Chalky Hills, Lawrence of Arabia and Homecooked Food

What a difference travelling down to the folks on the 1.20pm train from Waterloo makes in comparison to the usual Friday evening rush hour journey.

No-one was standing in the aisles with their suitcases in the way, there were no carrier bags full of crisps and beer spilling on to you from above, and there were no oblivious people plugged into their ear phones reluctant to give up their space or allow people to pass. (Thinking about it, that sounds like my journey to work every day!)

I did smirk to myself when an older couple chose the seats opposite me and the wife very awkwardly slid into the window seat dragging and wedging her weekend bag under the table.

Where was the room for her husband?

“I’ll put the bag in the overhead rack shall I?”
“No, it won’t fit”
“It will fit”
“No it won’t, sit yourself down”

And that was that. With a resigned bow of the shoulders and looking like he wanted to do something unpleasant to the woman, the husband sat himself down squeezing his legs into the teeny-tiny space in front of him.

After a minute he started fidgeting, stretching out in the aisle, holding people up. The wife was oblivious.

I couldn’t bear it anymore, I had to intervene. So I told the wife that her case would fit as my weekend bag was bigger than hers. The husband seized the moment and promptly moved it to the overhead rack – low and behold it slotted in nicely.

“We don’t travel much on trains” she said.

It reminded me of mum and dad. Conversations the world over dictated by the wife who doesn’t always necessarily know best!

Once down at mum and dads the feast began. G&T to start, olives and antipasti for starter and cod wrapped in pancetta with ratatouille, green beans and charlotte potatoes for main. No dessert for me but of course, I had the obligatory glass of white wine or two.

Chalky cliffsSaturday loomed bright and breezy. Managing to get out of the house by 10.30am after mum and I had gorged on bacon, egg and toast, we made it to the cliffs above Southdown Farm in Ringstead Bay, Dorset by 11.30am.

Traipsing off in a westerly direction the wind thrashed our right sides making our ears hurt and I daydreamed of ear muffs. The stiff breeze did a damned fine job of “clearing out the cobwebs” however.

We walked to White Nothe over narrow paths with farmland on one side and sheer drops on the other. I was glad we didn’t have any children with us as the wind would have whipped them up and tossed them around like a Voldermort follower performing the Cruciatus Curse.

As you reach White Nothe the coastguard cottages stand proud on the headland overlooking the dilapidated Second World War pillbox. There is a sign daring the intrepid to walk the Smugglers Path down to Smugglers Cove. About a foot wide we would have been mental to attempt it on such a gusty day!

We met a very interesting couple on the last leg on their South Coast walk. They’d been doing it every year for eight years and covered the 630 miles from Minehead to Poole with a few detours on the way to see a place of interest or two. Asking which their favourite part was, they said it was more about the contrast in scenery between the beauty of the unspoiled and industrial coastlines, although The Lizard was a firm favourite (and a personal favourite of mine).

[The walking firm they used to transfer their luggage, give maps, recommend and book accommodation is called Lets Go Walking.]

Following a rest stop overlooking the chalk cliffs to Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, we made our way down the steep slope on the 1.25 mile track to Ringstead Bay. Passing out-of-breath walkers coming up the hill we passed over timber bridges through wooden glades, wrecked bridges with planks missing over tiny streams invaded by hawthorn bushes and then smelled that rotten seaweed smell that can only mean one thing, the beach!

Ringstead BayThe beach is not the most beautiful compared to say, a tropical island beach, but when you first view it with the sun glinting off the water, small sailboats bobbing up and down, the chalky whiteness of the cliffs highlighted when the sun comes out from beneath a cloud, Portland Bill looking like a mirage through the watery haze and kite surfers plying their tricks around the corner, it does have a certain something about it.

Realising my lack of balance trying to secure my footing over the pebbly beach, I couldn’t wait to reach the ramp so I could finally go to the loo and have a cup of tea and a sandwich from the caravan park kiosk/café (which has a 5 star hygiene rating from TripAdvisor).

After filling our tummies with tuna sandwiches and a mug of tea, we stated out ascent to the car park at the top of the hill. Whose idea was it to park at the free car park?? The one by the kiosk costs £5.

We climbed over the style and up through the farmland. Someone had let their Springer spaniel off the lead and it was herding the sheep. I didn’t fancy their chances on the cliff tops as those dogs are renowned for jumping off!

Up we went, one step at a time, pacing ourselves with the occasional “I’m not really out of breath just looking at the view” stop. The ewes we passed were huge staring suspiciously at us as though we were going to let another Springer loose on them.

The slope became a steep gradient. Where has the track gone?

We realised there was no way out at the top of the hill so after a slight temper flare-up we traversed our way to a gap in the hedge. The long grass was springy and moss-like underfoot – at any moment I thought my foot would disappear through “quick grass”!

Feeling incredibly pleased with ourselves we reached the top and watched a hand glider putting out his instruments.

On the way home we decided to visit Moreton.

Etched windowsThe Church of St Nicholas and St Magnus was hit and destroyed in World War Two and when it was rebuilt it was decided not to replace the stained glass. Instead, the glass is etched and is stunningly beautiful.

Moreton is a quaint little place with a huge manor house and also houses a rather nice café in its public gardens where you can buy local Ossingham double cream ice cream. Delicious.

The graveyard which is situated next to the open gardens houses a very famous grave indeed. T E Lawrence, otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia!Lawrence of Arabia

Happy and sunburned we headed home for a feast. Smoked salmon starter, sirloin steak goulash and rice for main and cheesecake and blueberries for dessert. Washed down with various wines and a 30 year old Oloroso sherry (which went with the blueberries but not the cheesecake).

To finish off a relaxing weekend dad and I stretched out legs on Sunday morning before stuffing our faces with more food – roast pork with a whole grain mustard glaze, roast potatoes, roasted butternut squash in a cider and rosemary jus, carrots, broccoli and green beans. As if that wasn’t enough, the cheesecake and blueberries needed finishing. Well, you have to really don’t you??

I could jabber on some more about my train journey home and the timber business owner who knows the woodsman from Grand Designs; the man who lost his wallet and the woman who had had seven bikes stolen from outside her house but these are other stories for other days…

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