Category: Bridport

New studio for Hatha Yoga classes in Beaminster, West Dorset

May 2013 update: Tamara now teaches yoga from different locations, find her details at the bottom of the post.

When I moved to Beaminster three years ago, could I find a Yoga class in town? No. Disappointing. A few weeks back, I heard a new Yoga teacher had moved into Beaminster and she even had her own studio. Things were looking up.

Clean yoga studio

I’ve only been to three classes but I’m very glad Tamara moved to Beaminster, Yoga studio and all. First and foremost, I rather like the fact that Samhita Studio’s wooden floor is clean. Believe me, it’s not a given. I’ve been distracted by a fair few fluff balls and leftover crumbs in town halls or gyms over the years. The only distractions here are Buddhas, candles (and radiators!).

My last Yoga stint was a year of expensive Bikram back in London some years ago. A large hot room stuffed with lots of sweaty bodies. I’m after something more gentle these days. I want to relax and get rid of my back ache that has built up with so many years of sitting in front of a computer screen. Walking in our beautiful countryside is great but it doesn’t improve my posture.

Hatha Yoga

If Hatha Yoga is going to prepare my body and mind for meditation, as it’s supposed to, I want to be comfortable. So cotton mats on top of rubber mats get my vote: no slipping and no sticking. Then there’s the cushion on every mat. I can get my spine in the right place and meditate to my heart’s content.

Tamara even hands us a super soft blanket for the headstand. It’s all about being peaceful and at ease and I must say, by the end of the session, I feel totally relaxed and content.

Headstand did I say?

Yep. Never thought I could do it but today, I am confident I shall. I managed to get my knees on my elbows this week and Tamara assures me that’s the hardest bit. I can’t say it feels entirely natural, but somehow I felt safe. It’s a weird yet great feeling to get so close to standing upside down. I’m sure my brain can do with a bit of extra irrigation every so often.

Sun salute

I’ve always liked the sun salute but have never been able to achieve it as the seamlessly gracious series of postures that it is. I’m positive I’ll know it from beginning to end quite soon, right breathing and all. Tamara is quite methodical in her teaching. For each exercise – which she explains one step at a time, she makes sure we always breathe in the right place, explains the benefits of each pause and she keeps an eye on us, to make sure we get it right.

Tamara’s voice is deep and calm. The studio is peaceful and each session is inspiring and different. Apart from learning the basis of meditation, one of my favourite bits is the relaxation at the end. Tamara wraps us up in blankets so we are snug as a bug in a rug and her smooth voice takes us through an inspiring story or the benefits of Yoga.

My mind did wander off here and there, then I came back to reality. Relaxed. Can’t wait for next week when I shall push myself a bit further…


Tamara: 07754 628 449

Basket beauties in Bridport

When tutor Andy asked what type of basket we’d like to make, I can’t say I’d given it much thought before I started the willow weaving course. A last minute booking for a workshop in Highway Farm B&B in Bridport meant I had just turned up in my cotton shirt; and clearly an empty head. Thankfully owner Pauline took pity on me and lent me a fleece.

I racked my sleepy brain for inspiration and a little light came on when I saw a beautiful platter Andy had made. A woman in period costume was picking flowers and putting them softly in a lovely flat basket. The romantic image from a period film seen years ago came flashing back. I knew what I wanted to do.

It quickly transpired that everybody else was doing a properly woven basket and I wasn’t. Virgo Vicki was making a waste paper basket (as a Virgo would), Experienced Ellie was weaving a blackberry beauty, Friendly Florence was longing for a log carrier, Mum Mel was going to fashion hearts for her daughter’s wedding and Chatty Charlie kept changing her mind.

They started weaving a round base in a circular ‘under-and-over’ then added a dozen stiff spokes at regular intervals for the sides. Friendly Florence put the contraption on her head and took a model pose. She wouldn’t have been out of place at Bridport’s Hat Festival. She may have found it a bit inconvenient to circulate around the market with 2 metres long twigs around her head but it was a good giggle around the barn.

