Saturday, July 28th 2007
This time we are off to Weymouth. Tigger grew up there and has always wanted to show me the town and its surroundings. What will I make of it?
Our train was only at 14:35 (that being the cheapest train of the day) so we had a lazy start. We finished packing, had a cup of tea and then read and listened to the radio until it felt like time for brunch.
We took the 341 bus to Waterloo and had a a rather skimpy and overpriced veggie breakfast at Caffe Quattro.
There was still plenty of time so we dragged the suitcase along Leake Street, which actually passes under part of Waterloo Station, into Lower Marsh Street where we took a table at the lovely Scooterworks Cafe. Tigger went off for a newspaper and when she came back, I went for a wander.
We also spent some time playing with the Scooterworks kitten, a pretty tabby with a tail a couple of sizes too big for her (she will no doubt grow into it) and startling yellow eyes.
We now went back to Waterloo Station and simply sat and waited for our train. We had seat reservations but when we reached the train we found the carriages were not labelled so it was impossible to find our seats.
The train company, South West Trains, has also had the brilliant idea of buying trains that make absolutely no provision for luggage apart from a rack for small bags. There is absolutely nothing for suitcases. I find this incredible. Our suitcase consequently occupied a seat all the way to Weymouth.
The journey was uneventful. When we arrived in Weymouth it was starting to rain. We got a taxi to our guest house and, having settled in, made tea and, while Tigger perused maps, I wrote this episode.
After tea, we went for our first outing. Tigger was keen to see familiar sights and explain everything to me such as the statue of George III which is unusual among public statues in being painted in full colour.
King George was to become important to us as most of the buses we took on our tours started from bus stop K4 (‘K’ for “King”, presumably) at the foot of the statue and brought us back there afterwards.
There was a light drizzle which we ignored at first but as we proceeded, the rain became heavier. We put on rain jackets and continued. Eventually, we sought refuge in the Weymouth Tandoori. Others had had the same idea and we had to wait for a table. We chose our usual vegetarian thali but apart from the soup, which was excellent, the meal was insipid.
We had hoped the rain would ease off while we were eating but this hope was vain. Out into the rain we went. Tigger pointed to a distant church spire. “That’s where we are heading. Our hotel is near there.”
We walked. Tigger directed my attention here and there and I kept looking at the spire which seemed to remain obstinately as far away as ever. But at last we arrived and hung up our wet clothes.
We can only hope the weather will be better tomorrow.
Punch and Judy
Weymouth’s Jubilee Clock
Sunday, July 29th 2007
I admit to going to bed last night feeling a little down because of the rain. This morning, seeing the intensity of the light on the curtains, I exclaimed “Sun!” but when the curtains were opened we saw there was a whitewashed wall causing the apparent brightness. The sky looked as leaden as last night.
By the time we made our way to breakfast, however, the sun was beginning to break through so we hurried out to make the most of it. In fact, but for a few dull moments, it turned into a beautiful sunny day.
We walked along the sea front and then caught a bus for Portland Bill. With its cliff-top walks, its rocky scrambles for the more adventurous, the panoramic sea views and its three lighthouses, two old decommissioned ones (now used as private dwellings, I think) and a big modern red and white one with a revolving lantern, this is a beautiful and pleasant spot. It reminds me both of Land’s End and Lizard Point without exactly resembling either.
Portland Bill Lighthouse
We had a good walk along the cliff and cautiously ventured onto a rocky outcrop. Tigger marvelled at how much it had changed since her day, much of the cliff-top area having falling away, providing a graphic example of how the sea continually remodels our island and its outline.
After our explorations we went to the Lobster Pot gift shop and restaurant for a modest lunch.
Then we took the bus back to Weymouth. Even though it was Sunday, many shops and cafes were open. We spent some time exploring Weymouth, I seeing it for the first time, Tigger reviewing the familiar and the new and cataloguing the changes.
King Charles’s lion
Civil War canon ball
We sat for a while in deck chairs watching the reactions of the children on one of the rides then went off to find supper. After this we went back onto the seafront and sat in one of the restored Victorian shelters watching the gulls and the people.
