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Monday, 5 August 2013

One Girl and Two Dogs on the Bummel: Moonfleet, memories and massive lunches.

Missed the beginning? The bummel begins here

Epic monster rain this morning, thundering down and bouncing off my tent like a million drumbeats. It did afford me the luxury of lazing around for a few hours, reading, until the sun came out about half nine. I think the boys appreciated it too. Harvey, a feisty ten year old Cairn terrier with a heart murmur and a lust for life, has been skipping around like a pup these last ten days, but I know he needs to rest up a little and I think secretly he knows that too. That's why he's wriggled himself into my sleeping bag and is making happy snuffle sounds. Alfie is just content to be wherever his Mummy is, so is currently curled up on my lap, making it difficult for me to write and drink my Ovaltine at the same time. A golden moment, indeed. But back to today's adventure.

Moonfleet was calling me, and it was with no small excitement that I herded the boys out of bed and into the car. The gentle breeze blew sea spray through the open windows as we drove along the front through Weymouth, causing Harvey to climb up and rest his paws on the back of my seat, sniffing the air for all he was worth. He loves the sea so much; it must be the memories of puppyhood and long Sunday walks along the beach when we lived in Swansea. He used to dig huge holes in the sand and chase gulls, not understanding- or maybe not caring- that he'd never catch them.

Gladys tried her best, but her first attempt at getting us to Fleet took us to a caravan park that I'm sure was lovely, but was certainly not the church we were looking for. I thanked her, switched her off, and followed my nose, winding down twisty, narrow tree-lined lanes until I ended up at Moonfleet Manor; better, but still not the church where John Trenchard sat and gazed out to sea, or heard the eerie boom echoing from the vaults. I about-turned and drove back up the hill, this time finding signs for not one church, but two. I couldn't find anywhere to park. Visions of Glastonbury haunted me and I resolved to park at the first vaguely-legal spot I could find and be done with it.

In a layby at the top of the road, I abandoned the car and set off back down the hill, back down the spooky-looking lanes and back to the church. I was nervous again. Would it have been worth the journey? Would it be as magical as I remembered? Had nostalgia tinted my memories and created a perfect image that was about to be ruined forever?

I opened the gate and stepped into the old churchyard. The sea hissed softly in the background, hidden from view for the moment by trees that whistled occasionally and cast dappled shadows on the few headstones that littered the ground untidily. I moved to my right and stood at the east end of the tiny church, looking down on the Fleet, feeling that familiar tingle. It was, as it had been twenty-something years ago, as magical as stepping into Narnia. I breathed a sigh of relief. It was all OK.

I sneaked into the church itself, the boys waiting politely at the door, and signed the guest book. The entries only went back as far as 2011- it was too much to hope that I'd find a message from the past. In fact, I can't even remember if we left a message, but I feel sure that we must have done. I still have the postcard sketch of the church that I bought then; I use it as a bookmark in my very old, slightly battered and greatly cherished copy of Moonfleet.

Satisfied and strangely peaceful, we walked along the beach for a while before turning back up the path. I had a look at the new church, but what I really wanted to see was the railings outside it, the prompt for a family joke that I'm sure only I remember.

Back in the car, we drove past the White Horse at Osmington and this conduit in Poxwell that bore a familiar name. The inscription explains that it was erected for the use of the poor by John Trenchard. Just as I had twenty-something years ago, I wondered- hoped- there was a connection. I like to think there is.

We had a brief search for Lulworth Castle, but it was half-hearted as I was hungry by now and it looked like it was about to rain again. We had lunch (and I do mean we, as the boys helped me demolish a burger and chips) in the pub next to the site in which we were camped. Just in time too! The heavens opened as our food was served. We'd picked a table near the door so I could hear and smell the summer rain while we were tucked inside, cosy and full of food.

The only thing to ruin today's buzz was an incredibly spoilt and, above all, loud little girl who repeated everything she said ten times with increasing volume and frequently screamed for no apparent reason. She was a few tables away but she filled the room with her presence, apart from the bubble that seemed to protect her parents, who were oblivious to the unholy noise she was making. Her middle-class mother and clearly out-of-his-depth father ignored her demands until they reached a certain volume, and then gave in to them, teaching the girl to be persistent I suppose. I'm not one of these grumpy people who abhors children in restaurants, but this little devil badly needed some tough love. To highlight her bad behaviour, and to prove there is balance in life, on the very next table was a girl of a similar age who behaved beautifully, chatting to her parents in a normal voice and remembering to say please and thank you. So, in this case, I will blame the parents, as I'm not sure who I wanted to tell off more: the nasty little bully-brat or the indulgent and slightly frightened adults who had let her get that way.

Even the power cut didn't quieten her down, although I was rather amused to note that two Americans took the lack of electricity personally and left. Maybe it was the last straw after all that screaming...

I left the pub (not because of the power cut, but because I needed a nap- it was a big lunch) and ventured out later on to have a proper go at finding the castle. Even with my terrible sense of direction, it was quite easy to find but, to our disappointment, it was closed and full of site workers who were dismantling and packing up the remains of Camp Bestival. We'll try again tomorrow, on our way to wherever we're going next.

We drove back via Wool, just because I thought it was a good name and I took the boys to the cricket field for zoomies before dinner (the squashed bowls are holding together- just) then back to the site for reading, Ovaltine and an enjoyable half an hour watching the horse play with his ball, once I'd kicked it back under the electric fence to him. He even used his hooves! Most impressive! Just like my boys when they use their paws. I take back what I said before: he's not sarcastic at all- he just has a warped sense of humour.

On a slightly-icky note, I'll have to sleep in my clothes again tonight as one of the boys (my money is on Harvey) has weed on my pyjamas during his afternoon nap. It's a good job in a sense that we're heading home soon- I'm running out of clean clothes!

I have no idea where we're headed tomorrow, except east. Maybe I'll just drive along the coast and see where I end up. It would be nice to stop overnight and see Dad before heading home. I'll see what happens; that's what being on the bummel is all about!

The bummel continues tomorrow...

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