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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

George III's holiday snaps pt 7

Royal water babe George III at Weymouth

If you thought a quick dip at Weymouth simply entailed whipping down your trews, whipping on your bathers, sucking in your stomach and then striding manfully into the ocean think again...

Monday, 28 April 2014

Dorset Museums 10- The Philpott, Lyme Regis

Shown below is a table made in the 1830s for pioneering geologist William Buckland. The interesting part is that the ornate inlay is not all it first appears. It is made of coprolites or beetle stones so called for their beetle-shaped centres. 
Coprolites have come down to us after first partaking of rather an interesting journey... from the front end of a dinosaur and out of the back porch. No more beating about the bush - here is a tabletop made entirely from dino crap and Buckland was obsessed by it; as the table bears witness.
I leave you to muse on what may have constituted the table's legs ...

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Dorset Museums 9- Dorchester Military Museum


Its may be hard to imagine but these innocuous blighters were the catalyst for an event that shook the British Empire to its core and changed British India forever. 
They are examples of pre-packed cartridges introduced in the 1850s as standard issue to Indian native troops. The powder in the cartridges was kept dry by coating them with pork or beef fat, the troops being
expected to bite off the ends before loading them. This was highly offensive to the religious sensibilities of Muslim and Hindu troops. Pork was considered unclean by the Muslims while cattle were sacred to the Hindu. It caused a simmering undercurrent of discontent and a a match to a tinder box of grievances that finally exploded into bloody rebellion; a rebellion remembered today as The Indian mutiny.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

...And did those feet?...

As Easter is upon us I thought a little religious snippet may be appropriate.
A legend relates that 2000 years ago Jesus accompanied his uncle, Joseph of Arimethea on a business trip to Britain and spent time kicking his heels at Abbotsbury while Joseph went off to Cornwall to buy tin. 
No doubt the nearby Fleet lagoon would have made a great place to practise his water walking trick while the temptation to turn that vast watery expanse to wine would have been a mighty hit locally... circumventing the licensing laws, though, may have caused problems.
Jesus's brief stay was supposedly commemorated by the founding of Abbotsbury's Abbey
 of which just a few walls and the great Tithe barn now remain. Annoyingly, the barn is out of bounds for those without a handful of shekels, lying as it now does in the centre of a tacky theme playground. 
Haven't they heard the one about erecting market stalls in the Temple...Watch out!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

You're closer to God in a Pod

When the gilt's worn off your glamping, and you've finished flirting with a yurt, it may be time for you to discover Dorset in a Pod.

It was love at first sight... I had to have one. 

A Pod is more than a caravan, it is a minor work of art rather than a piece of white goods on wheels. So it should be. Each one is entirely and lovingly handmade by Patrick an ex-Royal College of Art student and founder of the one and only Bakelite museum to be found  in the unfortunately named village of Williton, Somerset.
Its tiny frame, just nine feet from stem to stern, contains sleeping accommodation for two which converts nattily to a seating area complete with table while to the rear is a gas cooker and functioning sink . Chuck in electric lighting and there you have it..camping nirvana.

But best of all are the admiring stares of the hoi poloi as you sail proudly by with n'er a care o'er hill and dale. 
Poetry in motion...

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Dorset Cycling 2 - Stratton via Sydling St Nicholas

This cycle is a favourite of mine and is a great introduction mountain biking. It also makes for a great walk as well.

The route has everything: off-road bridleways, peaceful lanes, inspiring views and pretty villages, as well as a mysterious standing stone... it is relatively easy going and bowls along for mile after level mile along one of Dorset's chalk ridges .

Parking at Stratton, pretty village with a green and pub you negotiate a short stretch of the busy A37 by a thoughtfully provided cycle path. Take great care crossing the road to the bridleway on the opposite side.

The route easy to follow and has several rewarding surprises such as the rough hewn stonecross and bench to be discovered the middle of nowhere. It was erected to celebrate the Millennium and marks the site of a much older cross that stood adjacent to the ancient route from the Abbey of Abbotsbury to Cerne Abbey.

Further along you find another unexpected and poignant memorial, an inscribed stone and cairn of flints raised in memory of Harriet Tory who died at the early age of 37.

Leaving the bridleway and turning left onto a lane you soon pass the Cross and Hand a mysterious standing stone referred to by Hardy in Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Its mystery is rather diminished by the needless erection of a wooden fence around it

Further along the road a bridleway takes you downhill to the sleepy unspoilt village of Sydling St Nicholas complete with welcoming pub to rehydrate in. From there a quiet lane returns you to whence you came. Distance 15 miles. Time around 4hrs

Friday, 18 April 2014

Dorset folklore - 'Oh R****T!'


Portlanders, as they would proudly admit, have aways been a race apart. Separated fom the mainland by  a narrow causeway and before that, by just a ferry, it's understandable that they developed  their own distinct traditions.
One of these refers to mentioning the word 'rabbit' or rather, in this case, not mentioning the word rabbit.
No one is certain how the taboo first arose, though one explanation surmises that appearance of fleeing rabbits in large numbers was a sure portent of lethal rockfalls in the quarries for which Portland was famous. Consequently, over time, the cuddly critters gradually became associated with bad luck in general.
As a small aside, Portlanders seem to have been suspicious of everything, even their fellow men. 
In a hobbit-like fashion the population arranged themselves into three distinct communities; Tophillers (who, obviously lived at the top of the island, Underhillers (I'll let you work that one out...) and finally Kimberlins (the rest) for Weymouth draw a veil at this point...

