Newest Review: ... local/organic/vegan beers and wines as well as the usual necessaries. There are also a couple of organic/health food/deli type shops t... more
... and West Bay, of course
Bridport in General
Member Name: theediscerning
Bridport in General
Date: 05/08/03, updated on 05/08/03 (150 review reads)
Disadvantages: Several, but all small towns have
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.