Abbotsbury? I frowned, running a finger down a list of bistro’s and galleries. At least a few were open on a Sunday, and I jotted down a couple of post codes. A bit off the path, but not that far a drive. The map showed a village straddling the winding coast road, a few clustered buildings. The weather forecast was for increasing wind and rain all along the Heritage Coast as a warm front blew in from the southwest.
I tossed in the walking sticks and a jumper, eased the car out of the Lilac Court and spun west. TomTom chirped happily at being on the road again.
It’s been a nice weekend so far. I’ve been catching up with the house and shopping, reading and cooking (plum-ginger duck from the butcher). The Shrink and Sage are debating whether Life’s Options Should Remain Open (How can you give yourself to one life when lots of different ones are out there waiting to be explored?). It brings back rueful thoughts: I have a lot of hard-learned ripostes to ward off that past temptation.
The Amazing Race punted through Oxford on Friday. Closer to home, there’s steady progress in the business, better family medical and job news to celebrate. My half-term flights and bookings are finally sorted for the first real vacation in well over a year. A lovely seafood restaurant in old town Poole proved perfect for marking life’s waypoints.
Still, I rose too early for Sunday morning, restless and ruminating. I drove down to the waterfront to catch the morning light and fresh-baked croissants.
Where is there art and food west of Weymouth?
Abbotsbury: ‘Google’s dart thrown onto the Jurassic coast.
It’s an interesting suggestion: the South West Coast Path meanders through literary Chesil Beach and up into the hills above Fleets Lagoon, a vast tidal inlet bordering the coast from Weymouth. Scenic, at least.
But, on arrival, those higher reaches were absolutely howling wind, hair pretty much blowing sideways off my head. Lively and fun: the views were spectacular and there were few other early autumn walkers to disturb the ambience (and the sheep).
Abbotsbury proved to be a small stone village, nestled in a hollow about a half-mile from the sea. There was a charming tea café, soups and cakes, and some good works by local artists (Joan Scott and Debbie Vietch, left and right below).
I’ve always aspired to being able to do a watercolour landscape, or pen and wash, like these. ‘maybe when I catch up with the Peaceful Life one of these days (cue my friends’ giggles).
Chesil Beach lies about a mile from town, again along the South West Coast Path. More protected from the wind, it took about 45 minutes to get to the ‘beach’, which turned out to be entirely made of red gravel, flanked by a huge berm. It’s a scramble to get to the top, but the red-orange textures against the blue sea match the artists depictions.
Thomas Hardy called it Deadman’s Bay: it’s been the site of many shipwrecks over the centuries, boats caught among the shifting pebbles. But the novel, The Well-Beloved, is more philosophical and tender: it spins the story of Jocelyn Pierston, a sculptor obsessed with possessing the transcendent beauty he believes lie in both love and art. He never attains his heart’s desire, unable to find perfection in stone or flesh.
But he does stand at the same spot:
To the left of them the sky was streaked like a fan with the lighthouse rays, and under their front, at periods of a quarter of a minute, there arose a deep, hollow stroke like the single beat of a drum, the intervals being filled with a long-drawn rattling, as of bones between huge canine jaws. It came from the vast concave of Deadman’s Bay, rising and falling against the pebble dyke.
Viewed from the berm, as Hardy saw it, the cove is likely much as its always been: fishermen and walkers and the wind along the hills. Seacoast overlaid, now, with creative art, romantic literature, historic Abbotsbury.
‘all from a dart on a map.