My Fiancé and myself regularly go on camping holidays in the UK, and as normal my Fiancé decided to take his son away in August. Unfortunately due to a bit of a mix up (no you cant use Tesco vouchers to book camping holidays at Haven), we had left things a bit late to book think it was the end of June.
Looking around at various holiday parks on the internet, we came across Parkdean Holidays mmmmm now this looks promising we agreed, seeming to specialise in parks in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Norfolk, Scotland and Wales. Catering for those wishing to stay in a static caravan, or those wanting to stay in tents or caravans on pitches either with or with electric hook-up.
Looking at the various sites we decided to book theyre to stay at their West Bay site in Dorset.
Booking was fairly easy and was done by phone; in total the holiday would cost £210 for 7 nights, staying on an electric pitch for my fiancé, his son and myself. We were lucky I was told as we had managed to get one of their last electric pitches. The staff on the phones were friendly and efficient and I was told my pack should be received shortly with my booking confirmation in it.
About 3 4 days later I received a letter confirming my booking however no other information about the site. Ah well not to worry will probably get given something on arrival.
Arriving and Checking In
We arrived a little earlier than the 12pm check in time stated on the letter I had received (we arrived at roughly 10.45ish), but this has never normally been a problem. At other sites we have stayed they have simply said that the pitch isnt ready but feel free to park on site and use the facilities until we can check in.
Bear in mind we had been travelling for about 4 ½ hours with a 5 year old in the car.
On arriving, I went into reception where before I had a chance to say anything the girl said You cant check in till 12, you might be able to check in earlier come back at 12. So on telling my fiancé this we headed into West Bay, which I have to say doesnt have much to do to kill time especially with a car full of camping gear. After taking a walk on the beach and having some sandwiches it was now roughly 11.30 so we decided to see if we could check in yet.
This time my fiancé went in he did slightly better than I did and was told the pitches were not ready yet, so he nipped to the toilet in the reception then overheard a radio message saying to send them up, so he asked again if we could go up and thankfully he was told we could. He was also given a little introduction bag, the bag contained a map of the park and information on some of the facilities and passes to use them.
The pitches for tents and caravans are based on a hill, which is on a tiered system. Our pitch was at the top of the hill on the second tier, this was fine for us although someone with younger children/toddlers who need to be supervised may find this a problem.
The pitch area was adequate for us, and was flat which is a bonus when pitching a tent. The electric hook-up worked and we had no problems.
The Showers and Toilets
Now here is where I have to say I was disgusted. For over 150 pitches tents/caravans there was one shower block male and female, and one family room.
The female showers houses the Showers, Toilets and Sinks, it also had 2 baby changing mats and a couple of hairdryers.
There were about 10 showers in it, in each shower cubicle there was a shower which was not adjustable and set quite high on the wall, a shower curtain which was just as well because as you could not move the shower the water hit the curtain rebounded off it and hit you, and a peg on the door this was the only place to put clothes/towels while showering.
There were also roughly 10 toilets in the shower block and the same amount of sinks.
I have to say the female showers/toilets were disgusting they seemed dirty and the area even in the toilets was always like walking in a puddle, on the toilet one day and I thought this makes a change the floors dry, but while there a puddle stream of water slowly made its way down from the other toilets and youve guessed it another puddle to wade in.
On the plus side I dont think they were ever without hot water.
The whole time we were there I only ever seen the toilets/showers being cleaned once.
As for the male block my fiancé commented there was no way he could shower his son in them, as there simply wasnt enough room for both of them in a cubicle.
As the name suggests this is meant to be a room where families can go and shower etc together, normally the disabled room is separate BUT the site only had one of these.
In it was a shower which could be adjusted in one corner, a bath in another corner, the toilet in another corner, 2 sinks, and 2 bins.
On walking in the first thing you noticed is the filthy floor, I tended to use the shower to water clean the area around the shower. Once put a bag on the floor and when we got back to the tent noticed a bad smell turned out it was the bag I had put on the floor.
We tended to put Brad in the bath after cleaning it, while we showered then carry him to an area we had showered to clothe him.
