“ With 7,500 inhabitants this is a small, friendly market town. It stands where the river Brit and Asker meet in Dorset, England. Music and the arts are prominent in the town's social life. „
I love, love, love visiting Dorset. In fact, this picture of the coast near Bridport is my favourite beach ever. The beach is the Seatown beach just off the Golden Cap Campsite. Seatown is a little village of thatched cottages just off the coast road from Lyme Regis to Dorchester.
From the beach, you can look up to Golden Cap which is the highest cliff in Britain. You can also climb it along the coast walk if you are feeling energetic! The beach here is full of fossils and bits of quartz - a regular free treasure trove.
I always stay at the Golden Cap campsite (google Golden Cap webcam if you want to see the view from the site to the coast). I also always go to visit Bridport during my stay.
Bridport is well signposted from the coast road. You travel into the town over the river Brit. In a car, I found my last visit very easy. On approachiing the town, I took the first carpark turning on the right which takes you both to the small bus station and a decent sized car park. I parked and paid the very cheap fee (approx 50p for 2 hrs).
Thee town really consists of two main shopping streets that meet in a T shape. There are many interesting and useful shops and a trip to Bridport can easily occupy two hours if you are browsing.
If you need provisions, the town has a Waitrose supermarket very near the aforementioned car park. This is stocked with many local/organic/vegan beers and wines as well as the usual necessaries. There are also a couple of organic/health food/deli type shops that sell veg and other interesting items (especially for veggies). There are a couple of bakeries, the one on the main street going uphill has some chunky and interesting cakes; it really is hard to resist; my daughter bought a huge fruit flapjack here. The other bakery (on the other street sold the most tempting slices of cake. A humongus chocolate cake just about filled the whole of the window (£2.25 a slice).
In terms of clothes, if you should have an urgent need to buy an item on holiday, there is a Peacocks store and a camp/rambling shop on the high street with one or two other smaller clothes shops. The camping shop sells a good variety of items. I bought a new airbed from there when my old one popped.
The shops I like the most are the ones that sell lots of ethnic and vintage-style cloths and trinkets. These are the shops close to the Bridport museum (I'll come to that later). One of them sells lovely indian cloths and sarongs, soft cotton turkish towels, beautiful bedspreads and curtains and rather beautiful white nighties and kimono type dressing gowns. A couple of years ago, I bought an exquisite Indian blue cotton sarong with beading around the edges and silver patterns on it for around £12. If I had limitless cash, I would spend a lot of it in this shop.
There is a shop opposite that sells the vintage stuff; enamel cups, bunting, pinnys, cakestands etc. A fab browsing experience.
Other miscellaneous shops include second hand book shops, some cheap (pound type) shops, hardware, fruit shops.
There are also numerous cafes including a Costa Coffee and some little tea shops well frequented by pensioners (must be good and good value).
The Bridport Museum is situated in a very ancient building that looks out over one of the main streets. It is free to go into (hooray!) and it makes a welcome change from the shopping. You enter via the gift shop that you can go into again when you leave. The first exhibition is about the ancient history of the town, most notably the production of rope from the flax and grasses harvested in the area. The rope produced here was used for ships but most importantly and somewhat macabre - the rope was used for hanging those sentenced to death many years ago. So the exhibition then turns into a gruesome account of the art of hanging - even telling how convicted children were hung so that their agony was not prolonged! There are different sort of nooses to look at too.
On a warm summer's day, I found this dark exhibition a little chilling - but also I found it intensely interesting. There is a phrase they use here - 'Stabbed by a Bridport dagger' - it means being hung - the dagger being the deadly rope of the noose!
Up the rickety stairs of the museum are more exhibits - a few paintings of local significance and a small costume display. The best exhibit being a womens suffragette uniform in black, green and purple - the colours of sufferage. Due to the nature of the tiny museum, I found I was up very close to the costumes - even though they were behind glass. I am very interested in this area of history and I found it quite moving to be able to examine it so closely. The juxtaposition of this exhibit and the other symbols of control and oppression (the nooses) felt quite meaningful.