As it was beginning to turn chilly, we decided to go for a bus ride. The bus we wanted never turned up. We got a lift to the bus station on an out-of-service bus and complained to the controllers. We had one of those useless discussions where the controllers say the bus called at the stop and we insist that it didn’t since we were at the stop and no bus came. Result: a draw.
We made a second attempt to take our ride but with the same frustrating result. Possibly the timetable is wrong or the route has been changed since it was published and that bus no longer calls at that stop. Either way, the First bus service scores badly, not least for its attitude to customer service.
Between abortive attempts to ride the phantom bus, we went to the Hog’s Head for coffee. How pleasant it is to be able to go into pubs, cafes and restaurants and not come out stinking like a dirty ashtray. As far as we are concerned, the smoking ban that came into force on July 1st is an improvement of historic proportions. Why it was not enacted years ago, I do not know.
Then we strolled back to our guest house, admiring the illuminations and the changed aspect of the town a darkness fell. There was a huge “harvest moon” floating just above the sea horizon, adding a touch of dramatic beauty to the scene.
Evening in Weymouth
Harvest moon over the sea
Monday, July 30th 2007
Sunlight greeted us again this morning so we set off in high spirits. Initially, the plan was to take the bus to Seaton and there take the Seaton Electric Tramway to Colyton.
The journey started off normally enough but then a group of four argumentative men smelling of drink got on the bus and became our companions in the back seats. They had more booze in bottles and continued drinking as the journey proceeded. They occupied themselves with discussion and argument, occasionally involving us in their conversation as when my rings were noticed and admired and again later when I was asked if I were “an old Punk”, because of my black nail varnish.
The general rule on such occasions is, in Tigger’s phrase, “S & N” or “Smile and nod”. This covers most eventualities as they are more interested in telling you about themselves than in hearing about you. So I smiled and nodded and they went back to quarrelling among themselves.
The increasingly noisy foursome got off the bus on the outskirts of Bridport. We left the bus in the town itself and went for tea in small pub called The Woodman.
We went for a walk and near the bus stop where we intended to continue our journey, we discovered an intriguing shop named T. Snook selling all kinds of gentlemen’s clothes and accessories. I was very taken by a panama hat that could be crushed or rolled up and would recover its shape again and thought seriously of buying it. So enthralled were we that we would have missed the bus but for the happy chance that this was late. (A not uncommon circumstance as will become clear.)
While waiting for it, we spied our erstwhile boozy bus companions on the other side of the road, in front of the Post Office, arguing with a police officer. He had earlier vouchsafed that an ASBO prevented him from going into the town centre. Perhaps that’s what had attracted the attention of the police. Our bus came so we were not to know the denouement of this story.
As the bus passes through Colyton, we had decided that the better plan was to board the tram there, travel with it to Seaton and return from there by bus. In the event, and because the bus driver wasn’t very helpful, we alighted at Colyford rather than Colyton. Nothing daunted, we lunched in a pub called the Wheelwright, then took the tram from the nearby tram stop.
These trams are very tiny. The stock is mixed and consists of vehicles bought from several sources, all less than full size. Some have an upper deck but the staircase is so tiny that I doubt whether either Tigger or I could use it without getting stuck.
Two of the tiny trams
At Seaton we sat on the beach for some time, taking photos and enjoying the sights and sounds before taking the bus again in the general direction of Weymouth. We broke our journey at Lyme Regis where we had tea in a pleasant tea room near the seafront.
Seagull (with legs)
The next leg of the journey was to Bridport where we inspected all the eateries along the main road, finally settling on the Montien Thai restaurant.
The first available bus was in just over half an hour so we found a bus stop with a bench and sat and watched life go by, including a gull assiduously demolishing a rubbish bag in the hope of finding something to eat inside.
Back in Weymouth, we watched the first of what is billed as a series of fireworks displays to mark the summer season before finally retiring to rest.
Tuesday, July 31st 2007
To go to Bournemouth from Weymouth you take bus X53, at least in theory. “In theory” because not every X53 goes as far as Bournemouth despite being advertised as doing so. Another hazard is that it is a popular route and so you need to be at the stop early in order to have a choice of seats or even a seat at all.