The water in the family room was hit and miss I think it depended what time you got in although it was never freezing cold more tepid at times.
There was normally a queue for the family room (cant think why), so we found that going down at 5 was always a good plan.
One thing that did bug me was teenagers using it singly instead of using the shower block, and people using it to go to the toilet when there was no reason they couldnt use the block.
Washing Up Point
3 sinks for over 150 pitches enough said. Although water was always hot.
Facilities on Site
The facilities on site included a swimming pool (also open to general public), a park, and a restaurant/café and bar.
The swimming pool is free to those staying on the site had both a childs pool with a small slide and a bigger pool with a slide. The water always looked clean although could have done with a smidge more warming up. The opening hours were reasonable and it also had other activities you could book in for like inflatable fun, or hydro jets. The Changing rooms were clean and fairly warm too. Also there were lockers available to put your stuff in free of charge.
The park was really good it had obstacle courses, swings, scramble nets and something really to suit most age groups, it was fenced in and also had woodchip. The park was clean although there wasnt really anywhere for parents to sit while their child/ren played.
MMMmmm now lets see on the door it states that food is freshly prepared (raising eyebrow here). There was a sit in menu toad in the hole, fish and chips etc, a takeaway menu pizza, curly fries etc and a kids menu (very limited although does offer mash or jacket potato as an alternative to chips).
Now I have to say that a) this wasnt the cleanest place Ive seen b) the average person working there was 18 c) isnt the cheapest place bearing in mind less than 5 mins walk away are a variety of booths offering jacket potatoes, burgers, fish and chips etc.
The first time we went in we tried to order a pizza but was told they only had ham and pineapple as they didnt have any bases although they should be delivered on weds. So we choose toad in the hole, chicken and chips and a kids meal. I have to say it wasnt too bad.
On our last night we decided to try again for pizza this time we were told by someone who could barely speak English we think they were polish, the only one they didnt have was bolognaise, so we opted for the chicken tikka £6.50 one we then tried to order curly fries to be told that they didnt have any of them either, we then also tried for garlic bread youve guessed it non of that either, so in the end we settled for another pizza cheese and tomato £6.00 (I think).
Now I have to say my Brad who is 5 could have made a better pizza the bases must come as standard cheese and tomato because the chicken tikka pizza was literally a cheese and tomato pizza with curry slapped in the middle and not even spread out or cheese melted over it. The chips that came with the kids meal looked and tasted as if they had been re-cooked.
Enough said lets just say I wouldnt eat here if you stay here.
Now I have to say the childrens entertainment is quite good, they have a maxi club for younger children, a freestyle club for teens, both have various activities on during the day and in the evening the maxi club has a stint in the clubhouse where one or more of the characters are involved either maxi, or millie etc.
Also the compare for the childrens bit was fantastic he was funny, and friendly and he was also part of the resident band.
The only 2 things to mention are the drinks in the club are expensive nightclub prices and sometimes the entertainment was not as advertised.
I have to say the area of West Bay is lovely and would happily go again, however there is no way I would stay at a Parkdean Resort again, what with dirty showers and rubbish restaurant, club priced drinks, with only the entertainment being the redeeming feature next year we are going back to either Haven or Unity. My fiancé is going to be writing to Parkdean to complain.
Thanks for reading and any feedback is welcome.
The Purbeck coast, runs from Lulworth to Swanage and Studland. It is well renowned for being one of the most versatile and active coastlines in the Britain and even the world. It is home to some of the most spectacular coastal landforms and anywhere and is generally very picturesque. It is somewhere that is quite local to me and I have recently visited the area on a geography field trip with the school. I do feel that it somewhere that pretty much any type of tourist will enjoy, for one reason or another. I will say this now so that you know to expect it, but there will be numerous geographical references, that I will make sure that I explain in an easily understandable fashion.