Who would have thought basket weaving could be dangerous though? There I was concentrating on my over-under-over-under-ouch-oops, sorry! I had poked Chatty Charlie in the eye. Thankfully, she was able to finish her basket, the only one with a prison-window-with-bars type handles under the rim; rather than the large over the rim number that you rest on your arm; or the two small handles for heavy loads. Once you start looking into willow baskets, you wouldn’t believe the possible permutations.

And once we started weaving our willow baskets, there was no stopping us either. Except I was getting hungry. Pauline had told us to come and have lunch around one-ish and we were getting closer to two-ish. The soup and homemade bread went down a treat among chatter and laughs. Big house down the road being sold, content and all, Hat Festival update, Andy’s moving malarchy and Pauline’s new blog stories. Pauline, if you read this, you did promise a recipe for your pudding…

As for my fancy flower friend (I refuse to call it a trug, ugly name), I am over the moon with the result. I took home a basket like I’ve never seen before and have been looking at twigs from my hedge trimming this weekend in a new light: under-over-under-over.

What shall I make next? Well… since you ask. Pauline does a weekend workshop for hazel garden furniture. I’m on the waiting list hoping someone will change their mind.

Update: Experienced Ellie made a horse’s head the next day, have a look here.

The inn down the lane

From nouvelle cuisine to a country pub down a tarmac lane so remote, it has grass growing on it. The sun is shining so we decide to drive around West Dorset lanes just for the sake of the views and find the Three Horseshoes Inn just around lunch time.

Pub with rooms. The menu is more gastro than old boys’ local and they’ve run out of Bath chaps and Hooke Farm trout. No matter, I fancy a Blue Vinney ploughman and the husband goes for battered cod with triple cooked chips. Yep, good ol’ fish and chips for lunch. Takes all sorts.

We can hear children as we sit down on the terrace with wide green views. You’d think they are just behind the wall, a perfect demonstration of how sound works in amphitheatre. A few minutes later, the school below starts work again for the afternoon so the only sounds left are the birds, the wind in the parasols and a distant dog listening to himself. Otherwise you’d wonder whether there’s much life around.

When my square wooden platter arrives I pull a face. There’s a heap of thin and pretty greenery on the edge and I am wondering how to eat this without half of it ending up on the floor. It looks like young sweet pea shoots and tastes delicious. Brain figures that fingers are de rigueur. If the man in the nice restaurant in France (many years back) thought it was OK for me to eat with my fingers because chefs don’t like plates coming back with food, then why not?

Apart from the juicy shoots, there was a large chunk of blue veined Dorset delight, some very light and airy home made bread and two chutneys. The first was classically vinegary with soft fruits -no crunchy out of a jar sharp stuff here-  the other more of a compote that has not reached mushy state so the soft bits of fruits have a gentle texture. This one would have probably complimented a Farmhouse Cheddar better, Blue Vinney being a bit stronger it overtook the palate (ok, killed the fruits if you prefer).

The husband enjoyed his triple cooked chips and battered cod. The cod portion was large enough and the batter was a bit on the heavy side but the chips were deemed delicious. There is a price to pay for triple cooked chips at lunchtime and I can hear the husband snoozing. You can’t beat a Ploughman in a country pub. And as country pubs go, this one sure has the location, a great terrace with half a dozen tables, the pretty church next door and new owners.

Our terrace neighbours said: “Very pretty but I wouldn’t want to live here; silly little roads”. Fair enough, this is a place you come to because you like being remote. No marquee, no sea views, just an inn and a village. The Jurassic Coast may be down the lane, it may as well be abroad. That’s why I liked the place.

Ploughman: £7

Battered cod + triple cooked chips: £11

Three Horseshoes Inn, Powerstock

Fun family day in the woods guaranteed?

“You are your own health and safety” says BBC Master Craftsman Guy Mallinson. Music to my ears. “Place your body sideways otherwise you’ll chop your arm off or cut yourself in half” says bodger Mace Brightwater; that got the kids listening. Despite dealing with blades that make a steak knife appear blunt our family day trying our hand at green woodworking was one of the most relaxing experiences we’ve had in a long time. Warmer than finding fossils on the beach in Normandy  (no fire to warm us up there) and far more rewarding than a day on a beach in the South of France.

