Keep Safe When Booking Direct

Keep Calm and Book Direct

The other week I saw an Instagram link to a website offering Instax cameras at incredibly discounted prices. I hastily bought one, chuffed I’d got a great bargain. How happy my daughter would be unwrapping it on Christmas Day. My glee was short-lived. My credit card history showed I’d paid a weird company in Singapore. I started to worry. A bit of googling later I found the genuine Instax website with a warning page about fraudulent ones. I’d been scammed. The camera is never going to be delivered. I felt cross. Cross that people would do this to me and annoyed with myself for falling for it.

Fortunately it wasn’t a lot of money but the experience has brought home to me the potential risk of buying things on the internet. In the future I’ll be more wary before I press the ‘Proceed to Payment’ button. It has also prompted me to look into what you can do to keep safe when booking holiday accommodation online.

Fraud is rare but unfortunately does sometimes happen. It can happen whether you book through an Online Travel Agent (OTA) like Owners Direct or Airbnb, or book directly with the owner. Anyone can set up a listing on one of the OTAs in minutes, with no checks. A little longer and a bit more technical know-how and they can set up a basic website. The perception seems to be that you are safer booking through an OTA but arguably an owner with their own quality website is less likely to be fraudulent. They have taken the time and effort to set up a good website.

Ways To Protect Yourself

Protect yourself against fraud. Take due diligence no matter how you book. There are several things you can do before booking a property to check that it is genuine. Here are some tips:

  • Look through the website or listing thoroughly. Does it have plenty of information and decent pictures?
  • Check that email addresses match the property name and /or the web address.
  • Google the online presence of the property. Make sure all the details, photos and contact details are high quality and are the same everywhere.
  • Check social media. Is there a Facebook page for the property? Instagram is getting ever more popular these days. Has the owner verified the property on Google My Business? A scammer is unlikely to have set up much of a social media presence but a genuine owner will often make the effort.
  • Contact the owner. If a phone number is provided, give the owner a ring to have a chat about their property. Ask lots of questions. A genuine owner will be happy to answer and will have a good knowledge of their property and the area.

Use common sense. Is the price reasonable for the property and doesn’t sound too cheap perhaps? Are you feeling under pressure to book quickly? If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Thinking back to my dodgy camera website, a little voice in my head was telling me it sounded an unbelievable offer but I wanted to get that bargain quickly before they all sold out. So, don’t be like me, take your time and do some research. Most importantly, trust your instinct. If you feel uneasy, just walk away.

When it comes to handing over money many owners, ourselves included, can take credit cards, which gives you similar payment protection to that offered by the OTAs. Travel insurance also gives you added protection (check what is covered).

Keep Calm & Book Direct!

Please bear in mind that fraud is rare. The intention of this post isn’t to scare anyone away from looking to book direct. With no middlemen you save yourself a booking fee and owners don’t pay a hefty commission so they can ensure you get the best possible price. You support your independent holiday home owner too. It’s just a reminder to stay savvy to ensure you stay safe.

Hedgehogs In The Garden

Hedgehog Lover Plaque

Swains Row sometimes has prickly visitors, and I’m not talking about any of our cottage guests! If you go outside late in the evening in the warmer months you may see a hedgehog snuffling around in the front gardens. Number 4 is particularly keen on these spiky neighbours, as you can see above from this plaque on the front of their cottage.

Sadly the hedgehog population is in decline in Great Britain. We’ve lost a third of all our hedgehogs in the last ten years. Pesticide use, habitat loss and roads are all thought to be taking their toll on their numbers. To encourage hedgehogs into your garden you need to make sure they have a safe access in and out. Leave an area to go a bit wild with shrubs, long grass and log piles or compost heaps. You can also pop out a dish of cat or dog food and water each evening.

At the end of the front garden next door you can see a big a pile of apple tree twigs left there to encourage our spiky neighbours. Let’s hope they make a good foraging and nesting site for a hedgehog or two. Perhaps it’s home to a snoozing hedgehog at the  moment. A new arrival or two next summer would be lovely. I’ve just read that baby hedgehogs are called hoglets, a term introduced in the 1990s. Cute eh.

The Club House Is In The Good Food Guide 2019

Waitrose Food magazine Club House

West Bexington’s The Club House is a new entry in The Good Food Guide. September’s Waitrose Food Magazine picked it out as one of the best new entries, chosen on its location. Can’t argue with that, it overlooks Chesil Beach.

Here is the pertinent part of the article in the Waitrose magazine:

Waitrose Food Magazine - Club House Write Up

The restaurant is from the same team as the Hive Beach Café and West Bay’s very own Watch House Café. If you stay in our cottage you might prefer to eat out somewhere within walking distance but The Club House sounds like one to try if you don’t mind a drive. It’s less that 15 minutes away along my favourite coast road.