This is one of the most prominent and outstanding coastal formations along the coast. It has been formed over hundreds of thousands of years, the sea has slowly shaped it into the form that we see today. Softer rock, sands and clays, have been eroded away by the power of the sea, both landward and seaward of Durdle Door. With the removal of this natural protection, the harder limestone rocks have been exposed to the erosive powers of the sea. Over time, faults in the rock alignment have been slowly exploited and made bigger. The rock is weakened and some of cliff falls away into the sea, leaving the arch formation that we see today.
It is a great site to see, especially on a sunny day at around sunset, with the backdrop of crisp blue skies. It is just simply a piece of land just jutting out into the sea, with a gaping hole in its centre. It is however so much more than that, it is very rare and a spectacular site. For any photographers, it is a great site to get a few shots of and there are many different angles and perspectives that you can take photos from. It will one day simply be a stack, when the arch becomes too heavy or unstable and collapses into the sea. Even then, it will be spectacular in its own right and will be talked about for generations to come.
This is in my opinion, a most spectacular site and location. It is evidence of the immense powers of nature and more specifically the strength of the sea and its erosion capabilities. It has again, formed over thousands of years in a slow but efficient process that leaves us with a true sight to behold. The process is a fairly simple one to understand.
The most seaward rocks are the Portland Limestone and they are aligned vertically in strong formation. The provide a sturdy protective barrier for the more vulnerable soft rocks that lie behind. The clay and greensands are very prone to erosion when the sea is allowed to attack them. Although the Portland rock is well formed and very strong, in time the sea has been able to exploit breaches and cracks. Over many hundreds of year these gaps have grown in size and the sea has further widened the front of the cove. As soon as the softer rock is exposed then the erosional process is much faster. The rocks behind are pushed back and the rocks are even eroded sideward. The cove will continue to increase in sizes in the future.
There are quite substantial tourist facilities on offer at the cove. There is an extensive car park that is quite fairly priced considering the high demand for spaces in the summer. The overflow car park usually provides enough space for everyone to get their cars in. To one side is the tourist visitor centre. It offers a wealth of information on the area, with leaflets regarding all of the attractions available for free. The incorporated museum, offers a small insight into the history of the cove and its formation over time. It does help you to get to grips with how the cove turned out how it has done. There are toilets located at the end of the building. Across the other side is the café and small shop that are open throughout the year. There is also a quite substantial wine store, that says it offers more different wines than any other shop.
There is the possibility for visitors to the cove, to take a boat trip, at certain times of the year. It is a very limited season and the services are often very rare. The sailings are also dependant on the weather conditions at the time and also the number of people wishing to go on the trip. It is available on Saturdays between July and August and the boat leaves at 10am from the slipway. It travels to Gad Cliff and back, with a guided tour on board. There are boat trips throughout the year at various times of the day, but they do tend to vary, so you would have to check when you are in the area.
As I have said before, I really think that the cove looks quite spectacular from any angle. It is a quite dramatic landform and you can really appreciate how it has formed and the history behind it. The water is very clear, aided by the shallow depth and the wave cut platforms below the surface. It is a very active piece of coastline and all around, there is evidence of erosion taking place. It is a must see and you will have an image of the cove firmly engraved on your mind as soon as you set eyes on it.
Upon entering the village you pass a pub come restaurant, the name of which escapes me, which serves quite exquisite food. In the evenings they tend to opt for a more restaurant orientated menu which will be a lot more familiar. During the day, the food includes all your favourite home made dishes, made with local produce. I have been told that in the winter, their soup is to die for. If you carry on towards the cove, you will come across a delightful duck pond. It is a good idea to have a bit of spare bread with you, just to feed the little duckies. It will certainly be a bit of enjoyment for the kids, should you choose to take them with you.
The village itself is actually relatively small and is still very traditional in terms of the buildings, services and infrastructure. There are a few traditional local shops and a couple of quite wonderful little gift shops. They sell some fantastic souvenirs and also some of the local crafts. There a few commercial products on sale which is a shame, but they still serve as a reminder of your visit. The roads are of course very small and there isn't any pavement. The houses are very compact and very nice to look at.
