I’ve just been to Dorset and back. This was my destination for Sunday, but more than that, I think we might end up transferring our English home to this county.
I went there on egg – a boiled one, then left Nick to run his bath and prepare for a day with JACS. It’s a good 2 hour drive to the village where my friend Rosemary lives. We met when I transferred to the Green School in Dorchester to complete my sixth form schooling, because my father was transferred from Whitehall to Portland Naval Base. She and I then trained as bilingual secretaries at a college in Weymouth. We moved to London and got ourselves jobs.
More than 40 years later we are still good friends and I think I am one of few people who still use her youthful nickname. For many of those years we did not meet – when our families were growing up and we were making our respective ways in the world. But one of the bonuses of retirement is that opportunities to spend time with friends are more plentiful. So it is that she and I have slipped back into our old routine and it feels just the same. We are different in many ways, some might feel an unlikely pair to be such kindred spirits, but we are both Aquarians and if there is anything in astrology – which, in truth, I doubt – it might by that our star sign, as well as our shared history, unites us.
Arriving at the cottage I find Rollo’s sister Dorothy is visiting. She has come to talk moving house, and what she might wear to Katharine’s wedding in September. As the mother of the bride Rollo already has her outfit although she needs to buy the hat. Rollo has a collection of outfits she has worn to various events: garden parties, school open days, weddings. So we go upstairs and Rollo brings out a succession of floral wonders which she wafts before our eyes. Cue – trying on session.
Dorothy is matched with a pretty Laura Ashley dress in muted blue and beige. It is a simple style with short sleeves and which fits her figure well, but the hat to go with this outfit is a star – the colours are perfect and it has panache – it will sweep into a room taking its companion with it. There is one dress whose fabric is a summer flower garden. This is a Frank Usher dress in search of a party. I’m allowed to borrow it. In return I promise to try and hunt down a hat for Rollo in a shop I know.
After a salad lunch we linger at the table until Carolyn, with whom we went to Tenerife for a bridge week in February, arrives. We gravitate outside and help Rollo weed and tidy up an area of her garden. I pull out long clumps of couch grass and other tall weeds, Carolyn clips the pinks.
Terry has offered to drive us up to the cliffs via a track which runs south of West Chaldon. He calls in on the farmer whose land we must cross to collect a key to the gate through which we can pass out onto the upper slope of the cliffs. Here we can look down to the Chalk headland which is Bat’s Head. Beyond this to the east lie Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Worbarrow Bay, Broad Bench and Kimmeridge Bay. This is as far as Ro and I got on our coastal path walk in 2008. If we are to pick up where we left off almost exactly a year ago we reckon to have 3 days walking from Kimmeridge to get to the place we are standing at this moment.
A year ago I slipped on the loose scree of a gentle slope and fractured my left wrist. Mid-way between Chapman’s Pool and Kimmeridge we then had to walk to the point at which a I could rendez-vous with an ambulance. We have now bought ourselves walking poles but have been procrastinating about resuming our coastal walk. Perhaps Terry wants us to see what we need to do.
This particular stretch of the Coastal Path will be taxing because we can now see for ourselves what the map shows only too clearly – close contours which indicate steep inclines and dips to negotiate. As we look down to the most seaward of the track options for a coastal walk, coming down from Bat’s Head, we comment on the fact that this day is a perfect walking day, sunny but with a gorgeous breeze. Ro and I agree that we have missed a trick.
We all walk west for a while, towards the coastguard cottages at White Nothe. These cottages are isolated, remote and are not supported by mains electricity. We can hear a generator running nearby. Terry spots an adder sunning itself at the side of the path. He then investigates the signposted Smugglers’ Path which zigzags down the cliff. You can get to the beach at this point. By now it is 6 o’clock so we make our way back to our vehicle. This short taster might just have whetted our appetite for the Dorset Coastal Path.
Carolyn and I catch up over a glass of wine and I check out my photos, Ro gets a Lasagne in the oven. Whilst we are eating this Terry’s brother and sister-in-law stop by. Although I have put a marker down that I am not in a bridge mood, we end up playing a few light-hearted and ‘open hand’ games. There is much laughter.
On Monday Rollo and I do a bit more weeding during which Christine (the other member of the Tenerife Four) calls by to apologise for forgetting the soiree. She has a gorgeous 18-week old Jack Russell called Bertie in tow. Ro conjures up a sandwich lunch then it is time for me to leave for my afternoon appointment. I am kept for three hours after which I drive home. My mantra is Good Drivers Just Drive!