This was a great museum to visit and I spent an entertaining half hour there - but I fear that those with a disability would not have been able to see the upstairs exhibits due to the lack of lift and the steep stairs.
Other things to note
The town has public toilets near the carpark/bus station and an arts centre with various activities - however none of them have tempted me in away from the shopping delights. There is also a market day but I am unsure of the weekday. On this day, there are stalls set up on the street outside the museum. There are lots of antiques and collectibles and it is certainly worth a look.
There is also a good bus service through Bridport either to Lyme Regis or to Weymouth.
We travelled to bridport from weymouth to the market in july 2008.
We wasnt sure on the buses so decided to travel by car. I'm not sure this was the best idea especially on market day. We got to brdiport ok but getting into the town and finding car park was a nightmare. Luckily I guessed the correct road and we managed to find a sign for a car park. When we entered into the car park it was packed with only two spaces left. Mum tried to park the car into the first space but the car wouldnt fit (I think she forgot she was in an escort not a fiesta lol). So we grabbed the last space instead. Then we found out the car parking on market day was free which was why it was so busy!
After this episode we walked into the street straight into the market. At first we thought the stalls were just on the top street until we relised they extended down another street and the town hall too. This is a large market with a good variety of stalls. There is everything from second hand goods to jams.
There is also a descent selection of shops in bridport itself including a few independent shops.
The tourist information centre has a very large selection of tourist information leaflets and brochures rom the area. They are friendly and will help you wth any information you need.
The only problem we has was finding somwhere to get something to eat. We all ended up having burger from the burger stand as that was one of the few places we found sold food.
Overall we had a good day and bought quite a few things. However I think if we return next time it may be on the bus!
So, what makes theediscerning break his travel writing op duck on a sleepy little village, and its coastal companion, in western Dorset? Well, it so happened that on the weekend before launching on his last coach ride round Europe, he took a day trip which afforded him, for his sins, two hours in each of Bridport and West Bay, and for your sins, you're now going to read about them. Bridport is an old place with a fair bit of (minor) history. Despite the name it is thereabouts that the river Brit (or sometimes Britt) hits the sea. The tourist bumpf will tell you of 9th or 10th century origins. Today, though, the history is mostly contained within the people walking the streets. Of which, two stand out, as Bridport is almost wholly situated along two streets forming a T. South Street sweeps up a gentle slope from the direction of West Bay, and at its northern end is a point roughly halfway along the other road, which is called East Street or West Street, where relevant. Blocking the junction between the two off is a small square, featuring the back of the plain town hall. Opposite that, on East Street, is a fancy old building, where Charles II once stayed. It's now one of the town's many charity shops, so at last is doing something more useful than harbouring royalty. The shops are the general mix, WH Smiths, Woolies', and so on ~ the very same high street shops that so many people complain about as being too common, and then rely on when they don't care for the out of town Megahypersupermarketstore. This high street is more awkward than most, as the supermarket is right down the bottom of the hill. Very handy for those with lots of shopping bags. South Street does, however, contain several antiquarian book shops, and some of these might divert. Theediscerning seems to recall the market as being Wednesdays and Saturdays, and this is a sprawl along both South and East Streets. Here you get anyt