There are many people, who are immensely keen on finding and examining fossils. There is the chance to do this here too. If the army are not practising, you can walk eastbound from Lulworth along the cliff top to Chapmans Pool. It is a favourite fossil hunting ground of and can be found to be very tranquil and peaceful when it isn't too busy. It is a great place to sit and admire the view and examine any fossils that you think you may have discovered.
Although I haven't had the chance or the pleasure to visit myself, the small village of Tyneham is a must for any visitor to the area. The village went under military occupation six days before Christmas 1943 for the training of American and British tank crews. It was needed as a practise range and a place to harvest fresh troops for the war. The whole village was kept under occupation and although the authorities pledged to return the village to the inhabitants, they went back on their word. To this day, it remains deserted and is a ghost village.
The village is still used by the military today, as a practice range for the troops stationed nearby. It is now mostly in ruin, but it is still somewhere worth visiting. It is preserved and relatively uninfluenced by humans, giving you a chance to look back 50 years in time and imagine what life may have been like. It is open to the public for most of the year and has some of the best walks in the area. It is only a short drive from Lulworth Cove, or a pleasant walk.
Stair Hole, Man O' War Bay and Old Harry Rock are all other places worth a visit. Lulworth Castle also provides a good bit of enjoyment and the ruins of Corfe Castle also have a rich history. Ballard Down is a truly spectacular place to visit, if you have the energy to tackle the huge hills that give you access the area. The views are quite spectacular and you can look out to see both in front and behind you. To one side are Bournemouth and Poole and to the other you look down upon Swanage. That it is another place well worth visiting, especially if you have children who may want to play on the beach.
-When to Visit-
In the summer months, this area can get extremely busy. It is advisable to visit in the off season where possible, but you can still get much enjoyment from a trip to the area in high season. The spring time is probably my preferred time to visit, everything is at its best. There may be a little bit of mist and haze out to sea and the sun is a bit lower in the sky, making viewing of the landforms much more spectacular. The facilities are all open at this time of the year, so you won't be missing out on that account. There are also no restrictions as to where you can walk at different times of the year.
The roads are very thin and windy for the most part and during busy periods the traffic can be a nightmare. There are often lengthy tailbacks and getting in and out of the area can be a lengthy and frustrating process.
I would go to Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door and the other areas in the morning and early afternoon, in early spring or at this time of year (April/May). I would start with a nice walk along the coast, in either direction just to soak up the atmosphere and get the wind in your hair. I would then look down on Lulworth Cove, before proceeding to beach level. It may be time for a spot of lunch or just a quick coffee so I would go into the little visitor complex and grab a drink or a bit food from the café. It is nice to know a bit about the area and its history, so the perfect place to visit is the little museum. There should be plenty of time just to go off and explore the village and then decide what you want to do next.
The public transport in the area is very poor. It is pretty much non-existent, so the other feasible way of getting into the area and travelling within it is by car. The roads aren't fantastic but you can get by with relative ease. As far those with wheelchairs and walking aids are concerned, accessing some of the natural attractions will prove to be difficult. The man made facilities do cater for wheelchairs and there are disable toilets.
-Advice to Visitors-
These areas of countryside and natural beauty are often very fragile and susceptible environments. It is important to treat such locations with a lot of respect and care, in order that they can be enjoyed by everyone for many, many years to come. There are a few things that you can do to make sure that you aren't causing any damage to the area.
The first and possibly most obvious measure to take is to make sure that you take any litter home with you. There aren't many bins because of the wildlife that may be affected, so it is very tempting just to leave your rubbish on the floor. Rubbish that you do leave lying about, may harm wildlife and in the longer term won't go away. In time it may build up and become a real problem for the area.
There is often a problem with footpath erosion in more rural areas. People can tend to wander off the set paths, trampling grass and vegetation in the process. In busy periods, hundreds if not thousands of people will walk around and if they all stray from the path it will widen over time. It is a continuous process and before you know it, the area becomes a mud and dust track. If the path is muddy or boggy, try to tread carefully and only leave the track if absolutely necessary. There are a number of paths that do have stones and chippings on, so there should be no need to stray. The other problem that can arise from managed paths, is that people remove the stones or wood chippings, making the path smaller and then more prone to people not sticking to it.
