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July 2021 - Dorset - Day 2 - Corfe Castle & Old Harry

Well, that was another hot night. Actually, another exceptionally hot night although eased somewhat by the fan, although I noticed it had been placed Karen’s side of the bed, so I only felt the ‘after waves’.

Breakfast was quiet this morning, in fact for most of it we were the only ones around. I am pleased to report that the tea was still exceptional. Karen was even starting to like the Hotel a tiny little bit.

Todays, plan was to drive to Corfe Castle around on the Isle of Purbeck. I decided to trust the car’s own Sat Nav (yes, the next bit does involve the route, but bear with). It took us to Poole Harbour when I suddenly realised that it wanted us to take the ferry across the harbour. I swore a lot. I had done no research on the ferry, did not know the frequency, cost or whether you had to book in advance. Much moaning followed as I switched back to using Waze ensuring that I did not select the ferry option. Because of where we now were, we ended up driving through the centre of Poole with all of its traffic problems.

Eventually we navigated this and found the National Trust car park. We followed the signs saying ¼ mile walk to the castle. I think it was a countryman’s mile as it seemed much further in the heat.

Again, this was a place we had visited 41 years ago although I couldn’t really remember doing so and couldn’t find any photographic evidence (though when I scanned in all those thousands of old photos, I tended to ignore the poorly shot, out of focus, just buildings or the stupid number of ones we seemed to have taken of cows in a field).

Anyhow I had no recollection of what a pretty village sat at the entrance to the castle itself.

Smugly we walked in after just having to flash our NT membership cards, saving another £10 each. The castle was quite busy but not stupidly so. The mound upon which it was build was impressive in itself. The castle was in ruins. To me it didn’t look safe, with many walls at an angle of 45 degrees or more. It is worth seeing but as much for the views as anything. Probably because of the haphazard and now frankly dangerous layout there was not much attempt to tell the history of the place as we went around which suited me fine.

There was a lovely NT café back at the entrance where we sat in the shade having ordered some refreshment. We shared a cold drink as well as having some tea/coffee.

The drinks got me thinking about relative affluence. When we were here 41 years ago, there is no way we would have contemplated buying drinks whilst out. Every penny was counted and accounted for. If we did buy a drink, we all shared it. We still talk about our France family holidays that we loved. It took every penny we had to just get there. There was no way we could afford ice creams on the beach and the boys grew to understand that. Instead, we used to buy a 3 pack of ice creams from a supermarket on the way back for less than the price of one on the beach. Trouble is that there was 4 of us. I always volunteered to go without as it was just easier. We would take sandwiches and drinks everywhere with us. I know this was probably the same for most people.

So, when did it all change for us? I am not sure. Probably since I retired. We do also live in much more of a café culture these days. After taking stock I think we realised that we had most things we wanted in life and decided to enjoy life whilst we can. We don’t have a bottomless pit of money. In fact, if anything we are asset rich but cash poor. Our assets (my pension, house etc) are not things we can easily access. I still have to manage our finances tightly but for the main part without being ridiculous we can do much of what we want, which includes having one or more or many refreshment stops each day.

So, after that reflection upon life, we had a wander around the village of Corfe and bought some food for lunch from the local bakery (could not justify a proper meal out!) before walking back to the car. It was still flipping hot and as the car park had another café, we bought some more much needed drinks before getting back in the car.

We headed to Studland Bay which was about 5 miles away down some narrow country lanes. The NT car park was full, but we found a spot in the overflow area. I was pleased to note that our membership saved us another £7 parking.

The walk to see the Old Harry Rocks was 1.25 miles and so we set off. To start with we were shaded by some bushes. But then we hit a long open wide uphill stretch with no relief from the sun. The song line ‘going through the desert on a horse with no name’ was swirling around my head as we trudged along.

