Category: West Dorset

Living in an AONB, child friendly?

“They’re not allowed to go down this hill, it’s an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” said the National Trust volunteer to my children. Mountain boarding down the steep hill by Hive Beach in Burton Bradstock did not go down well this weekend.
“Go on mate, you go and tell them to stop having fun” said the husband. “I will” replied the man his hand on the gate, adding “If we let them do it then there will be loads of them. And it’s wet, so they’ll do some damage, they’ll make a path and it’s an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” – in case I didn’t hear that the first time round.

“I know it’s an AONB. We live in an AONB, most of Dorset is an AONB, does that mean they can’t mountainboard anywhere? And it’s dry actually.” I added, throwing my hands up in the air in despair. “I don’t get it but if that’s the way you feel, by all means go and ask them to stop doing their sport.” and I walked off in a huff towards the Spring Tide Festival.

I know I shouldn’t get cross with the man, he is a volunteer and does what he has been asked to do by the powers that be. Who makes these unwritten rules anyway? What’s the logic behind forbidding children to ride down a hill that only cattle, walkers and dog owners use.

Especially when there were no cows, walkers or dogs at the time. Another woman -who explains she used to look after the car park- chimes in “It’s also part of the Jurassic Coast here”. I know! A World Natural Heritage Site listed by Unesco, looked after by The National Trust here in Burton Bradstock and other parts of West Dorset. I am a National Trust member so agree with the work they do but…

Should we live in West Dorset as if it was an old fashioned museum where people need to whisper and “Do not touch”?

The National Trust have been trying to shake their image of old houses and mothballs. Just look at their marketing: families, walkers and youth on their front covers. That’s the way it should be. The National Trust is for all of us, children included.

Who do we keep our national heritage for?

NT do a great job in West Dorset looking after a large part of our amazing coast. Still our Jurassic Coast crumbles and falls. Nature does that, not children.

On the other hand, it was OK on the same day to have dozens of cars and vans come to a Food and Craft Festival. Now, don’t get me wrong, Spring Tide is a great festival. I have been a regular visitor to the event ever since it started, stocking up on fantastic food.

Today, I thought I’d take my kids. In fact they came -with their boards- a couple of years ago and it wasn’t a problem. Thing is, there’s only so long my children will spend in a tent filled with food whilst I chat to stall holders and spend money. Mace the Bodger is great but my kids have watched him turn his green wood many times, he’s even taught them. Ben and his local National Trust team are brilliant but my boys’ interest in fossils is minimal unless they’re on a beach hoping to find a hidden treasure.

View FROM Burton Bradstock

If you stand on top of that forbidden hill, you have a magnificent view towards Golden Cap and Lyme Regis. At the forefront, a car park and a cafe with a plastic canopy. Some might say these are an eye-sore. Now again, I have nothing against The Hive Beach Cafe. They are a renowned West Dorset eaterie that champion local food, equally sought after by seafood seeking weekenders and grey haired locals after a cuppa, an ice-cream or fresh crab. If you’re a non-smoker you’ll love the fact that smoking is even forbidden outside. Being the baddy that I am -irresponsible mother of mountain boarders and a smoker- I was told off last year for lighting up on the open terrace. What a bad family we are.

What I want to understand is this: if it’s ok to have car fumes and plastic canopies on National Trust Land, why are local members of the Trust (via a family membership) not allowed to enjoy a harmless sport on the side of an empty hill. If you don’t know what a mountain board is, imagine a skate board with bigger wheels. Imagine a kid with lots of padding and a helmet in case they fall, as it is a bit of an extreme sport when they get serious. When I say harmless, I mean harmless for the hill. We went on a dry day, there would have been no wedges of soil unearthed. The volunteer was worried they would create a path. There are paths already, created by walkers, many with dogs, some leaving fouling behind. In fact there is one of England’s most popular Coast Paths a few yards away. Thousand of people have treaded its soil, along the crumbling coast. There are ‘off-paths shoots’ everywhere close to eroding cliffs; were they created by weird sports people or kids?.

It is a privilege to live in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It beats cities any day in my books. It is our duty to look after our corner of the world for our descendants.