Any damage that does occur to such a delicate environment is likely to be very difficult to reverse and in some cases it can be very damaging. A couple of simple steps and precautions by everyone can mean the difference between preserving and spoiling a beautiful area of natural beauty. It isn't fair that we use primary attractions for our own enjoyment and benefit and not ensure that they remain for future generations.
I would certainly recommend this area of the Dorset coast to pretty much any type of holiday maker or 'outdoor' person. There is scenery that really can't be seen in such great splendour, in any other area of the world. The walks are also extensive and enjoyable for those who like a good stroll. It is certainly somewhere that all of the family can go out to and get a good bit of fresh air and soak up a few rays if the weather is fine.
I wouldn't describe the Purbeck Coast as being somewhere to holiday for a week, but it is certainly good for a short break or day trip. If you are visiting Bournemouth or Poole and just want to get away for a day, then you could perhaps head out towards Swanage and Lulworth. It is something different to do and it is very educational and informing in its way. There are a number of different things to do, but you can probably exhaust all possibilities in a day or two. All in all, I would certainly recommend that you try and find some time to visit this area once in your life. It has to be one of the more attractive areas of the UK to visit. It is a stretch of coastline that illustrates each and every stage in the development of bays and headlands. It is a must see!
There really aren't too many downsides or criticisms that I have of the area. It has so much to offer any type of visitor and you will always find something to do. The roads are a bit of an issue, but I wouldn't be in favour of any widening of the exisitng routes. The presence of no high street shops is a plus point from my point of view, but there may be some people who would like a newsagent or a supermarket to buy a few things from. All in all, you will really struggle to find fault with such a beautiful area of the world.
There are a number of different websites that you can visit for further details on the area and information on accommodation, eating out and other travel arrangements. There are a few sites that I have found to be of great help and they can be found at:
Local Sites: www.purbeck.gov.uk/tourism and www.lulworthonline.co.uk
Bournemouth is one of the favourite places I go to on Sundays. I live in Salisbury & its £5.75 (£4.50 OAP) to hop on a Wilts & Dorset bus to get to Bournemouth Triangle, which is 1 hr?s drive away by car. Its seven long sandy beaches, pier & shops are well worth visiting. There is also The Winter Gardens Park which hosted the Labour Conference this year. It has a crazy golf area with windmills & ponds, painting exhibitions & a band-stand where various bands play during the summer. There is a little stream running through the centre of the park, here on the lawns, people usually laze in deckchairs while watching the world go by. You can feed squirrels here for 10p a bag. There are different flower bed displays & decorated candle lights in glass jars which hang in the bushes. Along the seafront is quite a nice walk, in particular to Boscum, you can catch a mini train between these two towns. You have to pay 30p to go on to Bournemouth pier, but the pier at Boscum is free with an area for fishing. On Bournemouth pier is The Pavilion theatre & café which can get quite busy during high season. There is also a part for fishing which can get a bit drafty, & there are various boat trips to Brownsea Island stopping at Pool on the way by, you always know the boat is in as it has a loud sounding horn. There is also an arcade which has the latest games, but not the unique one-armed bandits that Teignmouth in Devon has. You can pick up information from the office about boat trips to Swanage & Brownsea Island; there are also a palmist here & two gift shops. There is a Harry Ramsdons at Bournemouth with outside seating, below is a small take away section which does mainly fried food, along the front is a McDonalds the I-Max cinema, & the Oceanarium. At Pier Approach there is a simulator ride which takes you down the ski slope, car chases or big dipper. There are lots of side stands, including a guy who guesses how old you are just by looking at you. There
is also a stand which sells those coloured sand bottles, & you can have your name carved onto a bracelet for £4. In August Bournemouth has a firework display from both the piers which is really good; families come out & set up barbecues & picnics along the beach to watch this spectacular show. There is entertainment from Ocean FM the local radio station, which runs loads of competitions from winning cars to holidays. The town itself is quite nice; you walk through the park & up a hill to get to the. There is a Debenhams where Santa will have his grotto for all you kiddies, Boots, M&S, A. Avenue shopping Mall, HMV, Adams, Maplins electronics, The Link, Vodafone, Lidles, Wilkinson, H.Samuels jewellery shop, WH Smith, Birthdays Cards, & a host of other shops. Just up the road is Bournemouth BIC (Bournemouth International Centre). Various bands play here on concert & they have different exhibitions & shows including ice skating & pantos; telephone 01202 456 456 for more info & booking. I keep meaning to see The Ideal Home Exhibition when it comes down so I can see what I can?t afford for my house; I have seen Paul Daniels here with his magic tricks. Walk along the seafront & you can get to Sandbanks which is worth a visit but it?s a bit of a walk, you can walk along the seafront & the lifeguards are easy to spot by their yellow shorts & red t-shirts. Sandbanks has changed over the years, there is a nice beach here & a small café. You can see the Sea-Cat on its way to France leaving the bay & there are lots of rock pools to discover. There are some nice houses here with front verandas & palm trees; there is also a bay round by a large car park. My only gripe is that it's £1.75 to hire a deckchair, It's free on the pier, but I'm usually pounced upon when I sit on the beach.