 

 

The Bridport Literary Festival And Books Inspired By West Dorset

Bridport Literary Festival Cover

If you love books and are interested in all things literary then the Bridport Literary Festival is the festival for you. This year it runs from the 4th to 11th November. An eclectic mix of writers of both fiction and non-fiction are coming to West Dorset to talk about their writing. It attracts audiences of all tastes and all ages from all over the county as well as visitors from much further afield. Most of its venues are in Bridport with a couple in Sladers Yard, just around the corner from our cottage.

Authors and Books Connected With West Dorset

Do you find that a familiarity with the locations in a book helps you picture the story more vividly? Do you like to visit the places mentioned in books you’ve enjoyed? The Literary Festival has authors and subjects from near and far but it has made me wonder about the authors who have been inspired by, and the books set within, the landscape of West Dorset. Here are some suggestions of books to read, and story locations to explore, during a holiday in the area.

Jane Austen’s Persuasion

Jane Austen visited Lyme Regis in 1803 and 1804. She set several chapters of her final novel Persuasion (1817) in the seaside town. The main characters arrive in November, and the description of the out-of-season town is still recognisable today. The book’s dramatic events led to a flow of fans to the town. The poet Tennyson is said to have gone straight to the Cobb saying “Show me the exact spot where Louisa Musgrove fell!”

Thomas Hardy

Thomas HardyWith the rolling hills of the Dorset countryside often called Hardy Country, Thomas Hardy (1840 – 1928) probably requires no introduction. He is one of the greatest Victorian novelists and Dorset’s most famed author and poet.

Here’s a post which gives a brief account of his life and novels. It has useful links if you want to explore the towns and villages he knew so well and used as settings and inspiration for the “Wessex” of his tragic stories.

Falkner’s Moonfleet

MoonfleetA friend of Hardy, J. Meade Falkner (1858–1932) wrote Moonfleet, the classic children’s adventure tale of shipwrecks and smuggling, first published in 1898. He grew up in Dorset and based much of the story there, set a hundred years before his birth. The name Moonfleet is a merging of the old family name Mohune and the village of Fleet, by Chesil Beach. The headland in the book, called The Snout, is Portland Bill.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the Baskervilles 1st edition book coverArthur Conan Doyle‘s famous detective novel The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1901), featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes, takes place largely on Dartmoor in Devon. However it may have had several local sources of inspiration for the ghostly, murderous hound. Conan Doyle was staying at Parnham House near Beaminster when he first heard a mysterious hound baying in the night. Local folklore may have influenced the concept. There’s tales of a spooky “Black Dog of Uplyme”. Portlanders tell of a spectral black dog, “The Row Dog”, with large saucer shaped eyes prowling the island during the hours of darkness.

In Far From The Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy drew on local belief that the black hound is a protector of vulnerable young women. Conan Doyle used this idea too. His ghostly hound appears first as a protector of a persecuted woman, forming the basis of the Baskerville curse.

The Tale of Little Pig Robinson by Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter sketch of LymeFor a smaller member of your family – West Dorset featured in the drawings of Beatrix Potter‘s final book, The Tale of Little Pig Robinson (1930). In 1904 she spent a family holiday in Lyme Regis, staying at the Mariners Hotel in Silver Street. During her time there Beatrix did a sketch in sepia ink of a steep street leading down to the sea. Years later it became the background drawing for the tale. She combined several Devon seaside towns and Lyme to create the settings of the story.

John Cowper Powys

John Cowper Powys (1872 – 1963) was a British philosopher, writer, lecturer, literary critic and poet. Weymouth Sands (1934) was the third of his “Wessex” novels, which include Wolf Solent (1929), A Glastonbury Romance (1932), and Maiden Castle (1936). Powys was an admirer of Thomas Hardy and these novels are set in Somerset and Dorset, part of Hardy’s mythical Wessex. As with Hardy’s novels, the landscape plays a major role in his works. This modern classic draws on his vivid childhood memories of the seaside town of Weymouth.

Critics consider Powys one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century. An article in the Guardian describes his work as a “form of literary marmite”; he is not a writer everyone can stomach but admirers are always hungry for more. Consider yourself warned, his books do not sound like typical holiday reads.

Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male

Rogue Male CoverWest Dorset is the central setting and a backdrop for a relentless manhunt by German agents operating on British soil in London and Dorset in the classic thriller novel Rogue Male written by Geoffrey Household in 1939. The book was reissued in 2014 to mark it’s 75th anniversary.

The geography of West Dorset described in the book can be followed on a real map, including a local holloway.

John Fowles

The author French Lieutenant's Woman 1981John Fowles (1926 – 2005) moved to Lyme Regis in 1968 and lived there for the rest of his life. His 18th century villa, Belmont, is now a holiday let.