hing you want, from tat right down to the ugliest of Poole pottery. South Street also contains a bright pink old chapel now working as an arts centre, which is host to touring shows of a medium scale. The TIC will be found on the left as you go down too, and will be able to sell you lots of stuff, and point out more interesting things to be seen in the region, such as the Cerne Abbas Giant, within the hour's drive away, it would appear. It will also ask you to check out the town Museum, with portrayals of the town's history and industries. On the right as you go down that street is the church of St Mary's, which appears far too large from the outside for a town so small. Inside it's a standard British church, really, although the window arrangement made it appear to narrow and squeeze in towards the altar, and be larger and airier at the 'wrong' end. There are monuments within and without to wars, and the sea and the lives she has claimed, as Bridport has had a long and obvious association with maritime affairs. In fact, they claim that the main streets of the town are so wide (and they are indeed wide), not because of the Poole pottery sellers needing room for their pitches (and pitchers), but because they were used to make and dry ropes across. The naval connection continues with South Street in fact, as go down it, past the church, past the Quakers' plain old House, and across fields, water meadows, supermarket car parks and bypasses, and you come to West Bay. West Bay was also unheard of by theediscerning before he found this trip being arranged for him. Were to watch TV of a Sunday he may well have seen it, as the village was inundated by the BBC making Harbour Lights on several occasions in the past. Theediscerning didn't actually make that South Street etc... walk to West Bay, his coach dropped him off at the site of an old railway station. From there is was just a tin
y walk to the foot of the impressive East Cliff. From the top of the medium-steep clamber one can see the whole area, and a nice stretch of coast to the west, should the weather be fine. Looking down on West Bay, its true nature is revealed. Just the smallest huddle of streets around the rivermouth port, and further inland, a mass of hundreds of camper holiday homes things. It's not a pretty site. And, at the time he was there (July 2003) the 'docks' were being rebuilt. The cliffs are indeed the most photogenic point of the village, being a lovely orangey colour in the best light. The beach is nice and wide for its length, and the town end is dog free for healthy (sun)bathing; away from it and under the cliffs, where fishermen sit with their unfeasibly large rods, is nice for ambling and rambling. The water looked clean, at least, but beware, the steepness of the beach is echoed in the foreshore. The cliffs have yielded up many fossils before, but just don't get your hopes up. In town the small church offered the exciting news of the replacement of the bell this spring past, and the amusing sign that "all seats are free". There is a tinier still methodist chapel, which seems to be open only for service. The bracing sea air will provide you with the required oxygen to get you around the couple of streets there are, but when all is considered, there is very little to do. The holiday villages may be a decent base for exploring Dorset, which clearly does have many other charms. That said, theydiscerning walked past the entrance to one site early afternoon, and were quite horrified by the awfulness and volume of the version of 'Hi Ho Silver Lining' coming from the "entertainment" within. Also, the much anticipated fish and chip shops, that staple of British life from the coast to the midlands, is very seldom. Instead, backing onto the weir of the river, is a stretch of those awful
sub-greasy spoon kiosks, frying burgers. Thus is the maritime life cherished in these parts. Yes, perhaps theediscerning isn't the target audience, as it were, for places such as Bridport and West Bay. He didn't object to anything about either of them, really, but all the same... Bridport is an acceptable small place, which might well be fine to live in, if you really hated city life, and could live with the accompanying lack of choice of entertainment, shopping, etc. This isn't the place to say anything about the locals, they seemed fine and friendly, and it's not their fault that their home isn't exactly very photogenic or memorable. West Bay is just peculiar. With very little in the way of amenities, the amount of homes and campers' facilities hides the fact that everyone who comes must surely leave again ~ using it, to repeat, as a base for tourism elsewhere. From the beach theediscerning had a text conversation with S, who told him E had nearly drowned on holiday nearby. Theediscerning texted back that he would prefer not having such a holiday. The reply was along the lines of "I'd have waited that long I wouldn't let you come to harm." That is not what theediscerning meant at all. He would loathe to have a stay in West Bay, or indeed any such "resort". If, however, a sedentary time at the seaside is what you expect ~ and hopefully, after reading this, you do know what to expect ~ then go for it. But to the hip and happening readers of this site, these destinations aren't recommended. At least most of you would need a colour rinse first.