If Kent is the garden of England, then Dorset is the ornamental birdbath in the centre! This county has so much to tell, but I will merely get a chance to give you a summary of her beauty and mystique. A county famous for many things, but visited by so few. A good thing in its way, as the roads of Dorset are so narrow in places, you can only get one car at a time down them. Here is a brief episode taken from a journey I made last Sunday. As we pulled into the car park, a well-sunned local handed me the parking voucher. “tha dl be £3 sah” A hefty fee for parking, I thought, but on closer inspection it could be redeemed for drink or food at the nearby Smugglers Inn. We left the car and walked to the edge of the cliff. It was not stony, but a rolling green cliff, leading to a small cove-like beach, with few people to spoil the tranquil atmosphere. A short walk down a steep embankment and you were outside the Smugglers. The sound of water brought pleasure to my ears, with her musical cascade as she ran through the centre of the garden, down a small waterfall and on join the vast seas of the English Channel. We decided to have the drinks after we completed what was meant to be, a short walk. The south coast path ran around the Inn, and up a grassy slope towards a copse. The sign read “Beware the Bull” they must have knew that Aberdeen Angus was coming today! Our speed increased until we were safe in the woods, over the wooden stile, with the sound of hoofs a distant reminder. The birds were singing in harmony, the sun, hot, hotter than I had known it this year, and thin beads of perspiration were forming on my brow already. As we rounded the twisty path, out of the copse and onto a slim path along the cliff top, the scenery was breathtaking. Looking starboard, or to the right for you land lubbers, was the dominant and eerie Portland Rock. Standing proudly over Weymouth and
Dorset, like a giant hand ready to grab any ship that sailed too close. Following inland, Weymouth, the tourist trap and ferry port. Her golden beach was intensified by the rays of the sun, brining to life the character of a holiday resort, and making a bowing statement to all who could see. The high cliffs again set fire to the coastline, with their plush greenery, as if they were peacocks strutting around with feathers and plumage displayed. To the Port side, (left) we were greeted with steep cliffs, and a path that intimidated the heartiest of Sunday walkers. The tallest point being White Nothe, which I guess is olde English for White Nose. No guesses were needed to why she was called so, as the towering white rocks were the major player in this landscape. 3 hours later, we returned to the Smugglers, and I stared into the golden aura of a cider shandy, possibly the most refreshing one I had ever drunk! I cut this short, as it would be a ramble of my ramble, if you get what I mean. This is just one of the many, many walks and sights there are in Dorset. Here are some facts Dorset is the only county in England that does not have a Motorway. Sparingly populated, and the capital being Dorchester. Bournemouth and Poole are literally joined together and you could drive for almost an hour from one side to the other. Corfe castle, a ruined castle stands on a hill overlooking the National Trust owned village. Walking around here is like taking a step back in time. There is a steam railway that goes to Swanage, another famous seaside resort. There are villages with such names as; Shiterton Piddle Hinton Tincleton Tolpuddle Puddletown Shiterton still wins it, especially as the river Piddle runs nearby it!! You have the best of both worlds, as the New Forrest runs through east Dorset, making camping and caravanning a popular pastime. To the west