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sartorial of Dorset


Fashion isn't just the preserve of a few luvvies in the big cities, you know... Dorset dwellers are completely au fait with cat  walks; while our dog walks remain perennially popular.
This particularly debonair fashionista was named Harry Good and was portrayed by Robert Byng in the1720's modelling this rather modish get-up.
Here Harry cleverly combines 
Dorset style with Dorset practicality.
Harry was a gamekeeper on Cranborne Chase, North Dorset; famed in those days for deer hunting and more to the point, deer poaching. His chic, understated headwear and stick was a response to the increasingly violent confrontations that took place gamekeeper and gamesnaffler on the Chase.

...It never caught on

Monday, 14 April 2014

Dorset Cycling - A family cycle from Poole to Bournemouth

Poole Quay- Brownsea Island in the distance
Let's get this straight, I loathe riding anywhere near cars. It's an unequal battle. It's also a scandal that in this day and age so little is done to separate 2 tons of murderous machine from we soft-shelled human beings. Believe it or not, though, it's still possible to find on-road routes where you can happily cycle as a family for mile upon mile with just the barest glimpse of those blooming gas guzzlers.

The easiest of these routes takes you along the waters edge from Poole by cycle path and then along Bournemouth's magnificent six mile esplanade to Bournemouth Pier.
Next to Poole Marina
The entire trip, around 12 miles return, is a visual feast,and it's virtually flat so that even the most unfit can walk it ... er... cycle it. The esplanade's open to cycles except for the months of July and August.
Bournemouth's six miles of sandiness
We began by parking at Poole Quay and had a coffee gazing out to the silhouette of Brownsea Island shimmering in the haze. Mounting our trusty steeds we sped along the water's edge to Sandbanks finding time to laugh at the futile efforts of kite surfers and watch tiny yachts skip across the glittering waves. 

A cycle lane took us through the traffic to the beginning of Bournemouth Esplanade thronging with people taking advantage of that rarest of things, sunshine. There was a distinct tinge of California as rollerbladers shot past and joggers pounded the beach.
On reaching Bournemouth we refuelled at the conveniently situated Harry Ramsden's before returning the way we'd come.
Innovative cycle direction post
(It you fancy you can combine this with a visit to the amazing Russell-Coates Museum and Gallery not five minutes walk from the pier.
Russell-Coates Museum and Gallery


Return at twilight

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Dorset Museums 8-the Russell-Cotes Museum and Gallery


If your idea of Bournemouth is a bit gor-blimey, you're mostly right; but then, perched on the cliff, high above the pier and the cloying aroma of chip fat and sun oil stands the town's last bastion of culture...The Russell-Cotes Museum.

I shad no inkling of this hidden gem (and it is gem) until just a couple of years ago yet it houses a world class collection of

Victorian painters from Rossetti and the pre Raphaelites to Landseer and on to amazing pieces created by daubers I've never even heard of. In fact it forms a short sharp anthology of the best of Victorian art.

The collection was assembled by manic collectors Merton and Annie Russell-Cotes and is housed  in the opulent villa Merton built on the cliff-top as a present for his wife. 

The building is an exceptional monument to late Victorian taste and for that reason alone would be worth the visit. As old man Merton said, 'I made up my mind to construct it architecturally to combine the Renaissance with Italian and old Scottish baronial styles' How did he resist chucking in a pyramid for good measure... that's Victorians for you...

The Russell-Cotes were also avid globe-trotters and souvenirs of their jaunts cover Australasia, America, India, the Near East and Africa as well as the Pacific Islands. 

Great art bringeth forth great hunger so if you want to sample a further masterpiece in oils. Harry Ramsden's fish and chips is but a short walk down the hill - just follow your nose.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Straying from the path of righteousness..(It wouldn't have happenedwith GPS)


Even in fair Dorset the Lord's commandments may be broken...and occasionally new ones are also written...

11.Thou shalt not serenade at 60(mph)

12. Though shalt not use manna as a missile.


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Dorset detail


We don't accept plastic...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Dorset shops- Harris's of Dorchester


Forget that Porsche...what really makes an arty-types's heart beat faster is a well stocked, voluptuous art shop, and they don't come more voluptuous than Harrises of Dorchester. 
It is an exuberant, eclectic and eccentric riot of a shop and if anyone was ever tasked with stocktaking, they must have shot themselves long ago. 
If there's no method there's certainly a deal of of madness; doll's eyeballs jostle with pom poms, glitter sparkles beside ersatz diamonds and rubies (I think they're fake..), gouache vies with oils, inks, balsa and battle ships and that's just the ground floor taken care of. Upstairs is weavers nirvanah and spinner's paradise while finally should you fancy a bit of soul saving rather than soul searching  there is a well stocked room of Christian literature and DVD's (obviously...)