The first time I came to Bridport was in 2000. We arrived at out rented bungalow on the day the petrol crisis took hold and I remember going down to Safeways on our first day and wondering why people were queuing at the petrol station. About an hour later I heard on the radio that fuel shortages were now rife across the country, but by then it was too late – no petrol, other than what was in my tank, which would be just enough to get us home, with perhaps a few tiny trips in the week. So, the result was I got to know Bridport very well, mainly by walking around the town rather than driving. This year we decided to go back, with the expectation that we’d be able to visit some of the surrounding resorts and towns, and also because the bungalow we’d rented was actually of a very high standard and very comfortable (my wife suffers from long-term M.E. and so comfort and convenience is important). I’ve already been to France and Spain this year (sans wife), and so it was interesting to compare the English holiday experience with my two short breaks in Madrid and Normandy. The weekend we left for Bridport my daughter was flying off to Majorca. The famous Majorcan coach drivers strike was in full flood and the radio was full of stories of families stuck for one day, two days etc in Gatwick or Luton. We however left Guildford at midday on the Saturday and were in Briport by about three, even though we’d stopped on the way for a sandwich. The weather was glorious and so it stayed for three days, to be followed by thunderstorms (what is it they say about English weather? “Two fine days and a thunderstorm” – well we got three fine days then three days of thunderstorms but the principle holds I suppose). People who just drive through Bridport without stopping make a false assumption that its just one long street with a bit of ribbon development either side. You really need to stop and walk around to
realise that there’s much more to it than that. It is full of architectural gems, particularly in terms of Georgian houses, most of which are built from local stone. One of the more interesting roads is South Street which needless to say heads off to the south, (hey, there’s also East Street, West Street and wait for it, Sea Road – guess where that goes!). South Street contains interesting cafes and bookshops, the arts centre, the library (free Internet terminals here so you can see how you’re dooyoo account’s going) and the museum. There’s a little square at the top of South Street with a couple of cafes with tables outside and most mornings would find me sitting outside “Bella’s” enjoying a coffee with the morning paper and watching the world go by. Almost a continental experience due to the fine spell of weather we had. Just down the road there’s an excellent second hand-bookshop (imaginatively named “Bridport Old Bookshop” with a suitably quirky proprietress who has a fine selection of first editions on sale, such as Graham Greene’s “The Heart of the Matter” for £35 (which I reckoned to be pretty good value). Also in South Street is the Friends Meeting House which was build in 1697. As a Quaker myself, I went along on Sunday morning to sit in silence for an hour with Friends, revelling in the atmosphere of the old building and its silent congregation. I don’t think people realise what an oasis of calm is available to them in an entirely non-threatening, non-“religious” way at their local Friends Meeting House (plug over). If you read my opinion on Guildford, you will see that one of my complaints about the town is the complete lack of shops such as greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers etc, the supermarkets having long ago won the battle with the town centre. Not so Briport. It abounds with little shops selling all
manner of local produce. I had what I reckon to be the nicest strawberries of my life from a little green-grocers in the town, and “Framptons” butchers makes Dorset Pork pies which taste exactly like the pork-pies my grandmother used to buy from Lancastrian pork shops when I was a child. Their dry-cured bacon is superb as is the excellent selection of cheeses. Also highly recommended are the cooked chickens (the staple of many a self-catering holiday) from “Rawles” butchers. Bridport also has its own brewery, Palmers, which makes excellent real ale which they sell from the brewery’s own store as well as from many local pubs. I must also mention the street market on Saturdays and Wednesdays which is great fun with a vast range of produce. Bripdort is blessed with its own seaside resort – a little place called West Bay which really joins on to the town but seems to think of itself as separate. West Bay has one excellent beach and one not quite so good one. The first day we went and sat on the East Beach and I swam in clear cold water, then lay on fine pebbles roasting quietly. After