Ladies Weekend, August 2010

The hardcore womenfolk of HRFC aka the usual suspects Jean, Ruth, Jane and I planned a weekend foray into the far reaches of West Dorset a land flowing with cider and fossils. 

Click here for the trip photo gallery.

In deference to the anti global warming brigade all those who could drive bought their own cars (we like to maintain control and independence in our little lives). By happy coincidence we all managed to arrive at the same service station on the M27, yes you’ve already guessed it, the hallowed Rownhams services, patronised regularly by our esteemed leader and chairman Senor Gasson. Unfortunately this did not win us any favours with the refreshments sales team and we all paid a premium price for our buckets of Costa coffee and plastic toast.

Gender stereo types are blown into the stratosphere as Jane ably helps me (Kim) cure Florence (my beloved car) of her hot flushes on route by topping up her coolant levels, as we set off in convoy my anxieties pack up and move home, Florence’s temperature gauge does stay at a reasonable level, the coolant is doing its job.

We arrive at the campsite by lunchtime and the patron advises of where to pitch our tents. Three out of four tents were in good working order and in no time are erected and filled with all the necessary’s to ensure a good nights sleep. Ruth however has let the side down with a tent that has sustained a fracture to its front leg. We plumbed the depths of our brains to access those all important problem solving skills, Jane obviously received a word of knowledge because she produced from her car some carpet tape to bind and support said fracture. Soon Ruth’s tent is standing tall and proud holding its own against three other smugly uninjured tents.

We are all a bit agog about how we have managed to make it to planned site in daylight, what is more with day light hours to spare to actually do something with. Firstly there is the all-important inspection of the WC block. The judges score it favourably for cleanliness and the bonus of very well organised files of every conceivable activity to do in the land of cider and fossils. The inspection also enables us to reminisce about previous weekends away, the most remembered parts of which seem to concern the wc’s, I promise this does not reflect on quality of these jaunts away, we must just all have a bit of a thing about toilets and ablution facilities in general.

We go green and take one car to the nearest town Bridport, before this we stop and at the local hostelry to check out the cider and menu. The Shave Cross Inn presents its self as a gastro pub and alludes to links with Hugh Fernley Wittingstall of River Cottage, this is reflected in the elevated prices on the menu, we are stingy by nature and to support this I would add that the party is made up of a pensioner and three NHS workers (I rest my case). Bridport is a bustling town with shops aplenty. Even after this wonder about Bridport there is still time to do something else. Ruth purchased a walks book and picks a walk we can do, back in the car and down to West Bay. The sun shines on our little walk and we take in the pleasing views around us, Jane and I engage in a game of playing country file presenter, weird I know but it felt the right at the time. On return to the car the urgent matter of a place to eat out on one evening presses upon us. We have been advised that the ……at Whitchurch Canicorium ‘does food’, a few windy miles of lanes later we arrive. A ten minute discussion with the landlady ensues, information is fired from both quarters; the concluding result is that we are eating here on Sunday evening; there is live music and a BBQ on Saturday for local people. To be fair the land lady did not say this but it all felt a bit local, think its best to leave the natives to it, an evening on a chilly campsite will be much more fun.

Jane kindly cooks up a storm for us back at the campsite, and there literally will be a storm of the windy kind as there were a lot of beans and quorn sausages consumed. The excitement of the day has taken its toll, as well as the drop in temperature so we all tuck ourselves up in bed.

