4 June 2006





























































In which your reporter looks for coves in the sky

The unplanned destination is one of the great joys of going for a trip, especially by car. The freedom to simply chuck your itinerary out of the window (metaphorically speaking, of course - don't litter the countryside, chums) and head off somewhere else on a whim is a big factor in a man's deep and heartfelt love for his own vehicle, and has been ever since that vehicle had four legs and ate out of a nosebag. As your intrepid correspondent left Poundbury and headed towards the second of his intended ports of call, the sight of a word on a road sign set a little bell ringing in his head.

(Don't panic, viewers! This is only a metaphor and not a cause for medical concern.)

Cows: pretty as well as tasty.

The book which this writer credits with sparking much of his fondness for travelling around Britain is Bill Bryson's wonderful "Notes From A Small Island". If by some careless oversight you don't already own it, then WoS insists, quite forcefully, that you correct your shameful error immediately. Since this splendid volume can be purchased (at the time of writing this feature, at least) for as little as ONE PENNY, no excuses are acceptable. We're just going to sit here and wait for a few minutes until you've all bought one.

Go on.

I'm not kidding.

I'll check, you know. There'll be a test.

Okay then. Now, where were we? Ah, yes. Heading east along the coast, the word that had triggered your reporter's recollection was "Lulworth". I had a vague memory of Bryson visiting somewhere called Lulworth near the start of "Notes...", and mention of it being a beautiful little seaside resort village straight out of a Famous Five book. Since it was only going to be about four or five miles out of my way anyway, clearly the opportunity to walk in my hero's footsteps was far too good to pass up.

If we all gang up, we could probably murder these people and steal their houses.

For such a tiny little place, Lulworth has a lot of map presence. There's East Lulworth, West Lulworth, Lulworth Castle and Lulworth Camp, but the tourist destination is Lulworth Cove. A lucky accident of nature, it's a beautiful sheltered little scallop-shaped bay, only a couple of hundred yards in diameter. You come upon the adjacent village rather suddenly, several miles down a narrow and twisty country road, and are immediately confronted with a startlingly large number of cars in a massive car park that's occupies almost as much space again as the entire village itself. And if you find that startling, you're in for an even nastier surprise, as you're about to be robbed of the extortionate sum of £2.50 to deposit your own automobile amongst the crowd of others for even five minutes.

(To be strictly accurate you do get up to two hours for your £2.50, but Lulworth itself is a very small place and unless you're planning on sitting on the beach all day or having a very long lunch, you're going to have a bit of a struggle to fill 120 minutes there.)

On getting out of the car, there's little sign of what you're supposed to do next. Coming in by road you don't actually see the cove itself, and the east side of the car park borders on what looks like a nondescript residential village. The west side, on the other hand, opens out to a long white path cut into the steep chalky cliffside, marked with information posts and busy with walkers, and which therefore seems to be the logical way to go. So naturally, your reporter assumed that the cove lay at the end of this daunting trek (it's MUCH steeper than it looks in the pic), and maybe the car park was only so far away from it to avoid spoiling the scenery or something, and set off up the hill in the blistering June heat.

The car park - barely half full - can be seen in the centre of this shot.

It's only when you get halfway up the path and look back that it occurs to you what a colossal moron you are. Firstly, it's pretty obvious from even a moment's rational thought that a "cove" is going to be by the sea, and the sea isn't generally found at the top of cliffs. And secondly, when you look back you can clearly see the cove itself for the first time. It's a soul-crushing blow. But you've come this far and expended a lot of energy, so you might as well see where the hell this path goes now, and by damnation it better be worth it.

For the benefit of those viewers who'd like to enjoy some suspense and mystery at this point, WoS now presents a choice. If you don't want to know what lies at the top of the Path Of Infernal Torture, then DO NOT click on the picture below - as it will reveal not a larger shot of the dog and speedboat, but the view from the summit - and skip the paragraph following this one, moving on to the one after the pic. We'll see you in a minute. Bye!

(Man, I thought they'd never leave. Anyway, what you get for conquering the climb is a rather lovely panoramic view of the cove and village to the east, some charming white cliffs and shoreline to the west, and - at least on the day WoS visited - a close encounter with some grazing cattle basking imperiously in the sunshine. I think they were Fresians, but I'd need to ask my dad for a definitive answer, and he's not here at the moment. It's certainly a lovely spot, and the hike passes some time and gets some value out of your car parking, but if you're very unfit or in a wheelchair or something, it's probably not worth the heart attack.)

The angle of the dog gives a better idea of the incline of the slope.

Returning down the path and into the village, you'll be ready for something cold and rewarding, and this snack-loving reporter heartily recommends the orange sorbet from the café at the edge of the car park, served in a cute plastic cup by a pretty girl with delicately freckly skin. With the benefit of experience, though, you might find it wise to decline the opportunity to spend an extra 20p adding lemon crystals to it, as rather than being excitingly fruity or fizzy, they taste mostly of sugar and take the edge off its refreshing citrus bite.

From here it's a very short stroll, past a rather unwelcoming sign and a small scattering of little stalls and huts selling buckets and spades and beachballs, down to the shore. Lacking anything in the way of high-octane thrills, Lulworth is very much a family resort, and if you're after a day of ogling bikini-clad young lovelies you've come to the wrong place.

If this picture doesn't warm your heart, don't bother going to Lulworth.

The cove is full of clear, still water, with little pleasure boats constantly sailing in and out, and small children paddling, floating and splashing around while their tired-looking parents slump on the pebbly sand or the scrubby dunes and cling tightly to their ice-creams. A tiny little stream flows constantly across the pebbles into the bay, completing a picture so serene and perfect that you marvel quietly at the simple fluke of nature that brought it into being.

In truth, though, this isn't a scene that your correspondent belongs in. A lone grown man, possessing neither children nor a bus pass but taking pictures left, right and centre in flagrant disregard of the earlier warning sign, looks somewhat suspicious in this family environment, so after a nice sit down to finish my sorbet and a brief paddle in the sea to splash some cool water onto my by-now slightly sunburned face, I headed back up the short road towards the car park, feeling that Lulworth and Bill Bryson had both been done due justice.

Hoping not to scare away buyers for his "psychedelic
shells", Minter combed his hair real nice.

The sorbet had in fact been so lovely that your reporter was already fishing change out of his pocket in order to also sample a raspberry one before leaving, but rather astonishingly the café had closed "for lunch" (it was 2.45pm) in the short interval between the first visit and returning from the beach, so there was nothing left to do but enjoy a few tranquil moments by the duck pond, then get back in the car (hastily turning down the volume as the random stereo semi-inappropriately selected the brutal assault beats of Marilyn Manson's "Mobscene" to accompany your correspondent's departure) and leave this impromptu but charming diversion behind for the thrilling prospect of the journey's final destination.

Have you guessed what it is yet? Stay tuned to this station!

A duck, the day before yesterday.

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