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Sunday, 4 August 2013

One Girl and Two Dogs on the Bummel: wind, waves and walkies

Missed the beginning? The bummel begins here

Well, I'm down the road a bit, I think, but I'm not yet convinced that this site is any better, although it costs twice as much and, apparently, has showers. I say apparently as I've not found them yet. It's not a good sign when you're regretting paying in advance for two nights before you've even got your tent up!

I woke this morning at dawn, but neither I nor the boys felt like getting up, so we slept in until nine. I didn't mind the pop-up monstrosity so much last night; maybe I was just so shattered that a wooden crate would have done the job. I do have to say though, my self-inflating mattress really is wonderful- or I truly was exhausted- because I discovered when I was packing the tent away (which, incidentally, went smoothly) that I'd been sleeping on top of the mallet all night and hadn't noticed!

All packed, I asked one of the 'van campers where I'd find the owner of the field, as I wanted to get be off, and he gave me the most bizarre directions which I've done my best to replicate here:

"See that field? Go all the way through there and up the hill- through the long grass- then through the gate out into the lane. Turn left and follow it all the way along- you'll probably see a pest-control van, then you'll know you're going the right way- and you'll see a barn looks like it's being converted. Go past that until you see a sign for the Old Barn Farm. It's got a big gate and a thing- bit like a shed- outside. He doesn't live there. Keep going to the gate at the end of the lane and, on the left, is a house says The Old Dairy. Go round and to the side a bit, down the steps and there's another gate. Go through that and on the left is his house. But he might not be up yet."

I thought, considering the obviously epic journey I'd be undertaking, the owner would be sitting down to Sunday lunch by the time I arrived! I thanked the man and set off. Here are my directions:

Turn left out of the gate. At the very end of the lane is a house with a big sign saying The Old Dairy. Go round the right-hand side to his backdoor.

My version was much quicker.

The owner was up, as was his dog, a big, loveable rescue that even Alfie barely managed to snarl at. He was most insistent I come in until the rain stopped and asked if I'd had a good night. I assured him I had, and it was true, and that it was a lovely site (also true). I felt almost mean to be casting him off so hastily, but a shower was essential. He charged me a token fee for the night and wished me luck on my travels. He was a lovely chap.

Back at the car, I told Gladys to take me to a site with showers and she obliged. Fortuitously, the site happened to be a field next to a pub, although that wasn't my main reason for choosing it, I promise. I pulled up and chose a spot before beginning the comical process of trying to pitch my tent in the strong wind.

First, I threaded the poles and the tent blew up and smacked into my car, setting the boys off into a frenzy of barking (especially Alfie; he thought the flying-parachute thing had come back to get him). I pegged one corner down to stop it blowing away and this time the tent blew up like a balloon and flipped itself upside down. I righted it, eventually, and tried again.

No good. The wind was coming at it side on, threatening to snap the poles before I got the guy ropes secured. I unpegged the corner and attempted to turn the tent so the tunnel faced into the wind; the wind saw its chance and changed direction- blowing the tent a good ten metres down the field towards some alarmed-looking goats. I had another go- the wind changed again and flipped the tent upside down once more. The goats, interested now, sneered from behind the fence. A sarcastic horse on the other side blew a raspberry.

It was too much. I popped out two of the poles and lay, spread-eagled, across the flapping tent, whimpering, "I just want to put my bloody tent up..." The horse sniggered. I ignored it and stared up at the sky, watching the clouds race by, wondering whether I should just sleep in the car, until Harvey started barking encouragement. (Alfie, who has complete faith in his Mummy to make everything alright, had gone to sleep on the back seat).

Spurred on, I leapt on the tent while the wind wasn't looking and battled to get the poles popped back in, one end pegged down, and the tent facing the right way (as well as being the right way up) before another gust blew away both the tent and my will to continue. When I had finished, I had something resembling a tent (images of Dali paintings sprang to mind) that would not- yet- blow away. I hurriedly pegged out the guy ropes, threw my gear inside, grabbed the dogs and had a little lie down.

I forgot to mention that, repositioning the car as a wind break, I ran over the dogs' food bowls and flattened them. Oooops.

By the time I woke up from my nap, it was mid-afternoon and, having wasted too much time on the tent nonsense, the boys and I decided to escape it and go exploring. The site, as well as being next to a pub, is also next to a main road, so we went the other way and into the village. Over a cute wooden bridge crossing the stream and alongside it we trotted, through a chocolate-box village until we reached the little shop which, thoughtfully, had a hook to tether dogs to, lest they float away like balloons. Or tents.

I bought some lunch and a can of coke (I needed the sugar), interrupting a fairly intense discussion on how many lettuces needed ordering before tomorrow. I wondered what was happening tomorrow to require so many lettuces, but was too afraid to ask. We wandered back to the site to eat lunch, via a cricket match, the sussuration of polite clapping and soft voices carrying across the field and into my tent. I'm always reminded, though I'm not sure why, of that quote from The Hogfather:

"It was nice to hear the voices of little children at play, provided you took care to be far enough away not to hear what they were actually saying.”

By this time, it was 5pm and we felt recovered enough to go in search of another adventure. I'd seen signs for Lulworth Cove pointing through the village, so we got in the car and headed in that direction, until we came to Durdle Door. The campsite just above the beach itself was massive, and very, very full, which was a shame only until I remembered the effort I'd gone to in order to pitch my tent this morning. No way I was shifting it now. I parked for two hours and checked for signs that dogs were allowed on the beach. They were, on leads obviously, so we were all set.

The walk down was pretty difficult, harnessed as I was to two terriers who wanted to run and, even worse, to one in particular who could smell the sea and wanted to reach it as soon as possible! I got many amused and sympathetic looks as I was dragged down the chalk cliff, leaning back and fighting the urge to shout, "Whoa, boys!" We made it safely down to a spot where I had a fantastic view of Durdle Door. The low sun created gloomy shadows within the arch; it was really quite spectacular to see. I reached for my phone to take a picture, the blue sea framed by the creamy rock- and realised I'd left it in the car! No matter, I'm sure you've seen pictures of Durdle Door before, or even been there yourself. I've borrowed a picture off the internet for you, in case you don't know what I'm on about but, let me assure you, it's not as good a picture as the one I would have taken if I wasn't such a forgetful idiot.

I admired the view before nipping back to the car and then heading east across the cliffs to Lulworth Cove, a place I last visited twenty-something years ago but has always remained a very fond childhood memory. It was a tough route, my legs already broken by my hike around Wincanton (hilly) and up Glastonbury Tor (I don't even have the words), but I struggled on, for the boys' sake.

I've literally never seen Harvey so excited as when he heard the waves throwing themselves into the shingle. He dashed straight in, pulling a reluctant Alfie with him, and out again, back in and out again, going to chest height and no further, Alfie performing a tug-of-war avoid getting his paws wet. I unclipped Alfie and put him on a shorter lead, so Harvey could frolic to his heart's content. He made it his particular mission to paddle out and climb onto one boulder that had caught his fancy and, after a few false starts, he plucked up his courage and made it. He stood for a moment, proud as punch, before barking triumphantly and leaping into the water to paddle back to shore, ending with a joyous shake that covered Alfie and myself in spray.

Eventually, even he tired of that game, and so we made our way back slowly, partly because of the steep climb and partly to give Harvey a chance to dry off before we reached the car (I don't know why I bother though; the car is trashed! Hair, paw prints, rubbish- all the detritus of a long bummel). Back to the site for drinks, dinner, shower (finally- hurrah!) and bed. And so ends the ninth day of my bummel.

The bummel continues tomorrow...

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