We have a tangible memory of our day in the midst of Dorset in the shape of two rounders’ bats for the boys and two wooden spatulas, although they’re a bit square and I’d far rather use spoons but hey I do use them and remember. As for the bats, what can I say? Proud gushing mother says they are beautifully unique. Which they are, full stop. Whether they’re any good I have no idea -French people don’t play rounders- but the boys seem to think they’re great.

So how did we actually make these? Tricky to explain; I did not actually make one myself, my artistic side was too busy taking pictures and my motherly side was so proud to see my eldest son enjoying a pole and lathe far far more than a computer game let alone a book that I simply did not interfere. Nothing to do with the fact that when I tried to strip layers of wood I did not do as well as I thought I would. My romantic notion that ‘if I love arts and crafts then surely I’ll take to it like a duck to water’ was knocked on the head. As my eldest was a natural -Guy did say, so must be true- I thought I’d let him get on with it whilst I just got on with what I do best, look around.

Concentration on people’s faces, my 10 year old son and his father crafting together, kids chatting with their parent, tools borrowed from a neighbour, getting help, asking for advice, proud smiles, giggles when it went a bit pear shaped. I kept being distracted that day. Thing is, once I was no longer making a bat I had no particular reason to listen. So when the birds twittered, I heard them; when I got a bit chilly, I warmed my hands on the open fire and when my son was using a new tool, I studied his hands with my camera.

The setting in the middle of the woods is tranquillity personified. It is so quiet that Mace thinks a pole and lathe is loud when it gets going. He asks us to listen to the noise it makes to ascertain whether it is working OK or not, “if it isn’t, it makes a racket” he says. I was waiting for a loud background noise but you can tell that some of us live in a town whilst others are more used to woods and seaside. This townie found everything oh so quiet and peaceful. The children want to go back for more and their father was the last one to leave. “He’s in the zone” says Guy. My zone had kids trying to catch ducks eggs on a tiny island in the middle of a pond, the sound of a Scout father saying he would recommend the course to his Scout friends, the smell of woodland mixed with smoke and fire, the feel of a perfectly smooth rounders bat made out of sycamore.

It’s not perfect mind. Half way through the morning when I realised that I wasn’t going to get to do much woodworking I did feel a bit put off. I’d spent over £200 on the four of us for the day. On top of that our shaving horse was broken so we could not start straight away. I was getting a bit fidgety and began to think that frankly these things should be checked first. As Mace got a branch, fashioned a footrest and repaired the horse in minutes and as we borrowed each other’s cheap tools (weirdly the expensive ones were in sufficient numbers), I realised that actually the whole experience is not a race or a competition and the most important part of the experience is to slow down, concentrate, observe and simply enjoy each other’s company. And learn a little something on the way. At £55 per person for a day, it’s not a cheap day out but it sure beats a day on a sunny beach and that’s a lot more expensive to guarantee.

Une vallée perdue dans le Dorset Occidental

Les petits coins perdus dans le Dorset Occidental, c’est pas ce qui manque. On peut aller par monts et par vaux prendre une petite route et se retrouver au milieu de nulle part. Il y aura peut être une ferme protégée par une colline ou un hameau aux maisons de pierre locale, avec un peu de chance un toit en chaume ou deux.

Entre Beaminster et Bridport, il y en a plein des petits détours de chemin comme ça. Ce weekend, j’ai redécouvert un hameau au nom de Loscombe. Sachant que ‘combe’ veut dire petite vallée et que ‘lost’ signifie perdu, on est pas vraiment étonné de se retrouver au milieu de nulle part, entouré de collines. Tous les ans mes amis Loscombois (les Anglais ne sont pas aussi friands que nous de donner des noms aux habitants de toutes les communes donc j’invente) invitent les copains, leurs enfants et leurs chiens à une grande balade pour annoncer le printemps.