Our bus took us as far as Poole and then gave up. We had a quick look around the Dolphin Shopping Centre where we had a cup of tea in the rather peculiar cafe there. We discovered that the M2 went on to Bournemouth and accepted our tickets despite being a different company. Such things are never advertised and so you learn about them, if at all, by asking what seem to be silly questions.
We disembarked at Boscombe, intending to walk from there into Bournemouth. Again I was impressed by the beauty and greenness of the countryside during the journey and the elegance of the towns. From an aesthetic point of view at least, I think Dorset is now my favourite county.
We walked down through Boscombe Chine Gardens to the seafront and had a decent pub lunch before continuing along the front towards Bournemouth.
Boscombe Chine Gardens
We wandered around Bournemouth for a while, had a cup of tea in a park and as time was getting on, went to find a bus for the return journey. We just missed an X53, which would have taken us all the way to Weymouth and so took an M2 to Poole.
Sight-seeing balloon, Bournemouth
Bournemouth, as seen from the bus stop
At Poole we found we had some time to wait for our connection. This arrived 30 minutes late, so we spent much more time in Poole than the place merits and standing waiting in the bus station to boot. (Waiting for late buses is a recurrent theme of this expedition.)
During this wait there occurred an event that upset me greatly. Buses were coming and going all the time and pigeons and gulls were foraging among them. Two pigeons were in the pathway of a double-decker as it approached. I assumed they would get out of the way. One did. The other exploded under the front wheel of the bus. For a moment I could not believe I had seen what I had seen but the evidence was only too plain.
The remains quickly became a bloody mash under the wheels of buses but the shock of a split-second death stayed with me. The pigeon could barely have suffered, such was the suddenness of the accident.
Eventually our bus came and carried us back to Weymouth. We got out near the now familiar painted statue of King Charles and went to the Hog’s Head for supper.
After this, the indefatigable Tigger felt like a bus ride. Our failure on Sunday cautioned us to make sure we knew where to catch the bus for Portland. The sun had set and the light was fast fading from the sky. As we approached Portland, it appeared as a dark shape covered with lights. We disembarked at the highest point. Below us, the sea glowed with an eirie beauty as though with its own luminous glow. Around the bay were lines and piles of lights and in the bay itself the boats appeared either as dark shapes on the sky-reflecting water or as bright points of light. The blend of sea, sky, light and darkness made a magically beautiful panorama.
Portland at night
Soon it was time to go to the bus stop as there are few buses at this time of night. The bus came and was late as usual – has any bus ever arrived on time in Dorset? – and carried us back to Weymouth. We walked through the back streets to our seafront guesthouse.
On Portland, we had seen the moon, dusty orange rising out of the sea. By now she was well clear of the waves and had regained her usual brightness, being just past full. Tigger went to the beach to photograph the moon and her sparkling moon path across the waves and we went indoors to rest and recollect the day’s events.
Wednesday, August 1st 2007
It’s hard to believe that it’s August already but it is. We presented ourselves at the bus stop in good time, knowing how popular some routes are. True enough, there was soon a long queue for our bus, the X53. This was scheduled for 9:15 but was of course late, even though it was the first of the day on that route and was starting from the bus garage in Weymouth.
We enjoyed a bouncy white-knuckle ride, passing a nasty-looking accident scene on the way and got off at West Bay. It’s a pleasant enough place but there isn’t much to see. We had fruit smoothies and cake in an art gallery cum cafe. Later we had tea in a nice pub before going back to the stop to pick up the X53 and continue our journey. You will doubtless be amazed to hear that the bus was late, even later than the first one.
We disembarked at Bridport. We had come here because it was market day. The main street and South Street were lined with stalls making a lively scene but it was somewhat disappointing as most of the goods on sale were the standard tat that sells at markets these days.
Bridport Street Market
For lunch we repaired to the Electric Palace, an old cinema whose booking hall is now a restaurant. Today was the hottest day so far so we kept to the shade as much as possible.
Scenes from the Electric Palace
We took the bus back to Weymouth (yes, it was late) and on arriving at the King’s Statue, made straight for Debenham’s behind which are two bus stops but only one bus shelter, causing endless confusion as people in the queue face two directions depending on which bus they want and get in a tangle each time a bus arrives at one of the stops. Or they stand along the roadside railings and then argue with one another as to who was there first.