of Dorset lie Lyme Regis and Charminster, two of the finest fossil hunting beaches in the world. In Lyme Regis you have 2 fossil shop/museums, where some archaeological masterpieces are displayed. The kids would love to wander around the beaches of Charminster, looking for fossils while you all relax and enjoy the peace. In the village of Moreton you will find the grave of Laurence of Arabia, who died in a motorcycle accident a short distance away at cloud hill. You can pick strawberries at local farms, and dine in the many pubs and Inns located in tranquil villages. Attractions include Monkey World, a rescue centre for apes and monkeys from all over the world. You can see Charlie the baby orang-utan, and the many baby chimps, constantly causing mayhem. Poole Pottery, where you can make your own pottery items and paint them etc. Bovington Tank Museum, next to Bovington army camp, and also special viewing points to watch the real tank exercises. Tyneham, the village vacated during World War 2, and never re-occupied. You can only get to this eerie village when the gates are open, through the tank exercise areas. Kimmeridge bay, another fossil hunting place. There are so many, I could write a book so easily. The jist of this is really to come and see and enjoy one of the few unspoilt county’s left in England. Angus
UPDATED.....This village of Wareham is beautifully nestled in the shadow of the Purbeck hills in Dorset. Situated from the east about 10 miles from Poole on the A351 and from the west about 15 miles on the A352 from Dorchester. It’s a very rural village and is very well known for its old buildings with history that dates back to the Iron Age. It was a port in those times and in 876 the town, as a result of being captured by the Danes had high ‘walls’ built all around it, to defend it. Most visitors enter Wareham from the East and as you drive onto the North Causeway you cross the River Piddle (hysterical to my daughter when we first moved here 10 years ago and hence the title of this op), you proceed up a slight incline and pass St Martins Church on North Street. This church dates back to Saxon times. It was renovated in 1936 and contains an effigy of Lawrence of Arabia carved by Eric Kennington. As you travel further on North Street you pass a myriad of shops including Wareham Wines, the off licence and very good video shop (rents all videos on a Wednesday for only £1 each) and the Dorset Gallery which sells framed prints and pictures of Wareham and surrounding countryside. You continue on and come to the crossroads passing the local Co-op and the Post Office, where the ladies serving are always ready to have a few kind words with you and give a helping hand. A couple of banks (Barclays and Nat West) are now behind you and you have reached The Red Lion public house on the corner of West street. If you cared to take a little journey up West street you would find a couple of antique shops, a pet shop that sells everything you for animals that you can imagine but specialises in equestrian goods and the Purbeck council offices. If you went further you would come to the Wareham Middle and Purbeck Upper School. Back at the crossroads you have the town hall on the Northeast corner. This build
ing was built in 1870 and replaces an earlier Town hall, school, jail and butchers shop that previously were on this site; they were built in 1768. Today it serves various purposes with Jumble sales, craft fairs and town Council meetings being held there. Part of the building is used to house the Wareham Museum with a special section on our local hero Lawrence of Arabia. This is open Easter to mid October (Mon.-Sat 10-4) and guess what, its free (don’t get much for free these days). Its good if it’s raining, (when isn’t it) even with the kids, but be warned it’s very small. Carrying on now into South Street you come to Lloyds Bank. Very interestingly this bank stands on the site that is thought to have started the great fire of Wareham in 1762 where over 140 buildings were completely destroyed. After that time no thatches were allowed in the town. If you see thatched houses that marks where the boundary of the fire was. Follow on down a bit further going past Robert’s the chemist where Mrs Roberts, the pharmacist is all too happy to give very friendly advice on minor ailments. (Even to the point of taking my son through the back one day to nurse a not very bad cut) and the best of the three flower shops, Bay tree Florists. Not forgetting to look back on the right to see Bath Travel, Sue Rider Charity shop (of 4 in a small village like ours, They will outnumber residents if were not careful), and the Black Bear Hotel with its life size statue of a black bear standing proudly over the entrance porch. There has been a Bear Hotel here as far back as 1762. When you continue you will come to South Street Bridge (which follows on to ther small village of Stoborough) and Wareham Quay. The quay, though small has a fair sized car park at 60p per hour (steep compared to the other two car parks in Wareham that charge 30p per hour), has an Italian restaurant, a pub and a hotel that also has a restauran