Karen being the stoic and easy-going person that she is, never mentioned the heat. She had her umbrella up to try and provide some shade as we walked. The truth was though she was struggling and struggling badly. She doesn’t cope well in the heat at the best of times as well as trying to permantly cope with her bad knee and foot. This time though it was an enormous blister on her foot that was causing her the biggest problem. She was in agony and apparently as usual it was all my fault. Nevertheless, we eventually made it and it was a splendid view of Old Harry that greeted us.

We walked to another vantage point looking westward and that was quite splendid too. I thought it was all worth the effort but Karen being in pain felt less so, especially with the prospect of theslow (but mainly downhill) trudge back.

Eventually we made it to the car park and so to celebrate we sat in the nearby Banke Arms Beer Garden overlooking the sea and order yet more refreshments. We sat there for about 45 minutes before leaving.

Whilst there I researched taking the ferry home rather than driving round the bay. It seemed to be very frequent and without the need to book in advance. As it was only a few miles away we decided to investigate. It was all very casual. I paid the ‘ferryman’ and asked when the next ferry was due, and his response was ‘I think it’s still there and if so they will probably just let you on’. For the cost of £4.75 per car, a chain ferry takes you on a 4 minute journey across to Sandbanks.

Well, it was and but they didn’t as it was full. For the cost of £4.75 per car, a chain ferry takes you on a 4-minute journey across to Sandbanks. It was all rather pleasant watching it go over, unload and return to pick us up. It amused us that double decker buses were using it as well. We were loaded onto another full ferry at the front and stayed in the car at a steep angle looking down at the water. The whole area around and in the harbourhad an American/Australia feel about it, with dozens of speedboats, jet skis and other craft going about their business.

Sandbanks seemed very plush and so it should be. It has the 4th highest property prices per square foot in the world. We looked for Harry Redknapp’s gaff but wasn’t sure which one it was. The drive back to the hotel took us through the centre of Bournemouth itself which was busy but brought back memories.

As Karen’s foot was still really sore, we decided to try the Hotel restaurant to save her walking. We sat outside and tried their 2 for £10 cocktails. We both had some sort of Gin Fizz which was nice but needed to be bigger!

For our meals, Karen showed her class by getting excited by the fact they had Cheese & Beetroot Sandwich as an option which she duly ordered. She never to have seen Beetroot on a menu before. I went for the Chicken Caesar Salad. Karen really enjoyed hers. I didn’t enjoy mine. A decent Caesar Salad is not difficult to deliver, but this was the 3rd one I had had in the past 10 days that had been poor.

The first was at a pub the other side of Mildenhall which was unbelievably bad. When we arrived, we found out it was a pub used by ‘Travellers’ and they were still clearing up from being descended upon by rival groups of English & Irish Travellers who were supporting different teams in the Euros Final the night before. Apparently there had been several skirmishes. We should have left at that point. Instead, my friend Anthony ordered a Greek Salad and we could not tell them apart. Everything was diced to the smallest of pieces that it seemed to have put through an industrial shredder - twice. That would have been not too bad, but the salad was not as described on the menu. It contained every salad item known to man. The ingredients of a Caesar Salad are Romaine Lettuce, Egg, Anchovies, Crotons, Parmesan Cheese plus the sauce. No more, no less. In fact, anything extra makes it just a salad and not a Caesar salad.

Then later last week I had one in the Cellar House in Eaton. Again, the chef seemed to be of the opinion that more was better. There is no place for Tomato, Cucumber and Onion in a Caesar Salad – period. At least the chicken here was edible.

Tonight’s, was the best of the poor lot. In fact, the chicken was excellent. All the ingredients were of a good high quality especially the cheese, bonus bacon lardons and sauce. Sadly, though whilst I expect the vine tomatoes, onion and cucumber were also of good quality, but I don’t like them, didn’t ask for them or expect them as they have no place or right to be in a flipping Caesar Salad. I moaned for a bit, but Karen ate some of what I had left. Minor rant over for now.

After the previous night of being eaten alive outside by midges, Karen was paranoid about being back in our room before it got to dusk. So, we retired and opened a bottle of Jam Shed wine we had brought with us before lights out.

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