How do we ensure our future generations want to help preserve it, love it and respect it?

By telling them they can’t use it for their sport whilst their parents and grandparents fill it with car fumes and we all look at huge petrol tankers up and down the Coast? I’m not suggesting motor cross competitions along the South West Coast path or car rallies up and down the West Dorset lanes. My kids love downhill biking and mountain boarding. They may look like scary bikers with their full face helmets and padded bodies but I cannot believe the looks of suspicion from several people this weekend.

How old are these kids? 11, 12 and 14.

Maybe we should leave everything absolutely untouched. But let’s remember, this hill -as the rest of the Chesil Beach Coast- used to be a forest before our ancestors turned them into fields. The damage of evolution is not a recent thing. Let’s bear in mind both Dorset AONB and The National Trust talk about healthy living and sport. Quite right too; our western kids may be the first generation that die younger than their parents due to a lack of sport (and poor diet).

So who makes these rules of what sport can be enjoyed where on National Trust, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Unesco listed parts of the world?

Heaven forbid we might stray from walking or maybe cycling on cycle lanes. I wonder, would our Mesolithic ancestors -who used to have huge festivals a few miles away at Hambledon Hill- have a problem with a few children enjoying the side of a hill at seemingly high speed?

I have a feeling they’d think it’s a great idea. With a few rules of course: don’t frighten any cattle, stop when you see a walker, respect your elders, behave responsibly and go and have fun. If only.

Huge festivals at Hambledon Hill, Dorset, a very long time ago…

If cows don’t mind kids, why should people?
(taken in 2010)

Friendly cows in West Dorset

2012 in Bridport, a year to remember?

There’s a lot going on in Bridport and West Dorset in 2012. The Jurassic Coast is celebrating its tenth year as a Unesco listed site, the Sailing Olympics and paralympics are but a few weeks away and ‘Spirit of Bridport’ is celebrating with a Festival of Culture that promises to be a 19 day long celebration of all things that Bridport has to offer (11-27 August 2012).

Many community groups are getting together with ‘Spirit of Bridport’ to make sure the town makes the most of the Olympics on our doorstep. There’s much talk about legacy. ‘Spirit of Bridport’ is about action from the community for the benefit of all its communities and visitors.

Street theatre, pop-up cafes, a mini film festival, exhibitions celebrating our culture, gigs (of the rowing type as well as musical), special menus… Bridport is famous for great food, inspired art, inspiring creatives, quirkiness and doesn’t need much of an excuse to have a party.  When it comes to communities getting together and creating great events, Bridport has every chance of delivering.

As the 2012 Director of the Bridport and West Dorset Open Studios, I am one of the many people involved in ‘Spirit of Bridport’. From gallery owners to gig rowers, hoteliers to councillors, artists and creatives to companies who provide financial support, it’s very much a case of ‘let’s all get together and make this the best event Bridport and West Bay has ever had’.

Right, I’m off, there’s a lot of work to be done…

Nat x

Bridport Vintage Market is under threat

Bridport Vintage market has become a fun place to meet friends, hunt for a quirky object, have a bite to eat, generally soak up a fairly laid-back and bohemian yet still working class and gritty atmosphere.

Locals love it as a place to meet mates, visitors love it because they’ll meet locals.

More importantly, the St Michael’s Trading Estate, now Bridport’s Art and Vintage Quarter is not  just artists and vintage sellers…
It’s home to many businesses…

Reducing food miles around Bridport with Open Farm Sunday 2011

Many of us like to know where our food comes from these days. In West Dorset, we are particularly lucky to have a wealth of amazing produce and Open Farm Sunday is a great opportunity to discover behind the scenes of a couple of our local farms and really see where our meat, dairy products and vegetables come from.

Open Farm Sundays started in 2006 with 300 farmers sharing their knowledge and love of the countryside and every year tens of thousands of people enjoy asking questions, sampling produce or buying direct from the farmers.

My family went to visit Denhay and Washingpool Farms last year. I must admit that my husband and children were not totally convinced when I suggested it but they did enjoy it, much to their surprise.

