On Your Bike In West Dorset

Downhill!

A great way to explore our local Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is on a bicycle. I hesitate to write this as, fine as I am with cycling down a hill, I’m not keen on the going back up. I love the beauty of West Dorset’s rolling hills, just not when I am puffing up one of them on a bike. This isn’t helped by the sight of my husband and daughter disappearing into the distance ahead. But, if you are not such a wuss as me pedalling up slopes, cycling is a wonderful way to take in the stunning scenery. Explore the varied landscapes in West Dorset, and do it all at your own pace.

Suggested Cycle Routes In The Area

For inspiration have a look here at West Dorset Pedal. It’s got maps for five rides ranging from 11-17 miles. It also suggests pit stops for food and drink. Quite right. After all that pedalling you surely deserve to refuel in a village tea room or country pub. A good route if you are staying at our cottage is the first, exploring Bridport and Netherbury. It has an add-on to West Bay itself. Two other routes take in the Frome Valley and the beautiful villages and coast round Abbotsbury (the route ‘Land of Bone and Stone’). The other two explore West Dorset’s finest hill forts. You might want to print off a route or two before your holiday. 

From Bridport there is also easy access to the National Cycle Network Route No. 2 (a 30 mile route from Dorchester to Lyme Regis), also with plenty of lanes and villages to explore.

Local Places To Hire Bicycles

If you haven’t got the space or the inclination to bring your own bikes you can hire them nearby at Bridport Cycles at Symondsbury. There’s a cycle trail running from the shop in an 5 mile loop on private land. 

If you want to enjoy the beautiful countryside and not worry about making it up the next hill you can go on a guided electric bike tour. Now that sounds more my thing.

Bike Storage At Our Cottage

We have a new door on our garage which actually locks. This means that if guests want to bring bikes on holiday we can arrange for them to have a key to the garage to lock them away securely. Happy Cycling!

If you want more information on staying in our cottage please take a here or head to our Enquire and Book page for availability, the rates and how to book.

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.

Thinking of taking a holiday in this “modern gastronomic capital”? (Incidentally not my words, how a newspaper article described West Dorset.) We’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage. Please take a look inside the cottage or head to our Enquire and Book page for availability, the rates and how to book.

Dorset Dialect Words

Dorset Dialect - a dumbledore

Do you know what the word for bumblebee is in the Dorset dialect? If you’ve read the Harry Potter books it will be familiar to you. It’s dumbledore. Author J K Rowling chose Dumbledore for her Hogwarts headmaster because of his love of music. She imagined him bumbling about his study “humming to himself a lot”. Incidentally, the old Dorset word for wasp is wopsy. It comes from a Dorset habit of transposing the “s” sound.

Here is some more West Country dialect words. One of the rivers running through Bridport is the River Asker, but an asker is also a West Dorset word for a newt. Emmet means an ant. Cornish people may use this word for tourists or “incomers”. In the rest of the West Country you are more likely to hear holidaymakers called grockles, usually in a slightly derogatory way. For example, in the summer a local might complain, with a roll of the eyes, that the grockles are clogging up the roads.

Understandably, the name for a bat is an airmouse. However I can’t figure out why anyone would call a ladybird God Almighty’s cow. How peculiar!

Did you recently see tinklebobs (icicles) in the snowy weather? Do you ever ballyrag your noggerhead kiddie (scold your blockhead man)? And a bite before breakfast? It’s a dewbit. That’s the badger. (That’s exactly what I was looking for / exactly what I meant.)

Now I’m a little joppety-joppety (nervous) you’ve not enjoyed reading this. But if you have and want to read more here’s a link to a list of more Dorset dialect words.

