the loveliest views in the country. They also encompass the Jurassic Coast, which is famed for its fossils, but that was not our focal point today. Instead, we were heading down to Durdle Dor, a natural limestone sea-arch that stands on one of the bays near Lulworth, and a place I last visited when I was in my twenties.

I don't know if you can see the holes above the arch in this pic, but they were made by a forest that grew here 145 million years ago

Durdle Dor is THE MOST AMAZING PLACE, and one you MUST visit if you can. There are also various sea stacks who were once arches, until the erosive power of the sea and weather broke them down. 
In the chalk cliffs off to the right there is a new baby arch forming (look at the very far distant cliff and see if you can spot it).....

It was blowing an absolute hoolie when we got there. The car park is at the top of the cliffs and is the most exposed placed imaginable in bad weather. We got out and were immediately nearly blown off our feet (no exaggeration). Then the rain started and in that wind it felt like thousands of tiny needles puncturing your skin. The dogs (cousin Dougal is currently staying with us) turned tail and leapt straight back in the boot, L complained his legs were freezing (which was his own fault for wearing jeans that have rips instead of knees) and F and J (who rarely complain about anything) looked tight lipped and about as miserable as I've yet seen them.

Teddy perfects the 'Wind Swept And Interesting' look before disobeying orders and legging it for the car. He is not normally one to relish jumping in the boot, and I don't think I've ever seen him move so fast.

It transpired that only M and I found the whole thing a Fun And Exciting Adventure and it wasn't many more seconds before our young rebelled and flatly refused to go anywhere except back to the car, so we left them eating their sandwiches on the back seat while we ran down the hill hand in hand like teenagers (or not, given that our teenagers were in the dry in the car no doubt suitably embarrased and wishing they weren't related to us).

Here's what they missed:

I've never seen the sea so milky white before. The storm had well and truly stirred up the chalk and sent it swirling round the bay.

I find this kind of weather truly exhilarating. The wind was fine because we weren't living in it for several days and also because it was doing Interesting Things to the sea. It was also just frightening enough for it be to thoroughly enjoyable. We did get well and truly buffeted about, which was Quite Fun while we were safe on the coastal path at a distance from the cliff faces, but not Quite So Entertaining when we were on the edge of the cliffs peering down onto the sea below being tugged at.
We got soaked, then blown dry, then soaked again, and realized too late we were wearing Matching Jeans (Oh No!)  but it was still Excellent Fun. 

M decided to go and get F and J and had to drag them forcibly from the car. He knows better than to try this with L. Poor J was too scared to go down onto the beach where I got this pics of the rocks. She waited at the top in the full blast of the wind and was shivering by the time we climbed back up to her. 

These hard layers of Portland Limestone have been folded to create this extraordinary effect. Just imagine the force required to do this.

In this photo you can see how the folded layers of limestone stretch out to sea

After we'd had our fill of Durdle we drove back through Lulworth, admiring the Dorest Cobb Cottages that are so typical of this stretch of England.

A Georgian Letterbox set in the wall of a thatched cottage in Lulworth. I am assuming this is George VI, our Queen's father, rather than one of the older and madder Georges.
Further along the coast is Tyneham, an ancient village that was requisitioned by the MOD during WWII. All the villagers were forced to move out in 1943 and the place has been under army care ever since.

There is a sadness and an eeriness to Tyneham that I found hard to ignore as we wandered through the ruined houses. More than one of the cottages did not feel at all welcoming, but then I suppose this is hardly surprising given that these were people's homes, places where many of them had been born, where their families had lived for many generations, and that their removal from them was forced, wholesale and permanent. Just how permanent they didn't know until after the war ended when they were told they would never be going back. Up until then they had all believed they would be returning, as evidenced by this hand written note pinned to the church door that was found after they left:

Feelings ran very deep and one of the villagers kept up his protest to be allowed home until the 1970s, petitioning Harold Wilson, the then Prime Minister, that if he couldn't go back to Tyneham alive then could he at least be buried there in the resting place of his ancestors. I found the whole thing terribly poignant and affecting.

Ruined cottages line the main entrance lane into the village. These were the post office and farm labourers cottages.