Denhay Farm, run by the Streitfield family in Broadoak are famous for their Farmhouse Cheddar. We hopped on a trailer, hay bales for benches, tractor taking us up through the large farm to the dairy whilst George explained the importance of edges, how and why they have changed over the years and talked a bit about organic agriculture.

In the dairy, we discovered 21st century milking from a balcony. It’s quite a sight and was interesting for the children to see the first part of the milk journey to their glass. We might live in West Dorset and have friends who are farmers, it’s always interesting to see a farm on that scale.

Amanda Streitfield then did a talk on how their award-winning Farmhouse Cheddar is made and showed us the huge cylinders being matured into pure taste. We stocked up on cheese and bacon whilst drinking a welcome cuppa and went on to Washingpool Farm.

Locally, we all know Washingpool Farm shop in North Allington, a few minutes outside of Bridport so it was really interesting to walk through the market garden behind the shop and see where these fruits and vegetables are grown; food miles, what food miles?

For Open Farm Sunday 2011 Washingpool Farm also have sheep shearing and a photography competition. Click!

Denhay Farmhouse cheddar maturing

Open Farm Sunday website

Denhay farm website       Washingpool Farm website

Les Ateliers Ouverts de Bridport, Dorset Occidental

English version

Bridport et sa région du Dorset Occidental est un petit coin qui inspire les artistes, un peu comme la Normandie et ses ciels changeants avait inspiré les Impressionistes. Depuis 1999 les ateliers de Bridport s’ouvrent au public pour le ‘Bridport Open Studios’ et chaque année le nombre grandit. En 2011, c’est 100 artistes dans 58 lieux d’exposition qui ont offert à un public grandissant leurs oeuvres d’art au mois de Mai.

Les artistes sont variés, certains sont déjà cotés, d’autres débutent. Les prix sont en conséquence très différents suivant les artistes et les supports. Il y a bien sur des peintres, mais également de la sculpture, céramique, mobilier, photographie, textiles, illustrations, chapeaux, bijouterie ou gravure sur bois.

Même si tous les artistes ne représentent pas directement la Côte Jurassique dans leur art, les collines rondes ou les vallées cachées qui nous entourent, ils sont tous inspirés par l’atmosphère particulière et variée du Dorset Occidental. Au milieu d’une campagne agricole où bio est plutôt la norme, de monts d’où les vues sont un patchwork aux couleurs qui changent avec les saisons, d’une côte unique recélant des fossiles préhistoriques, on trouve une ville pleine de contrastes: Bridport.

Les temps ont changé pour ce port qui fournissait des cordes dans le monde entier, y compris aux bourreaux de Londres. La longue usine où les cordes étaient tressées à été adoptée par des artistes qui ont fait revivre cet espace industriel. Dans des petits villages proches mais presque perdus, d’autres artistes et artisans ont redonné vie à des écuries ou autres bâtiments agricoles, d’autres travaillent simplement de leur maison ou cottage.

C’est peut être cet éclectisme artistique et géographique qui fait que Bridport Open Studios attire maintenant des collectionneurs d’oeuvre d’art non seulement de la région mais également du Sud-Est de l’Angleterre.

La communauté d’artistes de Bridport m’ont demandé d’être leur ‘directeur d’évènement’ pour Les Ateliers Ouverts de Bridport de 2012.

Pour plus de détails sur les artistes qui ont exposé en 2011:


Artiste Andrew Leppard, copyright Nathalie Roberts

Bridport Open Studios 2011

Bridport Open Studios finds new director via twitter

It started with a tweetup in Bridport and ended with the next director for Bridport and West Dorset Open Studios: me!

“What’s a tweetup?” friends always ask. Well, it’s a “Let’s meet up for a coffee” organised on twitter, in this West Dorset case by @tim_harrap

So a bunch of West Dorset tweeters had a coffee and a chat in Bridport in April. We discovered new faces behind the 140 characters and caught up with friends.

@kitglaisyer mentioned that the ‘Bridport and West Dorset Open Studios’ group were looking for a new director for 2012 as Philomena Harmsworth, the current director is moving away from the area. @RealWestDorset suggested to @kitglaisyer that he thought I would do a good job. Very kind.

