Sunny Dorset

Nik and Colmers hill
Nik and Colmers hill

Nik has spent the last few weeks sorting out Daisy’s dodgy wiring, changing the starting motor and generally making sure she is as healthy as possible so we could have a breakdown free week away. So I was more than a little surprised when he suggested we spend the week in Dorset. This is a county that flooded the last time we spent a week there. We can count on one hand the dry days we’ve spent in Dorset and yet Nik wanted to spend September in this beautiful county. He checked and double checked the weather reports for the week and looked so excited I couldn’t say no. However, it was on the understanding that if the weather turned wet we wouldn’t stay.

Daisy must also have had a few concerns as well, as despite Nik’s efforts the minx still managed to outwit him. This time she got a puncture, luckily it happened almost on top of a lay-by, so we limped backwards a few yards so Nik could change her tyre. The problem was it was a new tyre and had been put on with power tools in a garage, and so Nik had to call the RAC to change it. He wasn’t too pleased about this, it’s a manly pride thing. Apparently, men don’t call the RAC to change tyres. We’ve come to the conclusion that Daisy has a thing for men in overalls and are seriously considering getting Nik some to wear on all journeys.

We didn’t go straight to Dorset for the first few days but started off slowly by staying on a site in Colyton, Devon. We arrived too late to go off to any nearby towns so we explored the woodland nearby. Following a route that the site owner had given us, we wondered along woodland paths with beautiful views across farmland. Too overcast on this walk for Nik to get any good pictures but we didn’t mind as we knew we’d be back along that way before we moved on. Nik did manage to get so fantastic shots of wild mushrooms/toadstools along the edge of the woodland which was a bonus we hadn’t expected.

bonnet fungi growing on a decaying wooden fence, Dorset, UK
bonnet fungi growing on a decaying wooden fence, Dorset, UK

The next morning we awoke to beautiful hot sunshine so we took the opportunity to visit the local Donkey Sanctuary. What a fantastic day we had. There are public footpaths running through the sanctuary, one of which led down to Weston Mouth so after we’d had a good look around we wondered on down to the beach. Before reaching the beach we came to the Western Plats, which were once a series of market gardens worked by the locals. Now overgrown and left to nature it makes for a very interesting and scenic diversion along the route. The beach is accessed by going down some lovely steep steps, which as we walked down we did ho hum about the coming back up. It was worth it as this beach, made up of pebbles stretched as far as we could see in both directions. There was a lovely freshwater pool at the base of the steps, fed by a stream, which Oscar made straight for. He spent absolutely ages playing in the water and cooling down. After a nice little wonder about the beach, we decided to tackle the steps back up. Now, on the other side of the stream where more steps leading up, but at a gentler slope, so we decided to go up this route thinking that my poor legs wouldn’t suffer so much. How wrong we were. It may have been less steep but the climb went on for longer and I had what Nik calls “Jelly Legs”, by the time we reached the flat. Even Nik’s legs had felt this climb which made me feel a little better. We walked through woodland and around fields, mostly up hill, back to the Donkey Sanctuary, in all only about a 2-mile circular route from and back to the Sanctuary. Try telling my legs that, ha ha.

The Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary, Devon, UK
The Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary, Devon, UK

We decided to stop for a late lunch in the sanctuaries restaurant. Our timing was awful because everyone else had picked that time to eat as well so we had a bit of a wait for our food, not too bad considering a number of people that had arrived before us. The food was well presented and tasted lovely so no complaints from us. Top marks to the sanctuary, we had a fantastic day out.

