A mini-break in Dorset (part 1)

I’d had half term all planned out.  Sophie was coming to visit for the week, we were going to have fun doing some of the things on our Autumn Bucket List and I’d factored in some much-needed downtime as well after a jam-packed and busy first six weeks back at school.  And then, as so often happens when you make plans in advance, they unexpectedly changed.  Usually it’s because of illness or something going wrong, but this time it was because of something going right and us taking advantage of a rather lovely opportunity that happened to come our way…

A few days before the end of school, an old travel buddy of mine who I met in New Zealand posted on Facebook that she and her husband were going away on holiday and would anyone be willing to come and house/cat/chicken-sit at their home in Dorchester for a few days while they were away.  Normally I would have scrolled straight past it – I’m not particularly spontaneous and the idea of having very little notice to go and stay in a place I’d not even seen photos of, the home of someone I hadn’t seen in twelve years, without doing any research on the area or having any lists of things to pack would have been immediately dismissed.

However, my husband and I had been talking about potentially having a mini-break to Dorset for a while now and so almost without thinking I spontaneously messaged her and said we were interested.  It seemed like the perfect opportunity for us all to have a change of scenery at very little cost, explore a new area and make some more memories together, whilst reconnecting with and helping out a friend at the same time.  A few messages went back and forth between us, images were sent so we had some idea of where we’d be going and emergency phone numbers were exchanged.  Two days later it was all set – we were off to Dorset on the spur-of-the-moment for three days!

We set off at 6am on the first Sunday of the half term week, wanting to get there early so we could make the most of our time there and explore as much of the area as possible.  I love it when we all bundle into the car for a road trip, wrapped up in blankets and stopping off for Starbucks on the way, singing along to whatever CD the girls have chosen, excitedly talking about what we might see and do, watching the sun come up and the rest of the world sleepily open it’s eyes.

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Obligatory road-trip car selfie!

Just over three and a half hours later we arrived in Dorchester.  We let ourselves into my friend’s house and spent an hour or so exploring.  The girls were delighted to find a piano (an instant hit!) and the six chickens in the back garden were also a source of much excitement.  The two gorgeous cats – Tiger and Charlie – were possibly a little alarmed at such noisy creatures descending on their usually peaceful routine and made themselves scarce, but after a couple of hours they ventured back in and seemed to accept us.

My friend’s home was really lovely – not quite ‘finished’ but actually that added to the quirkiness, individuality and homely feel to the house.  There were soft, snuggly blankets and squishy cushions EVERYWHERE that made it feel extra welcoming and comfortable, and there were beautiful little details around every corner that told their story – she is a florist and he is a fisherman and so the subtle nods to each were scattered throughout every room.  The photos below are some of my favourite details:

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Beautiful flowers in the front garden

 

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In the kitchen – a little handwritten sign welcoming us to Dorset

 

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A crate full of home-made chutneys

 

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Succulents galore! They were everywhere in the house and garden

 

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A little corner of the kitchen – a basket for collecting eggs from the chickens and a little cupboard to store them in

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A gorgeous pathway in the garden leading to what I imagine is a real little suntrap in the summer months

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My favourite corner of the house – a rough old table, unpainted walls, an old tapestry, a wicker basket stuffed with a fat cushion and the most beautiful pocket of light streaming in through the patio doors

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A beautiful hydrangea still going strong in the garden despite it being the end of October

After a quick trip to the supermarket to pick up a few bits and pieces that we’d need over the next few days and then a spot of lunch, we decided to make the most of the lovely sunny (though cold!) weather.  We headed eastwards to the Jurassic Coast in order to explore Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove.

Durdle Door is a natural arch created by hundreds of thousands of years of erosion by the sea.  I’d seen a similar formation whilst travelling the Great Ocean Road in Australia, but it’s still breath-taking seeing it up close again.  I can’t wrap my head around the timescale of it all, without even taking into account the sheer scale of it.  There’s nothing like nature to make you feel small.  I hadn’t been expecting it to be so busy – naïve of me I suppose given that it was a weekend in half term at a major tourist attraction.  There were hundreds of people walking down the steep path that leads to the beach, and hundreds more on the beach itself, oohing and aahing at the cliff-jumpers launching themselves bravely (and quite possibly illegally?) off the top of the rock. But with a little patience the crowds thinned out and we had a bit of space to search for pretty stones and pebbles on the beach, run away from the waves that chased us up the shore and marvel at the sight history in front of us.

From there we climbed back up the rough stairs and headed to the next cove – Man O’War Beach.  Equally impressive and a little quieter, we spent a fair bit of time there scrambling over rocks and admiring the view, before beginning the long uphill hike back to the car.

While we were in the area I wanted to pop over to Lulworth Cove, just ten minutes down the road.  The younger three girls had had enough by then – they were pretty tired from being up at 5.30am and had lost interest in exploring any more.  So they stayed in the car with an equally tired Daddy (who had done all the driving) whilst Sophie and I went to see what it had to offer.

First up was Stair Hole, which loomed imposingly and dramatically over the path, the evidence of millions of years of evolution quite literally layered into the rock face.  We then moved round to Lulworth Cove itself, which was a pretty little harbour filled with bobbing boats.  We didn’t stay long, knowing that the others were waiting for us, but I’m glad we made the effort to go and see it.

All in all a really good day, made even better by ending with eating pizza for dinner and watching a film snuggled up together under blankets on the sofa 🙂

Part Two of our little mini-break will follow in a few days time, but in the meantime here are some photos from our adventures on day 1…

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Admiring the view from the clifftops

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A bit of freestyle dancing on the way down to Durdle Door. Because why not?!

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View of Man O’War beach on the way down the path to Durdle Door

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First glimpse of Durdle Door itself

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Beach treasure collection

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Watching the waves

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Skimming stones into the sea

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Family selfie! It’ so rare that we get all six of us in the frame – I’m always glad when we make the effort to do it 🙂

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Feeling the magic and majesty of wild and powerful nature at Man O’War Beach

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Taking it all in at Mon O’War Beach

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The dramatic and impressive Jurassic Coastline

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The long hike back up to the car park

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Stair Hole

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Lulworth Cove

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