Fowles set his most famous novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969), in and around the town. The film of the book made Lyme’s Cobb harbour famous too. Remember Meryl Streep (or her stunt man!) standing hooded and windswept, staring out to sea?

The writer said that his 1963 book The Collector was based on “a bizarre real-life incident that happened in the 1950s” in Dorset.

Fowles was curator of the Lyme Regis Museum for ten years and did much to ensure its survival.

Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse in The Way Through The Woods

The Inspector Morse series by Colin Dexter (1930-2017) includes one story, The Way Through The Woods (1992), partially set locally. Morse has gone on holiday to Lyme due to the area’s literary associations  saying”it’s where some of the scenes in Persuasion are set.” “And The French Lieutenant’s Woman”. He visits Dorchester’s Kings Arms Hotel (a Hardy site) and the County Museum there, Moreton Cemetery (grave of TE Lawrence) and stays in Lyme’s seafront Bay Hotel. While in Lyme, Morse meets a woman who calls herself Louisa Hardinge after Hardy’s own lost love.

Colin Dexter said Lyme Regis was his “favourite place on Earth”.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan‘s tells the tale of a disastrous honeymoon, set in the early 1960s, in his novel On Chesil Beach. It was nominated for the Booker Prize award in 2007.

Chesil Beach is the 18-mile shingle spit, part of the larger Jurassic coast. In an interview McEwan mentioned that he took a couple of stones from the beach when researching the novel. He was later criticised for removing items from a site of special scientific interest!

Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chevalier

The life of Lyme Regis’s Mary Anning, the greatest fossil hunter ever, is captured in the novel Remarkable Creatures (2014) by author Tracey Chevalier. Read this post to learn more.

Minette Walters

Top crime writer Minette Walters lives in Whitcombe, near Dorchester. With a change of genre to historical fiction, The Last Hours (2017) focuses on a small Dorset estate. Walters set the story in 1348 at the time of the Black Death, a subject she became fascinated with after learning that it entered England nine miles from where she lives, at what is now Weymouth. (One historical fact unlikely to encourage visitors to this part of the country!)

Recommendations

Can you recommend any other books inspired by the beautiful landscape and coast in this area? If so I’d love to hear about them. Please leave a reply below.  

Stay with Us for the Bridport Literary Festival

Do you want to attend some of the events at the Bridport Literary Festival or explore some of the most beautiful literary heritage sights in England? If you do and you haven’t yet booked accommodation, we’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage. Take a look inside the cottage, or head to our Book With Us page for availability, the rates and how to book.

West Bay Discovery Centre

Methodist Chapel

The West Bay Discovery Centre was officially opened last week. It’s in the old Methodist chapel, situated on the left as you walk towards the Watch House cafe on East beach. The photo above shows it before all the exciting plans came to fruition. The aim of the centre is to bring West Bay and the Jurassic Coast to life with stories that tell of it’s history, hidden heritage and natural environment.

Here’s a link to a local lady’s blog post about all the hard work required to get to the opening.

Earlier this year I spent a while reading about West Bay and wrote a brief (ish) post myself about the history so I’m really looking forward to visiting the centre next time I’m there. I hope that the information in my post bears a resemblance to that in the centre! I’m sure I’ll find out a lot of new things too.

The centre is free to enter but it is a charity and relies on donations to keep it going. It will be open this year until October, every Tuesday to Sunday between 11am and 4pm.

If you want to visit the West Bay Discovery Centre but haven’t yet booked accommodation, then we’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage. Take a look inside the cottage here if you wish. Head to our Book With Us page for availability, the rates and how to book.

Midsummer Visit (2018)

Harbour early evening

Another quick visit to the cottage last week. Lucky for me to be able to visit in midsummer with such sunny weather. It felt a little too hot for one of my tasks though… steam cleaning the stone floor. On my last visit I planted some annuals in the back garden to add a bit of colour. I was keen to see how they were doing. Oh dear, they were all shrivelled and the only colour they were adding was brown! Victims of the amazing weather we’ve had so far this summer. Let’s hope it continues into the school holidays.

I went for a wander around the harbour early evening. There was a holiday atmosphere about the place. This was perhaps helped by the fact that England had already qualified for the next round of the World Cup so we didn’t have to agonise over the final group match! It was so warm that people were still in the sea. Of course the water wasn’t warm when I dipped my toe in (frankly it was cold).

Padding at West Beach, West Bay

My other photo here (below) is of my favourite house by the harbour. Look at the lookout and the weather vane on the roof, and the ship’s wheel on the front. It makes me think of the film Mary Poppins. We just need an old admiral character firing a cannon twice a day!

The Moorings, West Bay