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Move it to the Med and it would be perfect
Bridport in General
Member Name: tomc
Bridport in General
Date: 07/07/01, updated on 07/07/01 (749 review reads)
Advantages: Near the sea, Attractive, Good little shops
Disadvantages: Makes me envious of those who live there!
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.
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