A long weekend in Dorset, England

The Purbeck railway line transports the nostalgic voyager along the 12mile track through English countryside and past the magnificent Corfe Castle sitting high on its hill above its quaint village to the seaside town of Swanage. There, we took a tall ship out along the coast to witness, from the sea, Harry Rock and the white chalk cliffs that are so typical of the south coast. Returning, on the train, to the car park, the other half was thrilled to find a car park full of vintage racing Bugatti cars. An excellent first day.

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Purbeck railway train guards smartly dressed in their traditional uniforms
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Steam Train
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Tall ship in Swanage Harbour
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Sailing the high seas.

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White Chalk Cliffs
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Swanage from the sea.
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Memorial plates on Swanage pier.
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A whole car park full of Bugatti racing cars.

We stayed in a little farmhouse just up the road from Lulworth Cove from which, cliff top footpaths offered beautiful coastal panoramas to include the famous arched peninsula of Durdle Door.

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Durdle Door
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Lulworth Cove
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Sea Thrift
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East side of the Durdle Door peninsula

Of all the drama of this stretch of coast, one of the most bizarre things we saw in that small area was the grey stone beach, and therefore foreboding grey waters, but yet the multi-coloured seaweeds of Kimmeridge Bay.

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Grey stones made this bay feel very hostile.

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Yet, the multicoloured seaweeds were mesmerizing.
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Known as the Jurassic Coast, people love to collect fossils from this stretch of coastland.

Tyneham village, commandeered by the military as a strategic location during the war is still in the hands of the military and therefore the village and Worbarrow Bay are only accessible on certain designated days. We were lucky to see them.

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A whole village commandeered for military purposes during WWII
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Has become a tourist attraction

 

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Tyneham village remains
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Nice to see natural history was much more important in those days.
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Worbarrow Bay
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Incredible translucent colour which must be the chalk sea floor reflecting light.

We spend a pleasing day on the National Trust Brownsea Island. Pleasing firstly because it required 2 ferry rides to get there and secondly because there were no vehicles and few people about but mostly, because we saw a rare red squirrel. Red squirrels are indigenous however, they were virtually wiped out when the larger, more aggressive grey squirrel got introduced from Nth America in C19.

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The coastguard cottages at the entrance to the island
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Whole flocks of peacocks roaming free.
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My first red squirrel – and I should never have seen it if it hadn’t thrown an acorn at my head – haha.

The bridge at Wareham was very pretty

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Swan in bridge shadows
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Duck leaving bridge shadows
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Kayaks for hire.

And, after a thorough lovely few days, for the grand finale, which happens to be my favourite place ever, and happened to fall on my birthday… we visited Monkey World. We had been once before when the boys were young and I do try to catch the daily dramas on the TV series but there is nothing like spending time watching these apes and monkeys that have had such difficult lives – many rescued from the pet trade and some from the tourist trade. This place does a great job in giving them back some dignity and allowing as natural a life as they would ever be able to enjoy. They have an excellent breeding program with some of the rarest of species whose young can end up getting transported back to the wild. I think it’s a great cause.

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Gordon, born at the centre, has grown into a fine young man.
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Golden Cheek Gibbons mate for life. I love to hear their morning song.
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Many come to this sanctuary with psychological scars that will stay with them forever.

 

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Strategies to make feeding more stimulating
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One of the orang-utans from the nursery
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She has mothered 3 young and contributed to the breeding program for this species.
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Oshine was rescued from being a household pet where she was feed a diet of burgers and sweets. She has done much better than me on her healthy eating regime.
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The Phallus and The Kraken

Today, we were noticed. The ‘money’ men arrived in town.

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A plan of the proposal – as posted on Facebook

 

Those (wo)men who relish rising, in the guise of regeneration for the good of humanity, to the challenge of raising £500m of tax payers money to finance their latest scheme – those who exhibit megalomaniac egoistical behaviours in feeling compelled to grow their wealth by invading unchartered territories, measure their worth by the size of their bank account and finally, live their lives to further enhance their off shore tally, ignoring that their invasive plans may not be to the wishes nor in the interests of the majority of those tax payers. They can’t possibly conceive of, and have no interest in a community that has other interests, other values, a more altruistic muse. They come, bearing gifts they think we should want, and maybe, to our own design, we might. But, without considering that we are a creative brood, thinking and critical, with our own ideas of what might be beneficial for the town, they foster upon us an idea conceived out of the desire for maximum profit, their profit, with little thought to local values and local needs.

