What better way could there be on a lovely sunny day in England than to spend some time exploring the Jurassic Coast in Dorset?
Monday 01 August 2022
An early start today so we can call in at the Angling Centre in West Bay – the best in the region, so I am told. It is certainly large and well stocked and would keep any angler occupied for a long time perusing the extensive stock. I take the opportunity to walk around the little harbour and along the beach before joining my fisherman friend for a coffee and delicious pastry at the Cornish Bakery. We continued our journey to Cogden Beach further along the Jurassic Coast.
Cogden Beach has a wildness and naturalness about it that does not attract large crowds. This vast expanse of pebbled beach is peppered with fishermen, dog walkers and the occasional swimmer. Most people are deterred by warnings of strong currents and the lack of facilities. I enjoy the peace and quiet, disturbed only by the crashing of waves on the beach, the squawk of the gulls when disturbed by a solitary walker and the triumphant shout when a fish has been hooked. This is one of the best places for angling on the Dorset coast.
The beach and its hinterland are peppered with wild flowers – in particular the impressive sea kale which can grow to the size of a small bush. A lovely path to the beach from the small National Trust car park is lined with wild flowers and shrubs that create a haven for wildlife but in particular birds. I could stay all day strolling along the beach or just sitting and enjoying my surroundings. But, I am also curious to visit the medieval village of Abbotsbury nearby.
Abbotsbury is a small inland village nestling in the landscape of Thomas Hardy and featured in several films that have brought his stories to the big screen. After parking in the Rodden Row car park we walk down the road to the Ilchester Arms for a welcome cup of tea. Almost all the buildings in the village are listed, some of them Grade 1. Many of these buildings used stones from the Abbey that was demolished in the Tudor period.
Rodden Row represents the history of Abbotsbury lined by seventeenth century cottages behind high pavements facing Victorian terraced houses. On the small terrace at the back of the Ilchester Arms we are overlooked by the Abbotsbury Castle, an Iron Age hillfort above us but we have neither the energy nor the inclination to walk up there today. Another time perhaps.
As we left the Ilchester Arms we paused to admire the extravagant Strangways Hall, once the village school.
Beyond the Parish Church, past the ruins of the Abbey is the old Tithe Barn. We do not have time to continue along the this road to the Abbotsbury Swannery – another item to add to the list of reasons to return another day.
During our quick tour of the village we browse two lovely art and craft galleries. Helen Millard Cameo Glass occupies an old chapel. Her bespoke glass work is stunning and very unusual but I am most impressed by a wire sculpture of an owl in flight also on display.
The Dansél Craftwork Art Gallery is in a lovely thatched building on Rodden Row. This property, part of the Ilchester Estates has been used as stables then lock up stores. When the estate was advised to renovate some of the older buildings into business properties in order to help encourage employment and keep the school open in the village it was offered to the gallery. The pieces on display range from exquisite one-off creations to beautifully crafted practical items.
After collecting the car we drove the short distance to the only other pub in the village, The Swan. We sit in the shade in the pub garden enjoying half a pint of dry cider and a last, lingering look at the truly rural English vista. What a lovely way to end our day out.