Dorset Knobs

Dorset Knobs Close Up

With a name guaranteed to invoke much hilarity among children, Dorset knobs are a local speciality. Read on if you are interested in finding out more about them:

  • Originally Dorset knobs were made from leftover bread dough with added butter and sugar, hand-rolled and left to dry in the dying heat of the oven.
  • These days they are still made from bread dough which contains extra sugar and butter. They are rolled and shaped by hand and baked three times. Once cooked, they are roughly the size of a golf ball, very crumbly and rather like a dry, hard breadstick. They keep crisp and tasty in a tin for months. Don’t be fooled by the picture, they are much crispier than a bread roll.
  • It is thought their name comes from the hand-sewn Dorset knob buttons that were also made locally. They have also been compared, in size, to door knobs.
  • In the past there were a number of producers of Dorset knobs. Today the only firm to produce them commercially is Moores Biscuits of Morcombelake, four miles west of Bridport. They have been making them for more than 130 years.
  • The company makes roughly two million knobs a year but only during January and February. The 8 – 10 hour process means they are not economically viable to produce for longer. By the start of March the demand for sweet biscuits has increased again after the New Year lull and the company returns to its profitable and less labour-intensive biscuits.
  • The knobs are now baked in Moores factory in Bridport. Moores still has a Craft Bakery Shop in Morcombelake. Visitors can buy biscuits and knobs there and also look around their art gallery of West Country paintings and bakery bygones.
  • They can be eaten with cheese (traditionally Blue Vinny), dipped in tea or cider, or taken with honey and cream. This is known locally as thunder and lightning.
  • Dorset knobs were a favourite food of local author Thomas Hardy. He liked them with stilton cheese.
  • The Dorset Knob Throwing Festival has been held the first Sunday in May since 2008. As well as throwing them, other knob-related activities at the food festival include guess the weight of the knob, the knob and spoon race, knob darts and knob painting. Earlier this year the organisers announced that Moores thought that the festival had “run its course”. After the subsequent outcry they relented and said that the festival would be coming back as a biennial event in 2019, bigger and better.

Bag of Dorset knobs

  • Dorset knobs are normally sold in a bag or tin in Dorset delicatessens, farm shops and independent food stores. I think our nearest stockist is Groves Nursery. They would make a nice little present to say thank you to someone who has been watering your garden / feeding your goldfish / looking after your hamster (etc) while you holiday in West Dorset. But be warned, supplies are limited. When they’re gone, they’re gone, until next year anyway.

If you fancy a holiday near the home of the Dorset knob we’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage! Please take a look inside the cottage or head to our Enquire and Book page for availability, the rates and how to book.

Shopping In Bridport

Some of the great shops in Bridport

Bridport is only a five minute drive away, or a twenty-five minute stroll from our cottage. You can find many of the well known high street shop names there, including banks, supermarkets, newsagents and chemists. But what makes shopping in Bridport different from any old generic high street is its many independent shops and market. It’s a cool place to wander around.

The Market

You can easily spend a morning browsing Bridport’s street market, held every Wednesday and Saturday. Friendly traders fill the pavements in front of the shops of South, East and West Streets with stalls selling books, ancient tools, clothing, furniture, pots, vintage jewellery, flowers and plants, local foods, books, bric-a-brac, brass things, antiques and various other curiosities and miscellaneous items. Think of it a cross between a traditional market and a flea market. Definitely worth a rummage through some junk to find your treasure!

On most market days between February and September there is live music for shoppers in Bucky Doo Square in front of the Town Hall. The town also has a monthly Farmer’s Market at the Arts Centre and a  Vintage Market within the Art and Vintage Quarter in St Michael’s Trading Estate.

The Shops

Don’t worry if it’s not a market day, there are lots of interesting shops to explore. These include a huge Toymaster toyshop (where we spent many hours when our daughter was little), several galleries, a yarn and a sewing shop, a shop devoted to hats (T Snooks), a hardware shop, a music shop and several book shops. The Book Shop, housed in a building that dates back to the 1830s, is a Bridport institution with an extensive Dorset section. Who could resist a second-hand bookshop called Wild and Homeless Books? For a unique gift Malabar Trading on South Street is a treasure trove of Asian textiles, jewellery and ceramics. Bridport is recognised as a Beacon Town for the quality and variety of its locally produced food. Alongside several supermarkets there are smaller groceries and independent butchers, bakers and green grocers. One of them, R Balson, is Britain’s oldest family business.

The Art & Vintage Quarter

Situated near to the centre of town is the Art & Vintage Quarter where you’ll find The Alleyways with over 50 traders under one roof. You’ll be surrounded by artists, sign writers and artisans plus a collection of antique, vintage and retro shops. A place you can happily lose yourself and drift back in time. If you are keen on collecting vinyl you’ll wonder where the time has gone after stepping into Clocktower Music. Enjoy it all while you can as there are plans afoot to convert some of the space into housing.