It seems that, at this little pinprick on the map, the people are having too much fun. There is too much joviality and all of it virtually non-taxable. Pirates, bogeys and bonfire men, women and children all rejoicing in life, beyond the reach of the fiscal arm, living and celebrating community by means that are mostly outside of the great capitalist system – they’ve not yet found a way to charge the public for attending a parade.

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Jack-in-the-Green celebrations

 

The people are too self-composed and content, thriving within their own identity, resisting much of the ‘great’ system, turning their backs on the call of the wasteful consumerist con; laughing at the contradictory concept of a rough terrain vehicle that is gleaming pearly white and renouncing the celebrity status fantasy induced by stars and spangles on long nail extensions. Somewhere, there is a people who are resisting, and remaining mostly impervious to the invasive temptations and dictates of the mainstream media. And they think those people need help. Ha!

And, all that… Until today. Today, they’ve offered us regeneration, hoping we have forgotten the pipe dreams fallen by the wayside the last time we were offered a new lease of life, in the guise of a shopping precinct and car park. We sucked up the dream (or it was sucked up for us) of prosperity and fruitful futures for our children and they left us with a capitalist temple in exchange for our central green space and community hub that was the cricket ground: a gift that drained all of the life blood out of the surrounding streets, rendering them charity shop havens. They left us with global institutions that offered up hegemonised lifestyles and minimum wage retail jobs for our youth, keeping them just above the poverty line but maximising profits for the major chain stores that have been here, and stayed, for a while.

Not really experienced to give a fair critique, as I tend to avoid it whenever I can, I’m assuming Priory Meadow shopping centre has failed in its intent to regenerate us as, according to the sales pitch for the marina development, we are still lacking. We are still lacking, yet, who is answerable when such grand promises go unfulfilled? Those that were truly regenerated from the last scheme are so long gone. Can it really be that ‘industry, education, jobs and tourism will flourish’ better this time?

They offer us more homes, more parking, moorings for 600 water craft. How exciting. A waterside apartment. I’m sure we’d all like one of those (for 5 minutes) so we can live near our boats and pop out for a jaunt whenever the weather is fine. What, there aren’t enough for us all to have one each? Well, who will get one then? Local people, you say? Is the boat included? Of course, you can’t live there and earn enough money, locally, to pay for it. The local economy is terrible for that kind of lifestyle – unless you’re a property developer – preferably in to mariners.

And please, before you think Monaco or Abu Dhabi, please visit the wind tunnels and stagnant waters of the soulless urban barnacle clusters that are Brighton and Eastbourne marinas.

They are promising ‘preservation and enhancement’ despite the constant flux of 2,600 extra cars (pearl white for her to get to the nail parlour and black tinted glass for him to go and do ‘business’). Are they promising to preserve the history that is Rock-a-Nore road and the winch road behind? No doubt we’ll be promised that one of the last beach launched fishing fleets in the country, the fish market, the museum, the small local family business fish retailers and the net huts will all be preserved, with an aside that they’ll sit, smack bang, in the middle of the one way system for residents (and tourists… will there be tourist parking on the new complex?) to access their des. res.

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Weekend traffic jams on the proposed access road

 

And, included, at no extra cost to you madam, your own little oasis of even more capitalist temples of global retail institutions. Will this retail competition from global businesses preserve the friendly, non-‘gastro’ , independent pubs and little boutique shops scattered across the old town?

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Small, independent traders who help to make Hastings unique.

 

As for the boast of preserving the cliffs, who could assume to be so powerful as to stop the rain from falling out of the sky? I believe a basic lesson in the geological structure of the local area may be beneficial before running off to central government for financing.