turning beetroot colour and spending a night of acute pain, I then went on the West Beach and went to sleep in the sun. The following day it rained, thus saving me from serious personal damage. I think I’d be a total liability on a Greek or Ibizan holiday and would probably end up in hospital. West Bay (by the way there is a separate dooyoo category on West Bay but I don’t propose to write two opinions on what I see as really two parts of the same place), has a pretty harbour with lots of scope for drawing and painting (my time-wasting activity). If you get hungry and enjoy traditional British seaside fare you’re going to love this place because it abounds with snack-bars and cafes. And I have to say, these are of very high quality in terms of cleanliness, and value for money. If you want a cheeseburge
r or cod and chips West Bay is the place to go. Several of these snack bars have tables outside overlooking the harbour and with a mug of freshly made tea at 60p (30p for re-fills) and a plate of “cheesy chips” (£1.50), how could you go wrong? (don’t ask my doctor). Our free entertainment came with a flock of immature starlings who pestered us continually for bits of chip. Rather those than the voracious sea-gulls which looked much more threatening. Another feature of West Bay is the two jetties, from which people fish, and which offer marvellous views up the coast in both directions. There’s something very relaxing about being on those jetties. You just find yourself sitting down on the walls either side and watching the fishermen and women, with the sun in your face and the wind in your hair. I could stay there for ages. I like Bridport. As always when I visit places like this I find myself looking wistfully in the Estate Agents and marvelling at the property prices compared to Surrey. Ah, but what WORK would I do in a place like this? Maybe try to revive Bridport’s old tradition of rope-making? I don’t think so, and I didn’t spot too many computer companies vying for the skills of an aging computer man like myself. So, I just sit here typing away and envying those lucky Dorset folk who have the privilege of living in such an ideal town.
For the first three months I thought I lived in Bridgewater. Bridport isn’t the first Town to spring to mind when West Dorset is mentioned. Counting inwards from the entrances to Bridport from the North, West, East and South, you will discover over fifty licensed premises serving a population of approximately seven and a half thousand people. It’s a laid back kinda Town. If you visit every one of them whilst counting you’ll be hospitalised. It’s been tried. Dire results! Try to approach Bridport for the first time, by driving West along the coast road from Weymouth and see the full beauty of the whole of Lyme Bay. Motoring gently through the undulating, winding road, with stunning coastal views to the left, and wind-blown hills and farmland to the right, will prepare you for the pleasures that unfold. The drive of about fifteen miles takes you past the natural phenomena of Chesil Beach, Abbotsbury with it's Tythe Barn and Monastry, The Tropical Gardens, the world famous Swannery and the Village of Burton Bradstock, all a ‘must’ to be visited during a break in Bridport. There is the ideal official Viewing Place just outside Abbotsbury, so park and absorb the full flavour of where you’ve come from, and where you’re heading. To the left are the views of Portland Bill,( If you can't see Portland Bill, then it's raining, and if you can see it, then it's going to!) and to the right, Lyme Regis nestling under the cliffs in the distance.. I have driven this road, seen these views many times, and never fail to feel emotional, as emotional to this day, as I felt over twenty years ago, when I first saw them, and they took my breathe away. First Impressions: A one street Town: Very wide pavements: No two buildings in the high street the same: Multi-Nationals? So many Public Houses!!!! Surrounded by hills to the North, East and West and the sea to the South: The
Way it is: There are four main streets. North Street to the North, East Street to London, West Street to Cornwall, and South Street to the sea and Bridport’s port, West Bay, one and a half miles away. West Bay deserves a review of it's own as an unusual, earthy real fishing port and holiday destination, as well as it being the location for the BBC Drama Harbour Lights with Nick Berry.Got it's own pubs too.... The Wide Pavements: Bridport’s main manufacturing industry for many years, and still is to a large degree, was rope making. The raw materials, flax and hemp, were shipped to the Port, made into rope products (The goal nets in the World Cup 1966, fishing nets, Wimbledon) and laid out along the wide pavements to dry. The pavements are at least two or three times wider than the average town’s and are particularly agreeable to