Saturday dawns fine and bright with heavy dew. The happy campers having breakfasted, headed off for a days walking along the Dorset Coastal path from West bay to Charmouth. The route is only seven miles long but involves significant ascent and descent in equal measure, imagine the seven sisters and quadruple it. The undulating nature of the walk means that we have spectacular views of Chesil beach, and Portland. We stop after each up and admire the scenery, we climb Golden Cap (189 m asl, not a munro I know) which is according to our route guide the highest point on the south coast, I thought that Beachy head held that accolade, but having now climbed the two I am happy to confirm that the Golden Cap has it on that score. We have a picnic lunch at Seatown; funnily enough it is by the sea. I go all Ray Mears and collect some driftwood to fuel tonight’s marshmallow toasting. We wend our weary way onwards, signposts pointing us in the direction of Charmouth inform us of the distance as well, some in the party formed the opinion that the sign erectors measuring stick was all wrong in favour of the actual distance of a mile being made longer than it should have, perhaps even doubled in scale. The final blow to morale came in the form of a diversion sign only a stones throw from Charmouth; there had been a massive land slip, the whys and wherefores all carefully recorded in text and photograph. The detailed information only added salt to the wound, the fact still remained you could only get to Charmouth the long way around. As we did not have esteemed leader Senor Gasson (did you know he wasn’t a girl?) with us saying ‘it’ll go’, we opted for the diversion. Anyhow our knight in shining armour appeared in the form of the National Trust shop and tearoom, Ruth and I went to ask if they had a number for a taxi. The volunteer ladies bustled with excitement, as this was something quite new from taking money for a bookmark and Styrofoam cup of tea. One lady could have sworn that there was a taxi number on the notice board, not being able to locate it, they had another option up there sleeve. The yellow pages was taken down from the top shelve dusted down and pressed into action. After a couple of no can do’s a firm from Bridport could be with us just as soon as the busy traffic on the A35 allowed. Jane and Jean appear, wondering where we had got to; we celebrate rescue success with Styrofoam tea. Taxi arrives, judging by his attire the driver is evidently keen on John Wayne but has a delightful West Country burr. We are deposited right to our car at West bay, we thank him tip him handsomely (see we’re not that stingy).

Its back to base camp for BBQ night, not after a fight round a busy Morrison’s in Bridport for the necessary food. We all huddle around the campfire and I resist the urge to coerce people into singing a few campfire songs. Early night then?!

Sunday, not as sunny today, in fact the sky looks quite threatening. Of f to Lyme Regis today for a mooch about. This popular little resort is packed with families in the last throws of the summer holidays. They lay claims to the artificial sand beach and remain in defiance of the squally showers that want to rain on their parade. We have one stop at a tearoom, enjoying doorstep pieces of Victoria sandwich with fresh cream and strawberry secreted in the folds of moist yellow sponge, yum. We return to the cars to meet the Who do you think you are production team who are filming Ruth in that popular BBC series (now so popular its altered from BBC 2 to BBC 1 woo). The rest of the afternoon is spent tracing Ruth’s family around the wilds of West Dorset; I think both Ruth and the production team were happy with human stories that the whole venture gave light to. We will let people know when Ruth’s “Who do you think you are?” episode is on, it’s always good to see people you know on the telly. After an exhausting afternoon of filming it’s back to the campsite to dress for dinner. This is not before we have been to the cider production shed on the farm here at the campsite. Mr Creed Castle (site owners husband) gives us a detailed talk about the cider production, he is faltering to begin with soon gets into his stride. He weaves tales of shire horses, cider production and beehives seamlessly together, several attempts are made to open the shed door by a member of the listening party, but the gap between tales just isn’t long enough. The clock ticks by and desperation causes Jane to be assertive in saying we really must be on our way. A few precious minutes more spent buying a bottle of this fabled cider before we escaped.

The Five Bells Inn do us proud with excellent home cooked fare and at very reasonable price. We are all pooped so don’t stay to find out if there will be a lock in.

Monday morning and the day is glorious, not a cloud in the sky. We break camp and people head off with various plans about what to do on the way home. It’s a lovely drive home with the sun showing off Dorset at it’s very best, we are indeed lucky to live in a country where scenery like this is but a short drive way.

We would like to see more women folk keen on talking about camping site toilets to join us on our annual jaunt, the preference for talking about toilets and showers is the only qualification needed, so why not give it go?!!


Ps. I realise the word count of this article is somewhat lengthy in proportion to time we actually spent away but I couldn’t resist all the anecdotal tales…sorry I caught the ‘tell every tale’ bug off the man in the cider shed!

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