Our evening walk was spent back in the woods. We accessed the woods by climbing over some fencing, which we knew we could do because the site owner had told us the day before that her husband does this to avoid the road. This method brought us out in the woodland rather than on a path which made for an altogether better walk, Nik and I hunted for fungi whilst Oscar thoroughly enjoyed running and climbing over and under fallen trees. So much for him to sniff he just didn’t know where to go next. We eventually ended up back on the route we had followed the night before, so we decided to see if the view was any better for photography. The sun picked this moment to hide behind the clouds so no joy again. As we aren’t keen on following the same route too often we decided to follow along an interesting looking path to see where it led to. After about half an hour we decided that it was taking us deeper into the woodland with no view and very little light. But we do have a ‘no go back the way we came’ policy so we continued to follow it until we found a path that led vaguely in the correct direction. By now we were quite deep into the wood and had been going steadily downhill the whole time, so vaguely in the right direction meant walking up hill. It never crossed our minds to consider ourselves lost, as we knew which path we’d followed, so if all else failed we could backtrack as a last result. As is usually the case when we take a turning we hadn’t intended or walked further than we should have it turned out to be a good thing, as Nik was finding plenty of photo opportunities along the way and Oscar and I where having masses of fun exploring. Eventually, Oscar made the best discovery. He led us along a path that ran alongside a field with stone circles in it and the sun was shining on them beautifully. This was a massively unexpected bonus for us as we hadn’t researched this area and didn’t know they were there. Fantastic find, we can’t name it as an hours worth of Google searching has come up empty, but it doesn’t matter as this was the cherry on the top of an already over iced cake. Fantastic day from start to finish.

Seafront Gardens, Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK
Seafront Gardens, Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK

We awoke to a bit of a chilly morning, but the sun was out so we weren’t worried about getting rained on. We started our day by taking Oscar for a last walk in the woods before moving on. Following a well-trod path through the trees, as the sun was out and the light coming through was stunning. We came across a fantastic den made with branches from the woodland floor. Someone had fun making it, Nik had fun photographing it. Nik was also very please to come across some old woodman’s equipment on the edge of the wood. We had another thoroughly enjoyable walk before setting off for a day at Seaton.

We’ve visited Seaton a few times before with the girls and have always had an enjoyable day. There is an as yet unexplored area that Nik and I had our sites set on for this trip. The plan was to walk along the estuary but when we arrived the water was very low, so we had a wonder through the high street first. We managed to pick up a few necessities while we where there, a plunger as we had a blockage in the kitchen sink, a metal swing tie for Oscar and some jeans for me because a woman always needs new clothes. Once we were finished with the town we grabbed a couple of sandwiches and wondered on down to the beach. The area of the beach which has the promenade running along it has a dog ban in the summer months so we walked to the far end to eat our sandwiches and give Oscar a chance to play in the water. It was starting to get very warm now so Oscar was very keen to cool down in the water. After our lunch, we walked up to the other end of the beach to have a look at the estuary. The water was still low and the tide was in so we came to the conclusion that it rarely filled. After exploring a bit we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to be easy walking up the estuary which was a shame.

We moved sites for this evening, a little closer to Dorset. Our evening walk took us along an overgrown bridle path, downhill along country lanes, past some beautiful houses until we found a public footpath which took us off the roads. We were hoping it would come out not far from our site, how wrong we were. It was a lovely walk around the edge of crop fields, however, it took us out on the edge of the main road. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it had just been Nik and myself, but the grass verges were overgrown and we had to walk on the road with a dog. The light was fading and we had fast moving traffic coming at us. It wasn’t the most enjoyable walk we’ve had. That night Oscar had a dodgy tummy (probably caused by the stress of our walk). There where cows in our field, only fenced off by a small electric fence and it was pitch black outside, which made it worse for Oscar because he could hear the cows but not see them. Was quite an experience trying to hold a nervous dogs lead and torch in one hand whilst cleaning up behind him in the other. The joys of having a dog!

Seafront Gardens, Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK
Seafront Gardens, Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK

Tuesday we decided to spend the day in Lyme Regis. Nik loves it there and the last time we went we had the girls with us, so spent less time exploring and more time in the shops. Today we started by walking down to the harbour and letting Oscar have a free run along the pebbly beach to the right of it. Whilst there we saw so many people fossil hunting that we decided we’d have a go. Surprisingly enough we didn’t find any, haha. We then had a walk along the top of the harbour wall, Nik was somewhat surprised that I had agreed to do this as the tide was out and it’s a rather large drop to the bottom without the water. It was worth overcoming my fear though as the view across the bay was stunning. We spend the rest of the day exploring all the little nooks and crannies of the town and beyond. There are some fantastic little spots in Lyme Regis, slightly off the main attraction that just have to be visited. By the time we went back to Daisy we were pretty sure the only place left unexplored was Dinosaurland. All three of us were happily worn out. Happy Days!