Let’s hope he was right as Kit and Philomena have asked me to be their next director and I have agreed. We had our first meeting tonight with many artists who took part this year giving us feedback on this year’s event. It was great to see such a good turn out. There were many ideas for us to work on for next year, good things to keep and things we can try and improve on to make BOS an even bigger and better event next year.

I’ll keep you informed, via twitter of course, here and on the BOS website

Here is my post about the event and the launch.

and here is an image of the tweetup!

West Dorset Tweetup

Artists at work in Bridport, West Dorset

poste en français

Spending a couple of hours chatting to artists at St Michael’s Studios today in Bridport was fun. Artists studios in Bridport and the surrounding West Dorset villages are open to the public for the week, a great opportunity to discover new talent or have a look at more established artists’ new work.

It’s always inspiring to look at art but I find the people behind the paintings, the photography or the montages equally interesting. That’s what I love about the idea of Open Studios. Seeing the artists working is quite a mixed feeling. On the one hand it’s fascinating to see the image slowly -or quickly- appear on paper, canvas or screen but on the other there is a certain feeling of intrusion.

Some are happy to keep on working, clearly in their own world, their mind inside the canvas, others would rather chat and feel a bit awkward at having somebody looking over their shoulder, and I can’t blame them. The art on show is very varied and I only saw a tiny part at St Michaels’. There are 58 venues in all and 100 artists. Pottery, textiles, furniture, woodcraft, jewellery, millinery, sculpture, digital art, screen printing… Something for everyone?

Philomena Harmsworth working during Bridport Open Studios 2011

Artist at St Michael's Studio, Bridport
Copyright Nathalie Roberts

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

A West Dorset Tweetup

West Dorset and Tweetup could be seen as an anachronism. I’ve had a few bewildered looks when I said I was going for my first tweetup. What on earth is it anyway? Well it’s a meetup for tweeters. Simples.

“What is the agenda?” asked @LisaTandem. Good question, although I hadn’t given it much thought. I just wanted to put a real face to people I had met via Twitter; so when @tim_harrap (also known as @BritishCheese) suggested a West Dorset tweetup I tweeted great idea.

The Wild Garlic seemed the obvious place to meet since @matkiwi is a tweeter of note in the foodie twitter world and his restaurant in Beaminster was a nice and convenient venue.

He joined in the twitter spirit:
“Nice idea, coffee on me, all welcome”

So it continued with:
West Dorset tweetup Saturday 11/12 10.30, Wild Garlic in Beaminster. Coffee on @matkiwi (thanks Mat!) @tim_harrap will be there. Who else?

And ended up with @tim_harrap, @MrCliveC, @matkiwi, @natamagat (that’s me!) and @tim_harraps’ oh (other half) discussing the twittersphere over a coffee. Don’t be fooled in thinking that there are only four people tweeting in West Dorset though. There are in fact dozens of us.

Children’s plays and hangovers got in the way, many were working on Saturday morning and the rest were obviously Christmas shopping. And many more don’t follow @tim_harrap or @natamagat so had no idea this West Dorset tweetup was happening.

We all had interesting stories to tell. It would be wrong of me to divulge @MrCliveC’s thoughts on the place of the police in the 21st century. Being the Police Federation Chair for Dorset he needs to handle his 140 characters carefully despite tweeting in a personal capacity. Or indeed what @matkiwi might have to say about intense farming. He is of course against it, I hasten to add, but he had some interesting comments on how the press handle it.

@BritishCheese gave some great examples on how twitter can be used in a large company and introduced me to twitterfall. I added my bit on why journalists have not become lazy as is often perceived but rather pushed in a corner they did not choose.

We all agreed that we look for the people behind the tweets. Corporate marketing and old fashioned PR still have a long way to go in their understanding and use of social media marketing in many companies.

As for our tweetup, I’d say it was a success. We met the real people behind the @names and I’m looking forward to meeting more West Dorset tweeters at the next one. Suggestions welcome.

twitpic taken by @tim_harrap