Nous voilà partis, les enfants pressés courent avec les chiens devant et les parents bavardent tout en regardant la campagne environnante. On s’arrête pour écouter le ruisseau qui gargouille et arrose les perce neiges, un peu tardifs cette année. Il fait d’ailleurs encore froid mais le soleil est de la partie en ce début de Mars et la journée est magnifique. Le long du cours d’eau sous les arbres, on peut sentir l’ail sauvage qui sort à peine de terre mais ne passe pas inaperçu.

Après les vaux viennent les monts, et nous attaquons une colline. Petites dans la famille des monts, les collines du coin sont assez raide dans la catégorie balades. Les enfants se régalent de rouler du haut en bas et les parents récupèrent leur souffle en admirant le paysage. Les couleurs d’hiver ne sont pas vert, vert et vert comme on imagine toujours Angleterre.

Devant nous, les collines semblent s’encastrer les unes dans les autres, laissant deviner les petites vallées cachées. Les arbres n’ont pas encore de bourgeons et les fines branches semblent avoir esquissé des croquis d’ombre sur le sol ensoleillé. Seuls les aulnes ont leurs fleurs d’hiver jaunes comme de minuscules lave bouteilles. Des buissons endormis parsèment les flancs des collines et donnent un peu de couleurs brunes au paysage.

Le calme complet des vallons du Dorset est un peu envahi aujourd’hui par tous ces enfants et leurs chiens en laisse et les parents qui causent. De retour dans la cour du cottage, une excellente soupe chaude, du bon pain frais, un plateau de fromages du coin et quelques bouteilles de bière et de vin nous attendent. Nous nous installons sur les chaises et les bottes de paille pour reprendre notre souffle et savourons ce soleil d’hiver qui réchauffe si bien.

Finalement notre petite vallée voisine n’est pas perdue pour tout le monde. Une journée de plaisir pur et simple. Difficile à battre.

Sparkles and muddy boots

Every year, friends of mine organise a Spring walk and I always look forward to the big get together of friends, their children and their dogs. We all stroll down vales and combes around their hamlet near Bridport and climb the steep hills with a spring in our step (or panting noises for some of us).

As we drive past the road sign to our destination this year, I smile: Loscombe. What a good name. We’re in West Dorset for a start so that means no motorway, we drive off the narrow main road into a smaller road and then down a single lane where I’d rather not meet anybody; don’t like driving in reverse. Which we had to do. So a lost combe or forgotten valley it is.

Shortly after we arrive, the kids shoot off with their dogs on leads. Which of the two are more excited I couldn’t tell. We follow the path along a gurgling stream; such a calming sound although today, it is slightly overtaken by voices of friends catching up with their news. Snowdrops are in bloom, wild garlic is only just coming out hitting us with its pungent smell all the same.

The steep climbs are rewarded by these wonderful views of perfect roundness typical of West Dorset. A feeling half way between being on top of the world and being surrounded by a gentle and protective countryside. Nature at its best on a cold winter day. A farm here, a thatched cottage there, catkins like hundreds of tiny yellow bottle cleaners against the blue sky give it a feel of watercolour.

This year we are blessed with sunshine. Strictly speaking, we are still in Winter despite our friends luring us with talks of Spring. It may be the lovely lunch that entices us all, a delicious warm soup, bread and local cheeses, a few bottles of wine. We all sit on garden chairs and bales of straw in the courtyard. Ah the simple pleasures, so hard to beat when the weather is on our side.

Although my friends live in the middle of nowhere they are very much in touch with the outside world. Proof? 2010 = cupcakes. Home baked and hand decorated, two huge trays came out “Eat me, I am sugar heaven and colour guilt”. Mine even had sparkles on it. And utterly delicious it was too.

Oh yes, we do know how to have a good time down here. Sparkles and muddy boots, great combination.

