Category: West Dorset

Rampisham mast coming down

A few months back I went to see one of the last BBC Worldwide masts being taken down on Rampisham Downs. They were used them for 70 years until digital came along and the massive metal monsters became redundant.

A little video of the last days of the Rampisham Masts.

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January 2013, a winter to remember?

Went down to Beaminster this morning, few people around but all said “hello” in a cheery way.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” they said.

Julia, Beaminster Square
Julia, Beaminster Square

“I remember the winter of 1963” said an old boy. Does make me wonder, come Monday will we feel the same?

Hilltop, drift and horizontal snow
Hilltop, drift and horizontal snow

It was easy enough to get down, carefully. Driving back up however, was a different story.

Driving back up?
Driving back up?

So the car got left at the bottom of the hill, and the shopping was carried up.

Carrying shopping
Carrying shopping

Well it is beautiful and lots of fun was had by many today. I just went around with the camera…

Winter woods in West Dorset
Winter woods in West Dorset

and loved every minute of it!

snow settles in a triangle
snow settles in a triangle

Hope you’re all enjoying your winter walks.

Weymouth and West Dorset, oh so quiet Olympics?

I took friends and family to Weymouth on Saturday 28 July to see the Battle of the Winds final extravagganza of aerialists, the 2012 torches wade into the sea, the pyrotechnics and generally start enjoying Olympic atmosphere. I mmm’ed and rrrr’ed it would be a bit too crowded, but hey it’s a once in a lifetime, so off we went. 

There was plenty there, but not quite what I expected. An empty Monkey Jump Park & Ride welcomed us mid afternoon. A brand new double decker took all seven of us into town on the shiny new bypass that we are being warned not to use. Many more empty buses were waiting to Ride elusive Parked punters back to their cars.  We strolled along the spacious promenade to the Bayside Festival where our Somerset friends learned about the Jurassic Coast wonders. My kids loved being taught a few tricks by the ExtremeSports team, great guys under the tatooes and dreadlocks.  At 6.30 pm Bayside eating area had all of ten tourists having tea listening to the Acoustic Stage. At 7pm the long expected queue to get into the enclosed “Weymouth and Portland Live Site” was painfully tiny…

Great news as a visitor, plenty of space, unexpected free entry to Bayside; not such great news when talking to the locals who have invested money and worked hard for months. Why the big signs in surroundings counties of how busy it may get? Put them up when it does get busy, not before. These are the days of mobile phones, twitter, facebook, information is fast. Does St Tropez warn tourists in Lyon? NON. They let them all come, get stuck, take their money and let them queue. Tourists do come back, every year and it’s still a nightmare to get to St Trop.

Squibbers lit the Weymouth beach on 28 July 2012
Squibbers lit the Weymouth beach on 28 July 2012

I got cross with dorsetforyou. Stop caring people off I said on twitter.

“@natamagat Just informing people about changes and road closures. We want to encourage people to come down, but plan their journey 1st” they replied.

Well, West Dorset looks awfully quiet. The dreadful recent events due to floods and landslides are still fresh on people’s mind but it does not mean the whole area should be avoided. Local businesses that rely on Summer visitors need help, not scaremongering tactics.

Tell everybody how easy it is to get here (I’m told there’s even a High-Speed train from Weymouth to Bristol but it’s not advertised, go figure), that there’s lots to do in Weymouth, that Bridport has a fantastic Festival of Culture in August, that Beaminster has lots of great shops and brilliant restaurants all year round with perfect presents to take back home despite the Tunnel being closed.

Hello world, this is the year to visit West Dorset, it’s quiet and if you fancy art, culture, food (of course) oh and the small matter of Olympic sailing along our beautiful Jurassic Coast, well there are plenty of events that locals have been organising for weeks. It’s not too late to book a few days in West Dorset…

Photography on this post from Saturday 28 July in Weymouth.

 

Eolus God of the Wind under a moonlit sky in Weymouth
Eolus God of the Wind under a moonlit sky in Weymouth
Doldrum ready to intercept the winds from the Sailing Olympics
Doldrum ready to intercept the winds from the Sailing Olympics
The Battle for the Wind in Weymouth
The Battle for the Wind in Weymouth
Performing on Weymouth and Portland Live Site, 28 July 2012
Performing on Weymouth and Portland Live Site, 28 July 2012
Devon Wind machine was a cracker
Devon Wind machine was a cracker
One more full Wind Bag for Dorset
One more full Wind Bag for Dorset
robot likes the look of Event Security at Weymouth Bayside Festival
robot likes the look of Event Security at Weymouth Bayside Festiva
2012 torches into the sea for Weymouth Battle of the Winds Olympic celebrations
2012 torches into the sea for Weymouth Battle of the Winds Olympic celebrations

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