I spent last weekend showing two international visitors around the coast, and experienced the dramatic differences in perception wrought by a change in weather.
Saturday was gloomy, rain-swept and fog-drenched. We started off at Lyme Regis, parking amidst a torrent of horizontal rain and ducking straight into the fabulous Aroma Cafe for some hot chocolate.
My American friend saw the Dorset Cider Cake in the cabinet and said in his mid-Western drawl, “I’ll have a cider…” to which the proprietress started heading for the fridge, without batting an eyelid at this order coming at 10 in the morning!
Anyway, we managed to grab an hour of sunlight and explore the beach, uncovering plenty of ammonite fragments in a variety of shades and degrees of sparkliness (I’m not a geologist, sadly). It was brilliant to see how excited my friends were, seasoned travelers both who were blown away by the excitement of searching and exploring. Fossil hunting really captures the imagination, and the fact it can be done in such a publically accessible and well-serviced place is what makes the Jurassic Coast unique.
After a couple of hours we headed back, as the beach filled with fellow fossil-hunters. We gratefully pocketed 10 or so rocks and left the rest of our find to be discovered anew.
We then took the approaching rain storm as an opportunity for a long coastal drive, heading on a pilgrimage to the legendary Square & Compass in Worth Matravers. What a place! Feeling like a medieval smugglers’ hang-out and built in a period where fire safety was clearly not a priority, the pub served some fantastic ciders from across the country plus hearty pies. The museum there is also well worth a visit and the stuffed crocodiles are particularly endearing.
Sunday was a 180-degree turnaround, glorious and brisk in the way only November days can be. We parked at Langdon Hill and walked up Golden Cap, taking in the stunning views and the interesting mushrooms (not ‘golden caps’ thankfully!) that grow on the top. My Swiss friend was particularly impressed by the coconut fragrance of the gorse.
We then took advantage of the continuing sunshine, taking the coast path to West Bay, and finishing the weekend with a cuppa at the artistically-inclined Sladers Yard. The Jurassic Coast- breath-taking whatever the weather.
Words by Guy Kerr, photos by Amandine Gini & Colin Gillingham