We took the number 6 to Wyke Regis which Tigger wanted to visit again to see her father’s old workshop. This has now been turned into a private dwelling. The whole village shows many changes, as is to be expected but, strangely enough, Tigger found and photographed a wrought iron gate that her father had made and which is still in place many decades later though showing signs of rusting away. We had a drink in the nearby pub before taking the bus back to Weymouth.
Back at Weymouth, we walked around some of the streets and visited the sea front to find it and the beach packed with people making the most of the hot sunny weather. It’s clear that the seaside holiday remains the favourite for many, especially families with young children.
Tigger found a shop that puts mottos on teeshirts and had a black one made up with “Weymouth” in mauve across the front. She suggested I had one made with “SilverTiger” on it and now I rather wish I had done so… We next went to the tapas bar for supper and found it had a good selection of vegetarian dishes.
After supper, we didn’t feel ready to retire for the night so we decided to take the first bus going on a route we hadn’t already taken. The 503 presented itself. This runs along the coast eastwards to Bowleaze Cove. On arriving we found the RNLI performing a rescue demonstration. This involved winching people between a helicopter and a speeding lifeboat. I must admit to being impressed by their prowess.
There being little else to see, we took the bus back and retired to our room to make tea and write this blog entry.
Thursday, August 2nd 2007
This morning started with a shock: the X53 not only reached the stop on time but even departed on time. This unaccustomed bout of timeliness did not last, of course, and by the time we were ready to take the bus again at Bournemouth to come back to Weymouth, it was 50 minutes late.
The fine weather had broken. We emerged to leaden skies and rain. It was a repeat of the conditions on the first evening. Were we downhearted? Well, a little maybe.
We left the bus at Wareham, had a drink in the Red Lion and proceeded to explore. As we did so it rained harder and harder until the only sensible thing to do was to go inside. We happened to be sheltering in the porch of the Black Bear, so in we went. We found it a beautful pub with good service where we enjoyed an elegantly served tea for two.
Wareham on a rainy day
When the rain eased we went out again to continue our interrupted explorations. The rain continued so we decided to go for lunch. Our first attempt was at Nellie Crumb where we had to wait for a table. When at last we found one, we sat there and were ignored. When we had had enough of being ignored, we left and went back to the Black Bear where we enjoyed an excellent vegetarian lunch, efficiently and amiably served. We will certainly go there next time we visit Wareham.
The Black Bear, Wareham
After lunch we caught the bus to Corfe where we dutifully photographed the castle, which was partly swathed in green covers, and explored the village. It is a pretty little village but inevitably geared to tourism which risks spoiling the very character that brings tourists in. Admittedly, this is a paradox that affects all places relying on a tourist economy.
Corfe and its castle
We now suffered another bout Dorset Late Bus Syndrome. We went for a bus due at 15:12. At 15:40 a bus arrived. The driver denied that his was the missing bus so where that disappeared to is anyone’s guess. Late running of buses, coupled with premature termination, became a considerable annoyance during this trip. Both the Wilts and Dorset and the First bus companies are guilty. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it spoilt the trip but it did cause upset and anxiety on a number of occasions.
We had intended to go to Swanage and then across from Studland to Sandbanks by the Chain Ferry. The lateness of our bus made us unwilling to take a later bus at Swanage so we curtailed our visit and took the first bus out. Swanage will have to wait for another visit.
The bus was open-top and we risked sitting on the upper deck as the rain had stopped and the sun had begun to shine through. We enjoyed an exhilarating and blowy ride, first a ferry crossing aboard our bus and then a bouncy progress with beautiful views of the Dorset countryside.
The open-top took us to Bournemouth. After a little walk we repaired to the bus stop to take the 17:50 X53 to Weymouth. As mentioned, this bus was 50 minutes late but there is little gain from burdening you with my annoyance so I will pass over it.
Two more views of Bournemouth
When the bus came we unashamedly scrambled upstairs to secure front seats. The journey was uneventful and I enjoyed our progress through countryside, town and village under the changing light of evening.
