The class of Swanage Pier takes a lot of beating

I leave Weymouth and its soft sands and head to Lulworth Cove where the pebbles reappear. If you ever pictured a typical cove on our long & varied coastline then Lulworth Cove fits the bill in every way. You can see where the waves have forced their way through the hard rim of the coastline and eroded the softer rock behind to create a crystal clear bay, fred by a trickling stream.

Swanage is my next stop. I wasn’t really looking forward to my visit, remembering from past experiences nothing of particular interest. I must never have passed the bend because when I did,  there, in front of me, is the prettiest pier I’ve seen on the UK coastline so far. It is built in wrought iron, painted white and blue. It is quite small with good lines and a kink in the middle. The white limestone cliffs give it a wonderful backdrop. A small, well maintained, classic pier that just oozes class.

I take the longer route via Studland and its wonderful, long, duned sands.

and catch the ferry across to Sandbanks.

Did you know that Sandbanks has by area the fourth highest land value in the world? I know Harry Rednap lives there but we don’t all want him as a neighbour. Hey, they may some posh, two-tiered, 60s beach huts but they don’t have a pier of any description.

Now home. A great trip in with blue skies and brilliant weather.

From West Bay to Portland along Chesil Beach

Lyme Regis at dawn is magnificent. I got up early to capture the bay in its best light.

I caught a couple of smaller coastal villages – Charmouth and then Seatown (well hardly a town; more Seavillage although that doesn’t sound so good).

Then I came to West Bay. I did the Broadchurch shot first, much to the anxious consternation of a couple of householders or rather bungalowholders.

Then I went to the centre to appreciate the size of the pebbly breach and the iconic cliffs in the distance.

West Bay is one official end of Chesil Beach. It is 18 miles of pebbles named after cisel, the old English name for shingle or gravel. It’s not single or gravel. The beach off pebbles graded from small to large art watch and banks to very high 12 metres in places, creating a sort of lagoon between the shore and the beach itself.

West Bexington is a hamlet on the beach, occupied by anglers.

Climbing the pebble dunes is like entering a dry world of hollow sounds & crunching and death rattles of rolling pebble-dash. It’s harder to walk on than deep snow.

The far end is anchored by Portland where cliffs stand proudly on its Bill, protruding into the English Channel, a feature to be avoided by any vessel. Not sure how much Bill’s got to offer the visitor either.

The resort of Weymouth is around the coast. Another typical seaside resort with lovely soft sand…and look what I found – a Rossi’s Ice Cream Parlour.

The rhythm of the Jurassic Coast

This part of the coast has a gentle rhythm to it, a curving monotony that extends along the crescent of the shore into the distance. With amazing regulatory it rolls up to a truncated headland before dropping down to a bay where a settlement of some kind nestles in against the beach.

Sidmouth is the first of the day. The resorts seem to merge together along this part of the coast. Each has a rather grand facade lining the promenade, consisting of tall whitewashed buildings housing apartments, hotels, cafes, tea rooms & beach ware ( balls & buckets). Like a fading actress a lot of work has gone into making this as glam as possible. The heart of the resort lies behind this glitter where it lives a normal existence with all the warts of an ordinary town.

Seaton is very similar. The only difference being the increase in the range and number of mobility scooters that race up and down the promenade. I found it really hard to capture an interesting image of the place. I can show you where the beach huts will go…when they get them out of winter storage.

Excited? This sculpture around the sea defences says ‘shore shapes the wave’….hmmmm.

The small fishing settlement of Axmouth at the far end of the beach by the sailing club, has a bit of character.

The place I really liked was the small historic fishing village of Beer. What a great name. A working fishing village with boats & ropes & tackle & nets. Real fishing stuff. Oh, and some very well kept beach huts.

Of course, Lyme Regis is the jewel in the crown of the Jurassic Coast. It has the history and the culture and the industry. The place glows with the afternoon sun and memories come flooding back – the French Lieutenant’s Woman seeing her man off from the Cobb; numerous nights of alcoholic abandonment whilst on cricket tour including marathon games of beach cricket and moonies under the full moon. It was very civilised today, with a lack of rowdy cricketers and racing mobile scooters.

The mouth of the Teign, not the Tyne

Moving eastwards along the south coast, my next stop is Teignmouth. I like Teignmouth. It’s what it says on the town map…..the mouth of the River Teign. One side faces the river with Shaldon on the other side.

The gem on the Teignmouth side is a row of quirky fishing shacks which stare at passers-by, a bit like the cast of Toy Story,

The church anchors Teignmouth Pier to the sea side (!). I like this pier. It is plain & rather subtle. Sadly access through the arcade machines is blocked. I don’t know if its for safety reasons, maintenance or simply a seasonal closure. However, from a distance, I think it comes across really well – understated and underdone…..bit like me really!

Dawlish is the place where the main railway line hugs the coast. You may have seen it when winter storms have battered it and waves attacked it in baths, no pools, no lakes… full of water. It’s hard to believe on a day like this as picnics are taken and the warm spring sun enjoyed.

Further up, Exmouth Beach boasts a very impressive lifeboat and some even more impressive beach huts that share the car park. So impressive are they, that locals try to emulate their style and colour scheme.

Budleigh Salterton glows contentedly as the beach catches the evening rays.

Torbay or not Torbay – that is the question

The weather is set fine for a few days so am off down the coast. First of all I’m heading to the old fishing port of Brixham. It’s nice and civilised. There are a few visitors wandering around the dockside on this shining March day but the crowds are in the imagination rather than on the ground. The Park & Ride is closed even and there are spaces in the central car park.

It’s low tide. In the mud of the harbour a menagerie of boats balance precariously on their keels. It looks like a gentle puff of wind would push them onto their sides leaving them marooned like struggling beetles. I like the fact that Brixham is a working port. Yes, the white fibre-glassed hulls of yachts & cruises are lined up at their moorings in the marina. But the fishing fleet is still there, made up of traditional sailing trawlers, crabbers & modern offshore boats, rusty & stinking of years of holding their catch of fish & crustaceans. The history of the place oozes out of the small houses and the dockside.

Travelling eastwards Broadsands Beach is the recreation area for the town.

Goodrington Sands is also part of the crescent of rich dark sands which curves around from Brixham to Torquay known as Torbay. These beaches attract families and visitors to traditional, bucket & spade seaside holidays.

Paignton stretches eastwards from its old harbour. Beach huts line the promenade in irregular clumps. The pier, in all its tacky glory, reminds everyone that traditional seaside holidays consist of a lot of sand and even more cups of tea, candy floss, fish & chips and endless arcades to battle the children away from.

Torquay is supposed to be the elegant resort. Hmmm. There are many grand, white-washed buildings that remind the visitor of its Victorian past. But the pier…such a disappointment. If the pier reflects the grandeur of the resort then the stubby harbour wall with a few iron seats and stunted lamps along the top is a very poor reflection of Torquay’s past glory & present attraction.