To finish the perfect day we booked a little site in Chidock. We didn’t realise until we turned down the lane towards it that we had almost stayed on this site on two previous occasions, the first time we actually got to the site but it was a swamp so we turned around and left. The second time we realised which site it was just as we were about to book it and decided it was too dodge in the rain. This time we decided that as we’d booked we’d give the site another chance. What a fantastic stroke of luck we did, fate has obviously been trying to get us on this site for nearly 4 years, for good reason. It turns out that the public footpaths that lead to Colmer’s Hill ( a hill which Nik has been wanting to photograph for 4 years), runs through the land we were staying on. So for our evening walk, we explored the footpaths for a few hours and made the decision that if the weather was good on the next day we would stay another night and walk to the hill.

Colmer's Hill, Symondsbury, Dorset, UK
Colmer’s Hill, Symondsbury, Dorset, UK

We woke up Wednesday morning to rain. Both of us were disappointed as we really wanted to find Colmer’s Hill. Luckily by the time we’d dressed and had breakfast the rain had stopped and we could see that it was going to be another stunning day. So, packing a lunch and plenty of water for Oscar we set off for a day of exploring. It took us about an hour and a half to get to the hill, this did include us spending quite a while walking along the wrong path, stopping to take photos and chatting with other walkers along the way. The route was pretty easy walking with views to die for, obviously, the climb to the top of the hill was pretty painful on the legs but so worth it. The views from the top are amazing and just for extra bonus features the sun was out and the sky was full of puffy white clouds. The view was clear as far as the eye could see. We sat and had our lunch up on the hill before making our way down the other side to Symondsbury. A very quaint little village with a very posh little tea room which we had to visit as Nik can’t miss the opportunity for a cake if it’s presented to him. In all, a stunning and rather unexpected day in the Dorset countryside. There are so many paths/hills in this little area we will most definitely be revisiting another time.

Thursday started out pretty chilly but very quickly warmed up so we took the pooch for a walk up another hill, with yet more stunning views across the countryside before setting off for a few days at Chettle. Chettle caravan site is a field on the Chettle Estate, near Blandford Forum. The only facilities on this site are toilet empty and fresh water. That’s it, a very basic site, no thrills, unless you enjoy walking in the countryside and we do. So for £4 a night we’re in heaven. There are so many bridal paths and footpaths crisscrossing the area that we have many visits to go before we begin to feel that it’s time to find another spot.

This visit we spent most of our first day walking the bridal path that runs around the edges of crop fields. Because of the time of year, most of the fields are either awaiting the plough or have barely grown winter crops. A few were planted up with feed crops and a small portion of many fields were planted with quinoa, a crop we hadn’t seen before, but on investigation have found that it’s a rather new food crop that is growing in popularity because of its nutritional qualities. So we not only got pictures we’d not taken before we also learnt something. Just to add a bit of extra interest for us it was pheasant season, so there were pheasants everywhere we went. It became Nik’s mission to get a good picture of a male pheasant before we left. Not the easiest task at the best of times, add a dog who thoroughly enjoys hunting them out into the mix and it becomes an impossible task to sneak up on them. It didn’t stop Nik from trying even if every attempt was foiled by Oscar. We finished the day with wet legs and very satisfied smiles on our faces.