saunter along while shopping and comfortably accommodate a Street Market twice a week, as Bridport has a royal Charter and carries the title of Charter Market Town. The Street Market is a main event on Wednesdays and Saturdays offering live music, buskers, antiques, food, bric-a-brac, clothes, vinyl, fruit and vegetables, flowers, cheese, meat, fish, organic and everything a real, live market should have, drawing people in from the outlying villages and towns, while visitors put it on their list of ‘Must dos’ while they’re here. Licensed Premises! Lots? Bridport is a brewery town. The independent family brewers Palmers &Sons have been brewing real ales in their thatched brewery on the River Brit on the southern edge of town for over two hundred years. When they announced a celebration bitter to mark their 200th anniversary, hell broke loose in Town. Named Bridport 200, peaceful grown men, with no aggro in a bone of their bodies, were to be seen finger pointing, verbally, and even physically abusing anything that didn’t get out of the way fast enoug
h! The women in town ganged together to put an unofficial ban on their men even sniffing the barmaid’s apron if it’d been anywhere near Bridport 200. let alone drink it! Be warned… Palmers owns about twenty five pubs in Bridport, and the rest of the licensed premises are free houses, restaurants, licensed cafés, wine bars, wine shops, hotels and clubs, making the total around the fifty mark. I couldn’t even begin to describe the variety of choices we have as residents, as to where we take our waters. With choices like that, there’s a bar for everybody, giving a wonderful mixture of culture and society, depending on your mood. Many of the pubs feature live music, and foods choices vary from a pickled egg to a Lobster Thermidor…take your pick. Walk along the wide streets and look up at some of the shop signs. Cross-Keys, Travellers, The Swan, still swinging proudly on display and showing evidence of them all having been pubs once upon a time. There was once over one hundred public houses in Bridport. While you’re here take an organised trip round Palmers Brewery and see how the ale is made, and view the history of this unique family brewery. The Multi-Nationals are here, as in any High Street, but they blend in well with the wide variety of independently owned and run shops in town. I moved here from a smart Surrey village with a cricket green, mock Tudor houses and a sense of uniformity about the place. I drove into Bridport and was struck by the total miss-match of all the buildings, but I was blinkered. Drop down into the secondary streets; see the amber, golden glow of the local stone houses, the redbrick Victorian town houses and cottages, the side alleys and low roofed cottages with gardens to die for. Arts and Culture: We are very proud of our Art Centre, housed in a grand Georgian building in South Street, with a theatre, bar, cafe and a venue for a variety of events from Wo
rld Music, Opera, Comedy and the permanent Art Gallery, in honour of Kenneth Alsopp, the respected and much missed journalist who lived here. PJ Harvey was born here, has a home here, and a recording Studio where she gives space to local, talented musicians to rehearse and get the feel of up to the minute recording facilities. Martin Clunes, of Men Behaving Badly walks anonymously around the Town with his young family. Hugh Fearnly Whittington, of River Cottage fame, makes his own brand of River Cottage organically grown tomato chutney and sells it personally at the bi-monthly Farmer's Market. Robin Day used to kiss barmaids hands on a regular basis. Tom Sharpe would sit quietly in a corner of a bar and 'observe' people in order to create another charactor for his hilariously funny novels. The creator of K9, of 'Doctor Who' fame, lives in a cottage on the beach. Keith Floyd would cook fresh scallops as a guest appearance in one of the local pubs. Bridport has a good atmosphere, it’s warm and welcoming: W Reg. cars from the last time around fill the streets. It's a melting pot. People of all class, wealth, education, profession and trade mix happily together. It doesn't matter what you wear. Nobody cares about your bank balance. Nobody's impressed. It's not a wealthy Town, but a proper town that thrives in the winter under it’s own steam, as well as being a popular tourist resort in the summer. It attracts, writers, actors and musicians, a favourite place for filmmakers. It’s nicknamed ‘The Honey Pot’ Once you arrive, it’s difficult to leave. Everybody returns… The official Bridport and West Bay website at the top of this review, offers a wealth of information and history of the Town, with plenty of links to local interests, places to stay, visit, shop, drink and it even has a chat room! Might see you in there
? Even better, might see you in Bridport! http://www.bridportandwestbay.com