Friday, May 13, 2016

Fishes on The Cobb and a Deer on a Gate

It was a very dreary and drab day that Mum and I drove to Lyme Regis. The wind was harsh but on the positive side we hoped we'd be able to get a parking space easily.
 Driving down the steep hill into town we had an excellent view of The Cobb, famous for being featured in the 1981 film, The French Lieutenant's Woman. Parking was impossible in the narrow streets of the busy town so we headed back to The Cobb where we found spaces near the harbour.
 Beach huts on the pebbles near the sea. Not in use yet, but these will all be filled in the warmer weather. Some beaches rent them out while others sell them, with some folks paying about £200K for one of these. Crazy, even if they are an old British custom. I remember as a young adult seeing so many of them looking run down or derelict, so it's wonderful to see how they jumped back to being trendy. Even if the prices are astronomical, their paint jobs are delightful.
 Some locals were playing bowls and were showing no signs of being cold, but Mum and I shivered and hurried past to stop at a little cafe for a cup of hot tea.
 I loved the sign pinned to the bottom of the blackboard, it made me laugh out loud.
After getting warmed up with a huge mug of tea and a homemade biscuit we walked to the harbour and round towards The Cobb. It stood tall and strong above us,  an unyielding force shielding the harbour from the fierce sea and winds. As well as being used in The French Lieutenant's Woman, Jane Austen also wrote of it in her novel, Persuasion. Dating from the 13th century, it has sheltered the town and helped it prosper.
 This is a link to part of the movie with the scene filmed on The Cobb. The weather was pretty similar the day we were there. I left Mum down by the entrance to the aquarium where she immediately engaged in conversation with a local fisherman. I climbed up some steep stone steps to the top of The Cobb and was nearly blown off my feet. And as I peered through the viewfinder on my camera I experienced a lot of balance issues as the gales buffeted me about. I braced myself, feet wide apart and focused on the wall and waves. After a few photos I just stood and savored the experience for a while, watching the white froth fly over the heads of people as they staggered along the top of the wall. It seemed everyone wanted to stand right at the end where Meryl Streep had famously posed. It was fun watching the waves crash against the stone and then hurl themselves over the wall and I relished the salty taste on my lips. I climbed down to the immediate stillness below to find Mum still chatting away with her fisherman, so I carried on walking along the quay.
 The little boats bobbed up and down in their moorings but not too actively, since they were sheltered in the harbour by The Cobb. I went and rescued the fisherman from Mum and we popped inside the sanctuary of the aquarium. I hadn't really expected much but this place is a treasure. Family owned for over 60 years, it's scrupulously clean and the owner is obviously very proud of his establishment. We were shown the mullets and given a pot of food to feed them.
 They all clamored towards us in a large group, already sucking at the empty air, and with a little food in my hand I slowly lowered it into the water, and gently opened my fingers, upon which my palm was immediately covered in little sucky kisses from the fishes. Adorable, and here is the video.
The other residents were more than happy to smile at my camera, everyone here seemed to be quite content.
A feature on the great storm of 2014. Here are some spectacular photos of that storm.
The owner brought out one of his oldest residents, a huge crab who was as old as the aquarium, and a pro at brandishing his pinchers for portraits. He very patiently posed as we chuckled, holding up his huge claws, which I did keep clear of, expecting a nip at any moment. The Marine Aquarium is a jewel in this town and has an equally impressive website here.
We walked back to the car, stopping to purchase a bag of freshly cooked and piping hot chips to eat in the car, then started driving towards West Bay, part of the Jurassic Beach. This part of England's coastline from Dorset to Devon has cliffs with strata that can be read like a book, holding fossils from millions of years ago. This coastline was designated as England’s first natural World Heritage Site in 2001.
On the way Mum suddenly remembered a sweet little coastal town called Sea Town so we turned off onto a very narrow country lane that headed to the beach. We were trundling along slowly and turned a corner to find 3 cars heading towards us. I looked behind and saw one behind me but because we were the minority, we had to reverse up. With lots of smiles and gestures we conveyed this to the driver facing me and started reversing back the way we'd come. Eventually we found a turning where we could both move over to let the 3 cars pass. Lots more waves and smiles followed, because of course we British are awfully poilite, and we set off towards the sea once more. This time we got to the beach but the road ended with very large white letters painted on the road, saying, NO TURNING'. A car in front of me was trying to turn so he could head back towards me, and he was being observed by a man standing with folded arms and wearing a very bemused expression. As we approached, we made our turn without looking at him, as did the car behind me. Pulling away, Mum and I started laughing uproariously, catching the eye of the driver behind us, who in turn also started laughing, and we just beetled out of there. I pulled over further down the road and left Mum in the car while I ran down to the beach.
 The sea mist was rolling in fast and the wind was frigid yet there were a few brave souls hanging out. The youngsters in the front of the photo were with their father, and were setting up rods for fishing. Rather them than me!
 A cottage in Sea Town with a thatched roof.
We carried on towards West Bay, Charmouth, and soon arrived. Once again I left Mum in the warm shelter of the car while I trudged through shingle up a hill and down the other side onto the beach. It was quite a workout. I would have loved to spend more time here, hunting for fossils but it was freezing cold and the wind was merciless. A few folks were also braving the elements, some even sitting around a small bonfire.
 I picked up a few pale blue pebbles which the beach is known for and a small bag of the gravel for a work colleague who wanted sand and shells, etc from the beaches I visited. Part of the sandstone cliffs had fallen down and I yearned to sift through, looking for fossils, but it was freezing cold and Mum was waiting in the car, so I walked as fast as the wind and loose shingle underfoot would allow me to.
These are 2 jars I made for me containing gravel, pebbles, shells and gull feathers from West Bay and Hastings Beach. Nissa was very pleased with her jars.
 Back at the car Mum was patiently looking out for me so I dumped my treasure in the boot and we walked around the small town finding a little cafe that was still open. Another pot of tea and a cake later we were back on the road heading home. But driving down A31 I spotted a fabulous gate looming up into the grey sky. With the drab sky and misty air  it looked very imposing and I had to stop.
There are rumors about this gate because from a certain angle the stag appears to have 5 legs. On closer inspection it's a tree stump, incorporated into the statue to give it more support. There are others who say that from the road the stag appears to have only 3 legs, hence another one being added so it looks correct to passing motorists.
Just down the road is another, and grander, gate, this time with a lion standing on the top. I couldn't find anything on line about it but it really was a magnificent sight.
I got out of the car to peer through the intricately wrought iron, which is a beautiful piece of work. This is the main entrance to Charborough House and the Drax estate, now owned by Richard Drax who is also a much respected MP. The full story of the estate is here, it's an interesting read.
Finally i was done with photographing for the day and we made the last stretch home without any further stops. That teapot in the kitchen was calling our names again!

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