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The area, at the base of the cliffs, of the site proposal

 

Geographically, to site 1300 homes in an area that is already so densely populated, one assumes high rise buildings. The only possible opponent in the vicinity against which to pitch that megalomaniacal need to compete, to be bigger, to dominate, even (or especially) over nature, would have to be the cliffs themselves.

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Again, the proposed site for development.

 

A tower of concrete going head to head with a tower of sandstone and clay – I imagine there is no competition and the sandstone and clay will come tumbling down, especially once they start pile-driving the sea floor to lay the foundations for The Phallus and the arc (not Ark – that’s another story of local catastrophe) with its curvature of the spine, that for me, and in the true style of Hastings’ fun and joviality, although with foreboding of the devastation that will be created, will now be known as… The Kraken.

500 million pounds. Imagine. Just to regenerate Hastings. I’m not sure it would be enough to fully realise a ‘state-of-the-art’ marina and there would be compromises, however, if we thought about what a 21st century regeneration might look like, I’m sure we could be far more creative and relevant Should it be an urbanisation of more of the same: retail outlets and chain store coffee shops offering chain store R&R? No – how is this regeneration when we constantly hear reports that the high street stores are struggling, profit margins are down and people are spending more and more online? How are the investors expecting to get that huge return on their money?

Why doesn’t someone (someone who knows how to raise £500m) make a real investment in the future of Hastings? Why can’t it be non-destructive? Imagine piling that money into digital businesses – we’re a town of creatives – imagine a hub for digital illustrators, film makers, game designers, VR developers – attracting young working professionals to the town – upskilling our own young people. Did you know that the UK creative industries generate £87.4bn a year (http://www.thecreativeindustries.co.uk/uk-creative-overview/facts-and-figures)? Couldn’t we plan for a slice of that instead? Surely, something more creative, both in conception and in practice, would be a better regeneration for the town. Rather than perpetuating the low skilled jobs for low level pay and the brain drain that happens in this town when our brightest go off to university and never really come back. Give us an honest regeneration that offers a real future with some real ‘state-of-the-art’ concepts .

£500m on a prescribed, publicly funded development that seems only slightly relevant to locals in exchange for a scarred, irretrievably ruined place of natural beauty and scientific interest doesn’t sound ‘state-of-the-art’ in this day and age. Haven’t we seen it all before?

Wildflowers on Winchelsea Beach

Every summer, these wildflowers astound me with their ability to exist on…. nothing. Where do they get their nutrients from? All these photos were taken within a 1km stroll along the pebbles at Winchelsea Beach and the wildlife around them (butterflies, moths, bees…) was abundant.

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Thistle
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Viper’s buglos
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Teasle
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Ragwort
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Hawk’s beard?
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Wild Carrot?
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Thistle
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Viper’s bugloss
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Sea kale
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Rosebay Willowherb foregrounding the old Mary Stanford lifeboat station.
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Rosebay willowherb and sea kale framing Dungeness nuclear power station
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six spot burnet on viper’s bugloss
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Thistle seed head
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Teasle

 

Low tide at the pier

I cannot believe it has been so long since I was on the beach. The pier at low tide will always offer an interesting play with light, lines and space.

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Circles and angles looking cold even from the cafe
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Deceptive skies
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Playing with DOF
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When the reflections scream
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geometry
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No sunset then
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More reflections
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The seafront properties are looking more and more cared for.
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Playing with ICM (intentional camera movement)

Whitstable Bay

It’s always interesting to go to Whitstable for the day. Not only because the seafood lunches are fabulous but also because the north facing coast is enjoyably disorientating, putting a different view on the sunset. And, my oh my, have the sunsets been glorious this autumn.

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Groynes
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Oyster shell debris
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Oyster beds at low tide
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Victoriana elegance
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Boats
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Beach huts
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Seaside home
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Boats at sunset

 

 

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Fickle Autumn in Rye

We left the house under a glorious autumnal sun and by the time we’d got to the harbour in the Cinque Ports town of Rye (20 mins up the coast) already the clouds had started gathering.

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Gibbet’s Marsh Windmill
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Why are white picket fences so compelling?
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Glorious autumnal weather
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Rye Quayside
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Salty old sea dog – cute ears.
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And, just look at that weather the tide brought in.