t underneath that serves the most delicious ‘Dorset Cream Tea’ for about £3.50 per person. The weight just piles on as you sit alongside the River Frome and enjoy the fresh clotted cream ladled above homemade strawberry jam on the soft crumbling scones. Mmmmmmmmmm…….I’ve put on 5lb just thinking about them, a definate must have. The quay is very popular in the summer months and does get very busy especially in Carnival week, which is usually late July. They have stalls and the Carnival princess presides over the proceedings including a parade where all the local shopkeepers make up their own floats to raise money for charity. In the evenings theres a brilliant singer, Jim Etherington, and you just can’t move for people (good way to get to know the locals when your crushed up against them.) all finished off with a dazzling fireworks display. Now theres a bit of a competition in this with Swanage and Weymouth but Warehams’are always the best (in my unbiased opinion). We are only a 15 minute drive from Corfe Castle, the ruins of a castle that dates back also to Saxon times. It sits on top of a huge mound of earth built to protect it from invaders. Sheep merrily graze beneath the ruins of the old castle. The whole village of Corfe is worth keeping in mind for another days outing. We have a dentist (ouch, he’s not my best friend), a Health Centre, a Hospital (though only for Physiotherapy and old people) a total of 4 schools, about 7 pubs (l usually lose count after the 4th or 5th, hic….) 2 supermarkets, Co-op and Somerfield, a fire station, police station and law courts and one sports centre. That’s situated about a mile west of Wareham centre and you are able to Swim, play tennis, football, indoor cricket, squash, karate, have a sauna, trampolining, climbing and a fitness room. Of course l avail myself of all these facilities on a regular basis, l go at least once a year,
l am quite religious about that. Well, we are surrounded by beautiful countryside and have easy access to bigger towns like Poole (about 20 mins) well known for its large natural harbour, Bournemouth (1/2 an hour), Dorchester (about ½ An hour) and the seaside town of Weymouth (about 35 mins). That’s by car. There is a train station that will take you straight through as far as London one way and Devon the other. There is a regular bus service to Poole, Bournemouth and Weymouth. Not that l often frequent public transport as l live about 2 miles outside the town and l’m not on a bus route whatsoever, so its shank’s pony or the car for me (guess which wins most)! Wareham is twinned with Conches in France and in the summer there is sometimes a French street market from there offering delicious tempting specialities like real French bread, pastries and pates. We have several walks, a leaflet is available from the tourist information bureau in South Street, just opposite the Quay. The leaflet will give you the exact path to follow and point out any particular points of interest. More details are available at: Purbeck Information & Heritage Centre Holy Trinity Church South Street Wareham Dorset BH20 4LU Tel 01929 552740 There are also several campsites in and around the village. They have many caravans to rent and facilities for tents and your own mobile homes on quite a reasonable rate (about £10 per night). Wareham is a very historical town and when you take a second to look up at the buildings that you pass so quickly when you travel through in your car as we do you are forced to wonder what the lives of the old inhabitants were like. It may be gory but a trip to one of the cemeteries gives a fascinating glimpse, especially the one at the main church of the Lady St Mary. This church boasts a 18th Century tower and a Tudor tower and is on the site of an 8th centur
y Minster church, so you can imagine some of the gravestones are very, very old. We are very lucky to live in a lovely place like Wareham, the only problem is as it’s so lovely we get tourists by the thousand in the summer. So if you think of visiting us, come early spring when its not so packed and you can easily park. It’s far nicer to see this memorable town with all its history in less crowded surroundings.