Friday morning we awoke to light rain which lasted until lunchtime. This didn’t manage to spoil anyone’s day though, Oscar went bounding out of Daisy like a puppy on speed and tore across the wet grass full of the joys of spring. As it was raining we decided to walk along a woodland path following a route named ‘The Jubilee’, which we had vaguely followed on our last visit and ended up walking for miles across fields and out the other side of the village. At the time we weren’t sure if we’d gone the right way or missed a sign somehow, we now know that we did indeed miss a sign. No matter as we enjoyed our walk last time and it gave us somewhere different to explore on this visit. The rain was just a light drizzle by this time so we were in no hurry to turn back. We hoped that if we followed the signs we’d take a circular route back to our start point, hahaha. As is always the way when Nik and I go for a walk we ended up walking for miles along the edge of fields and along county paths, until eventually, we ended up at Tarrant Gunville, which was a very nice looking village, but we’d been walking for a few hours now and the signs where taking us in the opposite direction to the one we wanted to be going in, so we decided it was time to make our own route back. Three-quarters of an hour later we arrived back at Daisy, wet, tired and thoroughly happy with ourselves. We spent the afternoon relaxing and giving Oscar time to recover before we started off for yet another round of pheasant hunting.

European roe deer, Capreolus capreolus on the edge of a maize field, Dorset, UK
European roe deer, on the edge of a maize field, Dorset, UK

By the time we set off for our evening walk the sun had come out again but we knew it wouldn’t be too long before it started to get dark so we followed a well-trod path around the fields. Because of the time we were out, we managed to see a few wild deer grazing on the crops, too far away to get a good photo, but close enough to put huge smiles on both of our faces. You can see all the dear you like in enclosures, but there is something very special about seeing them totally wild. Oscar had enormous fun playing gun dog and sniffing out the pheasants. He isn’t a huge fan of the undergrowth as it snags on his curly fur, but for the chance to chase pheasants he forgot all about his dislike. It was wonderful to see him growing in confidence and losing himself in the fun of just being outside sniffing new smells without worrying he might lose us. Two and a half hours later we all arrived back at Daisy with looks of total satisfaction on our faces. That night we went to sleep to the sound of owls hooting. Perfect!

Saturday we woke up to an overcast but warm day and found that the bottom of our field had been invaded by horses and vehicles, getting ready for some kind of event. We had noticed that coloured string had been added to the trees along one of the bridle paths the evening before and now we could see why. We had to put Oscar on a lead whilst we walked past the horses as he is still a little scared of them and is want to bark when scared. We didn’t want him scaring the horses as well. After a lot of umming and ahhing over whether or not we should stay another day or move on, we finally decided we should stay. Nik had horses to take photos of and keep him happy and I had a good book on the go while Nik was otherwise occupied so all was good. The pheasants were still illuding Nik (one perfect male ran past our window in the morning but by the time Nik had woken up his camera it was gone). So spending our last day here was good for all of us.

bridleway, Chettle, Dorset, UK
bridleway, Chettle, Dorset, UK

For our last evening walk, we followed a route we did last year that took us all around the fields and back to the village. Not long into our walk, we noticed that we were following the coloured string that had been put up for the horses. We did briefly consider following the course but during the day we had overheard two riders talking on their return about how it had taken them an hour and twenty minutes to complete and after a quick calculation we realised that even if they only cantered half the route it would still take us about three hours to do the same journey, which would get us back to our field well after dark. With no torch and in an area we don’t know well, we decided that this wasn’t the best idea. As it turned out the field we needed to walk through to finish our walk was being ploughed so we decided to explore another path, this happened to be the path the horses had followed (coincidence). We didn’t follow their whole route as we definitely would have been returning in the dark, as it was it was as close to without actually being dark when we arrived back at our field. We all had a thoroughly enjoyable walk along yet another bridle path that we hadn’t yet travelled.

Chettle has yet to disappoint us. It was the perfect end to our holiday, or so we thought. We woke up Sunday morning to a summers day and whilst we were walking Oscar we saw four deer just standing, enjoying the sun, in the middle of a ploughed field. We stood in awe, watching four specs, which were barely visible, musing over the wonder that although we could barely make them out it made us so happy to see them and know they were there. Big fat cherry on the top!

For more blogs about our adventures, click HERE

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