Getting There

When you holiday in our cottage it’s worth making a few trips to Bridport. The downside of the lively, busy market is trying to park on Saturday mornings. It’s best to get there early or walk. There is a choice of ways to walk from West Bay. You can head up the same way as the cars but it’s more interesting to follow the old railway line footpath from the play area. Or you can take the footpath at the back of the local caravan site. This path goes through fields, along the River Brit, and comes out near Palmers Brewery.

Of course I’ve only mentioned the shopping in Bridport here. There’s also a museum, loads of pubs, great places to eat and three arts venues. Click here for some details and links.

If you’ve read all this and haven’t yet booked accommodation for your trip to the area, we’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage. Take a look inside the cottage if you wish, or head to our Book With Us page for availability, the rates and how to book.

A stall at Bridport's street market"One man's junk is another man's treasure"Who could resist a homeless book?

Bridport Old BooksWindow reflection

Snooks window for the well dressed gentleman

Another Snooks

I do like an old shop sign

Probably the best town in Dorset

Vintage Stuff

More vintage stuff

Red Brick Cafe at the St Michaels Trading Estate

Dorset Apple Cake

Eating my cake

What better way to cheer up a cold grey day than a slice of Dorset apple cake with, if you like, a dollop of thick cream or custard? Most apple growing counties make some kind of apple cake but the one from Dorset has become the most well-known. It’s a regular in local bakeries and cafés and won a competition to be named the county’s ‘National Dish’ in 2006, held as part of Dorset Food Week that year.

The Recipe

Piddle Valley Cookbook CoverTo use up some leftover cooking apples I decided to bake a Dorset apple cake. What better cookery book to turn to than The Piddle Valley Cookbook, full of “the favourite recipes of the people of the Piddle Valley”? My mum bought it years ago when we lived in Dorset near the valley. That’s her notes in the margin. It’s now a bit dog-eared and you can find it, back in Dorset, in our West Bay cottage.

It has two recipes for Dorset apple cake. The first one looks a little plain. It uses margarine rather than butter which I expect is a sign of its time as the book was published back in 1978. The second recipe isn’t a traditional cake mix at all with no sponge but a bread-crumb, orange, butter and sugar crumble on top of stewed apples.

Interesting, but not what I was envisioning for my Dorset apple cake.

I turned my attention to the internet to find a recipe. Oh my, there are so many different variations. Cinnamon, sultanas or lemon? Wholemeal, plain or self-raising? Mary Berry, Waitrose or BBC Good Food?

A couple of years ago the Guardian newspaper carried an article on “How to cook the perfect Dorset apple cake”. The writer used a variety of recipes and experimentation to come up with her own ‘perfect’ apple cake recipe. But does this make it authentic?

Leakers bakery Dorset Apple CakeThe writer in this article liked best the cake made by Bridport’s Leakers Bakery. He even interviewed the baker but sadly she wasn’t giving away her recipe “handed down and tweaked” since 1914. The photo here is taken from the article and is a slice of the praised Leakers Bakery cake.

The recipe from the Dorset Foodie Family blog looks a good one. The post has a reader’s gallery of Dorset apple cake photos too.

Mixing the cakeI ended up plumping for this recipe, “Greg’s Dorset apple cake“. It’s the one which won the 2006 competition and includes sultanas and lemon but no spices. Here’s a photo, work in progress.

The Verdict

Yum. That’s it in the top image. We’d already had a few warm slices before I thought of taking a photo which, to be frank, wouldn’t win any food blogger prizes. Why didn’t I move the oven glove and put it on a nice plate? Anyway, very nice and lemony, and not a bit like the one I had just before Christmas in the Watch House Café on the beach in West Bay.

So it seems there is no definitive recipe. As long as the ingredients include apples with brown sugar sprinkled on top, then yup, you can call it Dorset apple cake. Do you have a favourite apple cake recipe? If so please share it here by leaving a reply. As for me, that’s enough typing, I’m heading off to the kitchen while there’s still a small slice left. Best eaten fresh – what a drag.

If you’ve read this and now fancy a holiday where you can eat Dorset apple cake in lots of the local cafés and tea rooms (and who wouldn’t) we’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage! Please take a look inside the cottage or head to our Enquire and Book page for availability, the rates and how to book.