Bull Hotel, relax… you’re in Bridport

As you drive into town, you can’t miss the dark blue 17th century Inn with a gold Bull overlooking the pavement. A Bridport artist gilded that Bull, old fashioned way; she works on the St Michael trading estate. I like that about the place. The meat comes from the butcher next door, the apple juice at breakfast is from a farm down the road, the amazing beds from a company whose impressive showroom is just outside Bridport.

I’ve been a few times for cheap and cheerful lunches (they have a ‘crunch lunch’ for a fiver which is great value for money) and once for a friend’s 40th which was a great laugh. I was curious to know what an overnight stay would be like and thought a night without the kids would be a great idea…

And it was. The bed was wonderfully comfortable (although ours did creak a bit but hey) egyptian linen and all, the Neal’s Yard bottles were bathroom size (no nasty plastic throwaway stuff) and we loved the mixture of old and new. Philip Starck lighting worked well with a french inspired Toile de Jouy wallpaper and plain chocolate walls with a silver tinge. Taste is very personal and if you like twee, you might want to find somewhere else. If you like bold statements and smile at quirkiness this should be down your road.

Supper? Well, we liked. Went for a sharing evening all the way with a Côte de boeuf and a cheese platter. The meat was tender in the middle yet crusty and black on the outside, sliced onto a wooden tray laden with hand cut chips, crispy yet not fatty, oversized sweet and crunchy onion rings, a large mushroom and some rocket salad. There was also a tomato each. I don’t understand tasteless tomatoes in winter (southern french pompous palate probably) so I gave mine a miss. It went back with the herbed butter which was unnecessary. The meat was succulent and did not need any addition. It did not need any more salt either, if you’re one of these add salt before tasting, beware.

The cheese platter was a good selection of local fare, from the famous Blue Vinney (which I love) to the Dorset Red (delicious if you like smokey) via a Somerset Brie and of course a farmhouse Cheddar. The husband liked the chutney which tasted too much like curry for my liking. He also loved the pudding of raspberry soufflé which was a bit too sugary for me but then I’m more of a savoury kinda girl.

There’s been a fair few reviews on Bridport’s Bull Hotel since they opened. They appeal to the growing number of people who have moved back into the area after a London stint or time elsewhere, as well as visitors who want comfort and a certain amount of luxury in a relaxed, modern atmosphere. Think affordable Babington House and you won’t be far wrong.

The Bull: hotel branché à Bridport, Dorset Occidental

Pour une soirée en amoureux, mon mari et moi avons décidé de se faire un petit plaisir et de passer la nuit à l’hôtel branché du coin et de dîner sur place. L’auberge The Bull date du 17eme siècle mais n’a rien de vieillot, au contraire. L’atmosphère y est sympa et un certain luxe simple flotte dans les chambres après un couloir un peu austère.

Avec son taureau doré sur fond d’auberge bleu foncé, on ne peut pas rater The Bull quand on arrive à Bridport.Nous connaissons bien car on y a déjà mangé plusieurs fois, petits repas ‘crédit crunch’ (anti récession) le midi à £5 ou pizza bon rapport qualité prix et cidre au Stables (étables derrière l’auberge transformée en pizzeria).

Notre chambre (la 207) était un mélange bien Anglais de meubles anciens et modernes, de papiers peints genre toile de Jouy et de murs chocolats virant au gris. Un grand lit en métal super confortable (bien qu’un petit peu grinçant!) d’un coté, un divan et une chaise en cuir de l’autre, notre chambre était assez spacieuse sans être immense. Les éclairages de Philippe Starck mariés aux meubles de bois foncé donnaient une atmosphère cool qui nous a bien plu. Les proprios ont un penchant pour les antiquités françaises, et on retrouve cette influence française dont nos amis British sont friands.

Des produits Neal’s Yard (excellents produits bio Anglais aux huiles essentielles) étaient à disposition dans la salle de bains. Pas de petites bouteilles en plastique pour la poubelle mais cette confiance que j’ai rarement trouvé en France, que les clients ne vont pas partir avec les bouteilles en verre taille salle de bains maison. Bon bain moussant bien chaud avant de descendre au resto.