 

 

 

Vypin Island, Kerala, India

And I am so terribly behind with posting. Not that I’m complaining after having spent a month in India for which I feel privileged, dumbfounded, enlightened, heartbroken, joyous, humbled, confused, enriched…. I defy anyone to come away from India and feel they have an understanding of how they feel about that place and its people.

Our trip was restricted to Kerala and a little of Tamil Nadu as we didn’t want to spend our month traveling long distances (although I do regret missing the experience of the trains) and we planned a gentle introduction to the country, its people, its food (no global fast food chains here) and the climate by spending several days at Cherai Beach on Vypin Island.

I guess, unless you travel with one of the big tour operators where tourists may be somewhat shielded from the raw everydayness of Indian life, there is no gentle introduction to this enigmatic land. The first obstacle we encountered was how to eat – we were traveling cheaply (lots of homestays and small, independent hotels) and food wasn’t part of the accommodation – mainly vegetarian meals and curried vegetables for breakfast didn’t take too much getting used to and at least, near the beach, there was a wonderful range of seafood.

The seafood leads me onto the second dilemma we encountered very early on during our stay: the Indian’s relationship with the sea. We are avid swimmers and love to get in the sea (yes, even the English Channel) but were unnerved to learn, on the day of our arrival, that a lad had gone missing in the water. Then, after a couple of days watching the domestic tourist buses turn up late afternoon, we realised that the Indians just don’t swim. Some male youths may get in the water properly but as soon as they get beyond chest depth, the ‘lifeguard’ blows his whistle and they come back to shallower water. And, to be honest, although there are miles of beautiful golden sand, the litter and other pollution (yes, it is true, there is still some human defecation in places of extreme beauty) are not particularly inviting. As mesmerised as we were to watch the romantic scenes of the cast net fishermen every morning, it was also dumbfounding to watch them return to the sea the plastics and other refuse they had just dragged ashore in their nets – probably to then drag it all back ashore the following day.

But the landscape was beautiful and the people, whether on the street, from the accommodation or working in the eating places were friendly and helpful and pleased to share insights into their culture.

This is our photo journey of Vypin Island:

Domestic tourists would arrive by the bus load towards the end of the afternoon and then disappear again after sunset:

 

Very few Indians got into the water when they came to the beach and often, if they did, they would be fully dressed:

It was fascinating to watch the cast net fishermen each morning:

A sight highly recommended by the tourists books, these static nets that are raised and lowered by a series of boulders working as counter-balances and purportedly introduced by the Chinese, are best seen on the north tip of Vypin Island.

As well as the lone cast net fishermen and the small crews that work the canoes, Kerala has a considerable fleet of deeper water fishing boats:

It was on Vypin Island that we first met some of India’s animals – domestic and wild:

And started to become aware of the spiritual diversity of the country. Christians, Hindus and Muslims live their daily lives, side by side, in seeming peace and understanding of one another.

And finally, a few photos for no other reason than to celebrate how wonderful the light is in this part of the world:

 

 

Beach life at Bulverhythe

I suppose one would have to know a little of the history of British seaside towns, and specifically St Leonards, to fully understand the bedlam of Bulverhythe.

The Victorians, with their increased wealth and free time, raised the profile of the seaside and, during that period of social revolution, Decimus Burton raised the profile of St Leonards on Sea.

The ‘trendy’ area was a couple of miles to the East but, the plebeians were getting free time too and needed somewhere to go.

This area continued to develop and in 1933 a wonderful Lido was constructed which was enjoyed right through until my childhood. Then, after a period of neglect and no investment, the venue was raised to the ground in 1989. The great wasteland that still remains today signalled the end of tourism for this part of the coast however, locals still like to keep their chalets here as it is a dog friendly beach and the parking is not as extortionate as elsewhere. Some of the colonnades of the lido building can still be seen along the cycle track.

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Pop-up cafe
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Place of gathering
dsc_8848
Constant battle with the paint brush.
dsc_9664
Precarious wooden structures
dsc_9674
Home from home
dsc_9795
Door steps
dsc_9801
Yearly, I watch this boat die.