We disembarked near our guesthouse because we had not yet had supper and there is a Chinese restaurant in the old pier head (the pier itself is long gone) above the shop selling sweets, ice creams and beach toys. I didn’t expect much of it but it turned out to be very good indeed.
And so to bed, trying to remember the good things of the day and not the bad ones. Tomorrow is our last full day so let’s hope transport behaves itself for once though I doubt that it will.
Friday, August 3rd 2007
Today started with a three-county bus ride. Our destination was Salisbury and the route went through Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire. We left Weymouth at 9:15 and arrived in Salisbury at 11:30. The visit is a flying one as the last bus back is at 14:30. Yes, 14:30: can they really not do better than this?
On the way we passed through Blandford army camp where the bus was searched in cursory fashion by a man in uniform who remained on the bus while it was within confines of the camp which is of the size of a small town.
We had a light lunch at Suzette’s Pancake Cafe before setting off on our tour of Salisbury which seems a town worth exploring in more detail another time.
Views of Salisbury
We made sure we were at the bus station by 14:30 for the bus back. This leg of the journey, involving another escorted foray through Blandford army camp, took a little longer than the the first. On arrival in Weymouth we had a tea break then took the open-top Portland bus. The plan was to have a cream tea at Portland Bill. Unfortunately the bus was the last one back so we had to reboard and return to Weymouth.
We then prospected for supper. There are plenty of eateries around the port but most had dull vegetarian options or none at all. We eventually settled on The George which had some unusual vegetarian choices. The service was rather slow because they were very busy.
It had been another sunny day for the most part and it was very warm in the pub so we were glad to leave and stroll along the seafront back to our guest house. I paid the bill to save time tomorrow as we hope to have a walk after breakfast before catching our train. Yes, it’s the end of our stay already. The time has passed quickly but we have clocked up quite a few miles this week.
Saturday, August 4th 2007
Today we return to London. I have enjoyed this week in Weymouth, despite the poor timekeeping of the buses, and would be happy to spend more time here. We intend to return, perhaps in a couple of years, to see it again and explore some places in more detail. At the same time, I always feel excited about returning to London and picking up the threads of my usual life.
Our train was at 11:00 so we could afford a leisurely start. We packed and had breakfast and went off along the promenade, dragging our wheeled suitcase which has a bad habit of snapping at my heels and pulling my shoes off.
For the last time on this trip we sat on a bench on the front and admired the view. Gulls were taking their ease on a stretch of sand, preening, squabbling or sitting still. Someone walked along the beach and the gulls flew off in a cloud and formed a raft on the calm sea.
The Southwest train is of the same dsign as the one that brought us here: there is absolutely no provision for luggage apart from a rack suitable for small bags only. We hurried aboard and acquired a table so that the suitcase could occupy a seat like a third passenger.
On the way down we had a power point near our seats so Tigger was able to use her laptop. She was hoping to work on her photos during the journey so it is disappointing that there is no power point this time. The work she can do will be limited by the laptop’s battery life. As for me, I will wait to be back in London to download my photos and sort them out.
During the journey I received a phone call from the cattery. They were expecting me to collect Freya this morning which was of course impossible as I was on a train somewhere between Weymouth and London. I arranged to collect her in the afternoon which seemed a reasonable compromise as well as reuniting us with our feline companion very soon.
The weather in London has also become warm so by the time we got home, we felt more like going to bed for a good rest than unpacking or embarking on another journey to fetch Freya. Nothing daunted, I set out and two bus rides, two train rides and two car rides later, we were back home all together again.
What should we do for supper? Economy suggested that we eat in but everything was frozen and would take time to defrost so we let ourselves be tempted into eating out. We went to the excellent Indian restaurant, The Raj, hard by Farringdon Station and had one of their unbeatable vegetable thalis with lassi.
I must say I enjoyed strolling through the streets of London in the cool of the evening. Seaside baby that I am, I missed the murmur of the sea that had accompanied our stay in Weymouth but the thrill of London and the pleasure of the familiar, the nooks and crannies that you go on discovering no matter how long you live in this city – all added to my happy mood.
And so home to write up our “Weymouth 2007″ and sort out some photos to decorate it.