Steps to the 13th C church

There are two very fine stained glass windows in the Church

Laundry Cottages, before the village went silent

Laundry Cottages as they are today

The bare inside of Laundry Cottages

Another shot taken from inside Laundry Cottages
The laundry bowl still inside Laundry Cottages
Laundry bowl, complete with fallen leaves

The main street through the village with the Church on the right

Village fountain (which ironically has a horrible modern sign stuck on it that reads: 'Do Not Drink')

Most of the cottages had small fireplaces that would have been on the second floor but are now half way up the chimney breast
Even the grand entrance of the Rectory wasn't enough to save it from the fate of the village

There are many fine views from Tyneham- the village nestles in the lee between two hills with the coast off to one side. It really is in the middle of no-where and in the days before modern technology must have felt like a self-sufficient community cut off from anywhere else.

A Very Interesting Day all told, and the best bit is, as we are having take away curry tonight and roast beef tomorrow I don't have to cook for TWO WHOLE DAYS!!

Hope you are all having a lovely weekend. Stay safe for Bonfire Night (I'm not setting foot outside the door as the wind has followed us back from Dorset and I don't fancy fireworks being blown off course. Also, frankly, it's Strictly night).

Take Care one and all,

CT x



  1. It did look very blustery but exhilarating down at Durdle Door today, those are fantastic pictures. I have never seen it so white or the waves so high down there. The waves in Weymouth looked quite tame earlier today. The story of Tyneham is such a sad one, I'm sure it would never happen now. I have written about it too. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.
    Sarah x

    1. I know- me neither, a really stormy time, which we hadn't fully appreciated till stepping out of the car!

      Tyneham's story is heart-breaking, I can't imagine how upsetting it must be to have to leave your home.

  2. You live in a fascinating and beautiful area! I wish I could visit it soon, too! Seeing it on your blog is a wonderful way and I am grateful for it! Enjoy the NO COOKING! CHrista

    1. The coast along that stretch is stunningly beautiful- if you ever get the chance you must go to the purbecks x

  3. Fantastic photos of some wonderful, dramatic seas. I wouldn't be able to resist going to have a look at them, either.
    I'm always saddened by the story of Tyneham, too. No community should have to give up their homes like that and see their village become a ghost village. People not so very far from us had to give up their homes for a reservoir, but reading clippings from the local press at the time (1950s) many were amazingly sanguine about it all.

    1. It seems almost unbelievable that an entire village was ordered to leave and not allowed back. I know the MOD uses the land around it but the place itself was so silent it was very eerie and sad too.

  4. Lovely post and photos CT. Haven't visited Durdle Dor since I was a child - was hoping to return when we were on holiday in Dorset but we ran out of time :( The geology there is just amazing :) Love your photos of the wind whipping up the sea :)

    Very interesting reading about Tyneham too - so sad and poignant especially the message about returning. Hopefully, we'll got back to Dorset and will get chance to visit there too :)

    Glad you enjoyed your meal :)

    1. You should definitely go when you get the chance. It is an amazing place. And the sea- well, it was pretty incredible yesterday. I'm so glad we did Dorset rather than London in the end! x

  5. Your pictures of Durdle Door are fantastic. Makes me want to get in the car and go.. now!

    1. I was so pleased we'd been. And to be honest, if the weather had been more clement it wouldn't have been so memorable :-)

  6. How lovely to get out in winter time to the sea-it really does have a different feel. Enjoy your non cooking weekend. Great photos, I'll have to put Durdle Dor on my list of places to visit. I wonder if the MOD will ever release the secret of why the village was not given back to it's people.

    1. You must go if you get the chance, it's a truly stunning location. I think the MOD held on to Tyneham because of the continuing threat from Russia during the Cold War. Very sad.

  7. Wonderful post CT! My mum and I visited dorset - lulworth cove and durdle door a few years ago ... fascinating geology! Those layered limestone rocks heading into the sea,, phwoar!

    I think windswept is a good look for Teddy!!

    I love the 3 photos of the old window frames with great scenes through them - they actually look like frames one may have on their wall!

    Bracken hasn't enjoyed the fireworks - we haven't experienced him with them before. We shall be staying safely inside the next few nights!

    1. The rocks are fab on that stretch of the coast. I liked the window framed pics too, and Teddy was also not very happy about the fireworks- he kept woofing every time one went off, poor lad!
      Hope Bracken is fully recovered now? x

    2. Yes completely back to his normal mad self. Off to dog training in a little while! Hope the fireworks ease off soon for Teddy! x


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x