May 2014.

I've bought a campervan as a 60th birthday present to myself, made some curtains and a patchwork quilt, waved goodbye to my family, and set off. My aim is to explore the coastline of Britain, anti clockwise, starting in Kent. I have no idea what will happen.

Monday, 15 December 2014

From Devon into Dorset

I had a wonderful few days visiting Dartmouth and Dawlish where I stayed a night with my friend Knocker and saw the famous Dawlish black swans and met the team of orange railwaymen who have restored the line that was so devastated in February by the storms that hit the south coast. Massive sea defences were being put in place in case it ever happens again.
I looked in at Exmouth at teatime where beyond a vast shingle beach people come to windsurf after work, and from Budleigh Salterton to Lyme Regis and the Jurassic Coast. Cheyenne and her husband, wardens at the Pooh Cottage Campsite at Budleigh Salterton, had a wonderful trip, travelling around the coast of Britain like me but taking two years to do it. She recommended that I should see the quarry at Beer, where stone was quarried from Roman times until the 1920s. The enchanting village of Beer is on my list of ‘places I’d like to go back to for a weekend’.
Chesil Beach
The Jurassic Coast is an incredible 95-mile stretch of 180 million years of geology that starts near Exmouth and ends at Swanage. I visited Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door and plan to visit again, maybe in February when they won’t be so crowded. Golden Cap near Charmouth is the highest point along the south coast and well worth the climb for the views, and maybe the best view I had of Chesil Beach was from the top of the Isle of Portland. The Swannery at Abbotsbury is another must, and I was there to take a full part in teatime (feeding time is at 12 noon and 4pm) which I loved. 
Feeding time at The Swannery
This entire stretch of coastline is such a wonder and, after all its wild geology, I thought Poole Harbour sounded a bit tame, somewhere I would ‘tick off’. I headed for the quay and saw the glitziest array of gin palaces bobbing in the water. They must be a rich lot in Poole, I thought, until I realized I was looking at the parking lot for Sunseeker which has its HQ here. I got on a more modest vessel for a tour of the harbour and to see Brownsea Island which is run by the National Trust and was another delightful surprise. Lord Baden-Powell brought his first ever band of Scouts to camp here and it is home to a rare colony of red squirrels.
Poole Harbour
The boat came back past Sandbanks and the helpful skipper, giving his commentary, said: “The middle one of those houses over there belongs to Harry Rednap. He doesn’t much like us pointing that out! And the one next to it has just been sold for £9million.” And when he said ‘next to it',  they really are close together. I would expect something more secluded for my £9million!

Monday, 17 November 2014

South Devon

I have been off air because I have had a spell at home. The weather has turned and the clocks gone back and I have been moving along the south coast in fits and starts. I had great weather along the Devon coast: it was so beautiful, the sun shining and the horizon indiscernible between the blue of the sky and the sea. The village of Aveton Gifford, close to where I met the swan man, is charmingly Devonian – I half expected to see Miss Marple come strutting round the corner.
From there the road to Hope Cove leads down to a sweet narrow bay with two beaches protected by a headland called Bolt Tail. In the village shop I bumped into the people from Poole I'd had coffee with at Burgh Island who, like me, felt the urge for an icecream. (This is an urge I have had for too often as I have driven around Britain – it has become a problem!)
The Kingsbridge estuary, Salcombe
There is a carpark above Salcombe but I had been advised that I would probably be able to get into the small one in the centre of town and that it was opposite a pub with wifi. That was all true, it's right by the water, and I had to shoe-horn Baa into a tiny space next to another campervan. I walked around the town which is lovely and has a large water frontage up the west side of the large Kingsbridge estuary. I just caught the end of the holiday season – mainly 'seniors' and young couples with toddlers.
Salcombe is very middle class - women with loud voices talking to men in shorts the colour of bricks - and shops like the Salcombe Coffee Co, White Stuff, Fat Face, Jack Wills - they're all there!
When I came back to collect my laptop from Baa I was alarmed to see that the camper I had hemmed in had a disabled badge in the windscreen, but by then Baa was hemmed in on the other side. I went to have tea in the pub and use the wifi... and when I came back an hour later, the camper next to Baa had gone. I did some nifty reversing in order to extricate myself and a woman waiting for the space (at a safe distance) congratulated me on my efforts!
Blackpool Sands, South Devon
I was heading for Dartmouth and had a wonderful drive alongside Slapton Sands. It's a stunning stretch of coast – apricot sand with clefts in the cliffside dropping down to sandy coves - a lovely beach called Blackpool and the prettiest Devon village called Stoke Fleming.