Tim Saunders enjoys some scenes of literary inspiration in Dorset… Holidays are sacred. So when a bank holiday arrives you don’t really want to be stuck at home doing the chores. Much better to get out and explore. I set off recently to the great British countryside and visited Dorset with my wife Caroline and baby daughter Harriett.
I grew up in Dorset and miss the solitude and the rolling countryside. Our stay at Ha’penny Cottage in Loders, near Bridport, was like home. The cosy and tastefully renovated 150 year-old warm limestone property, available through Toad Hall Cottages, was a welcome place to rest and the beds were comfy too. Its child-friendly garden was an oasis of calm where Harriett enjoyed taking some of her first steps. It was all too easy to sit in front of the log fire and drink Chardonnay while watching a DVD from the extensive film library.
The tranquil village of Loders is a stone’s throw from Bridport, Lyme Regis and, a little further along the Jurassic coast into Devon, the fishing village of Beer. Caroline had interviewed the landscape and wildlife artist Peter Barker and he had invited her to a private viewing of his latest exhibition at the Marine House Gallery. Later, it was enjoyable to reacquaint ourselves with picturesque Beer, which Peter visits every four months, and has inspired some of his works. He’s not alone in drawing inspiration from the Jurassic coastline because English romantic artist Turner painted a scene of Lyme Regis in around 1834 while Beatrix Potter’s 1904 holiday to Lyme Regis resulted in illustrations for her book Little Pig Robinson.
Lyme Regis was also the setting for a pivotal scene in Jane Austen’s Persuasion and for The French Lieutenant’s Woman, written by local author John Fowles. The 1981 film, starring Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep, was partly shot at the sea wall in Lyme.
Our visit coincided with the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival, which attracts thousands of visitors. This year the town is also running the Jurassic Coast Earth Festival between May and September. Live jazz music with a twist was provided by The Big Noise street band from Taunton while renowned artist Adrian Gray expertly balanced unusually shaped locally sourced rocks on top of each other. This resulted in an extraordinary effect generating rounds of applause from mesmerised onlookers.
After little Harriett had finished walking in the footsteps of Meryl Streep she then proceeded to drag her parents on to the beaches of both Lyme Regis and Burton Bradstock. All this activity called for a good meal, which was found at Longs, the excellent fish and chip restaurant in Bridport town centre where the family-friendly surroundings were complimented by affable staff. Added to which the menu, created by chef owner Graham Davies, included specials such as chilli fish and trawler man’s pie. We enjoyed some of the best fish and chips and tasty desserts including black forest chocolate roulade and toffee and apricot gateau with cream – our holiday certainly ended on a gastronomic (and very British) high.