On a décidé de faire un menu partage et avons choisi une côte de boeuf suivie d’un plateau de fromage pour deux. On a arrosé tout ça d’un Lalande de Pomerol et on s’est régalés! La côte de boeuf était saignante mais croustillante sur l’extérieur, les grosses frites maison n’étaient pas trop grasses mais dorées, les rondelles d’oignons panées étaient géantes mais très douces. La tomate par contre était une perte de temps. Probablement que la Varoise que je suis toujours a les papilles gâtées par le soleil et ne peut apprécier une tomate pâlichonne en plein hiver.

Pour le fromage, il ne faut pas s’attendre à un plateau genre chariot fourni ou on choisit un peu de tout. On vous donne une bonne portion de ce qu’il y a dans le coin sur votre plateau, pas de choix. Un bleu du Dorset ‘Blue Vinney’, un Brie du Somerset, un Cheddar de ferme et un Dorset Red (fumé). Et comme j’ai expliqué dans mon billet précédent (‘on le mange comment le fromage anglais’), des biscuits salés. Il y avait même une chutney (ou confiture salée) pour accompagner mais qui avait beaucoup trop le gout de curry a mon gout. Mon mari anglais a aimé. Chacun son truc.

L’un dans l’autre, notre soirée a été bien agréable, le personnel était sympa et attentif et à £150 la nuit petit déjeuner anglais compris, il est difficile de faire mieux dans le coin si on veut se faire un petit plaisir et passer une soirée un tout petit peu décadente. Ou plusieurs.

Pourquoi venir dans le West Dorset?

Portsmouth, Weymouth et Plymouth vous connaissez de nom, ce sont les ports de ferry pour les Français. Pour les Anglais et leurs vacances c’est le Devon, les Cournouailles et le Dorset de l’Est. Ben nous, on est au milieu. On a pas d’autoroutes et le ferry le plus proche est à Poole. Une petite heure en voiture pour arriver à Bridport. Et là c’est réellement le dépaysement.

D’abord il y a la Côte Jurassique qui est classée à l’Unesco (d’Intérêt Naturel Mondial, donc à préserver) pour sa diversité et sa beauté. Les falaises passent du gris au rouge (Charmouth ou Burton Bradstock), les plages sont de galets ou de sable fin, celle de Chesil est à perte de vue. Les petits ports de pêche approvisionnent la région en poisson frais (Lyme Regis ou West Bay).

Mais le West Dorset c’est aussi le vert des vistas du haut de ses collines. Tel un patchwork de verdure rappelant les bocages normands avec la mer en contrefont, les vues qui récompensent les marcheurs sont paisibles et sereines. Les sentiers balisés sont nombreux mais jamais bondés, juste quelques ‘hello’ de temps en temps.

Si la France est la championne des produits du terroir, le West Dorset n’a pas grand chose à lui envier. Oubliez cette image ancrée de la viande bouillie et insipide. La région a un amour de produits frais du coin qui attire les chefs et gourmets depuis longtemps grâce a un climat plus doux que le reste de l’île. Les restaurants ne sont pas classés chez Michelin et les nappes blanches sont rares. Mais les poissons sont frais et servis sans cérémonie, la viande -du chevreuil à l’agneau- est succulente et vient du boucher voisin, on privilégie les légumes de saison. Les restaurants ne comptent pas sur des touristes qui ne reviendront pas pour gagner leur croute.

Bien sur, la tradition du thé n’est pas perdue et les villages ne manquent pas d’offrir leurs petits salons où les grand-mères se tiennent au courant des affaires des voisins. Le soir, les hommes se retrouvent au pub pour la même raison et pour discuter rugby ou foot.

Et puis il y a les villes où il fait bon vivre comme Sherborne, Beaminster, Bridport ou Dorchester. Ce qui fait le charme du Dorset Occidental c’est que le département ne fait ni publicité ni relations publiques pour attirer les touristes. Mais la télé anglaise semble faire de plus en plus de programmes par ici. J’espère qu’ils vont pas nous gâcher le paysage. Faudrait pas qu’on devienne la nouvelle mode.