Did you see Saturday’s Telegraph article about how West Dorset has become a modern gastronomic capital no less? Read it here if you are lucky enough to be in the area and looking for a special meal. The focus is understandably on the more top-end restaurants but it mentions West Bay’s Watch House Café and Seatown’s The Anchor Inn so they’re not all very pricy. The picture above, pinched from the article, is of Dorshi in Bridport, open since 2016. It’s Asian style cooking, so lots of small dishes, dumplings, noodles, using local Dorset produce. Cocktails too. It’s getting great reviews on Tripadvisor. I read about it a little while ago and filed it away in my head as somewhere to try to go to when next in Bridport, then promptly forgot about it when I was actually there. D’oh
Fancy a girls-only weekend away? A chance to get together, to chat, laugh, catch up, relax, reminisce and recharge your batteries. A getaway to our cottage is great for just that. I speak from experience as, at least once a year, I’m lucky enough to spend a weekend there with three of my oldest friends (in every sense of the word oldest, ha ha!).
Eating Out – The Blow-Out
There’s not much actual cooking in the cottage these weekends. Nuh-uh. The fridge is full of bottles and nibbles. With so many places to eat out we are spoilt for choice. Decisions, decisions. We treat ourselves to one blow-out meal each trip. It’s been The Station Kitchen for the last two years. Having sat in the train carriage last year we really had to go back to try the waiting room too. I went very retro with prawn cocktail followed by a great steak. My friends were very happy with their scallops and lamb dishes. Sadly we were too full this time for puddings. One year we made the very short walk to The Riverside for a special treat (we did have “significant” birthdays to celebrate). Another time we took a trip to Lyme where we had a lovely lunch at Mark Hix’s place with the views over the bay. We’ve also over the years had great Saturday evening meals and Sunday lunches at The West Bay Hotel. I’ll gloss over the not-so-good Sunday roast we had a few years ago at another local hotel!
More Eating – Lighter Bites
We need to fit a visit to a cafe or two into the weekend. A few weeks ago we had a yummy lunch (crab sandwich, mussels and two moroccan chicken salads in case you’re wondering) at the Soulshine Café in Bridport. We were lucky enough to stay dry in their little garden out the back. Last year we raved about Rachel’s (one of the wooden huts at The Mound) for Sunday lunch (sadly not possible this year as you do need the weather to behave). We recommend The Seasider too if you fancy fish and chips back at the cottage, Friday evening perhaps.
The Watch House Café fits the bill for a nice breakfast, lunch or brunch on the beach. Or indeed a slice of cake in the afternoon, including Dorset apple cake.
This year we added pasties to our repertoire, with the new kid on the block, The Cornish Bakery, a couple of minutes walk away in the old Harbour Stores building. A pasty and a Portuguese tart provided a cheap and tasty lunch eaten back at the cottage. I really did have to go back the next day, home alone now, for another one.
Another pull to the area is shopping. A wander around the Customs House one time made Kate’s day when she found a vintage book about Richard Burton (she’s his biggest fan). One Sunday we ambled around the Car Boot Sale (Mel is still using her salt pig bargain!). Or Bridport for some proper retail therapy with the Saturday Market and mix of independent galleries, books shops, boutiques and chain stores too.
Things To See
Each year there is something different to visit. A food festival at Hive Beach one year. This year the Open Studios event was being held so we spent an enjoyable hour or two wandering around several of the St Michael’s studios in Bridport as well as the ones in West Bay. It was a Dorset heritage weekend too. We braved climbing to the top of St Mary’s Church with rather a small opening at the top to clamber though, best for Kim the climbing wall enthusiast! It gave us a 360 degree bird’s eye view of the town, down to West Bay and across to Colmers Hill too. Next year the Hat Festival maybe?
It’s not all eating and drinking. We walk, a little anyway. Up to Bridport or around West Bay. The stroll along the pier to breathe in that sea air and get that view of the honeyed cliffs. If we are feeling energetic (or to walk off all the food we’ve been eating) we take a quick hike up East Cliff. We’ve walked the other way too, to Eype with the glorious view of the Golden Cap and Lyme Bay in the distance.
With the Electric Palace and Bridport Arts Centre up the road you might think I’d mention the shows we’ve been to, the variety of film, theatre, music and comedy evenings we’ve packed into our weekends. Nope, we like to spend time relaxing in the cottage, time just to chill. Open a bottle, watch some DVDs. We did have an eclectic mix of them this year, the Good (The Birds), the Bad (Sharknado) and the Ugly (Machete). Don’t worry, we didn’t leave the DVDs behind!
Sound like your sort of a weekend? Well then, book a short break at the cottage, one for just the girls, and start planning now. Take a look inside the cottage, or head to our Book With Us page for availability, the rates and how to book.
I was lucky enough to spend a West Bay weekend during the Bridport Open Studios event this September. Every year over 75 of West Dorset’s artists, designers and makers open their galleries, studios and homes for people to explore, view and have a chat about their work.
There were three Open Studios in West Bay. I’d never realised before that The Old Timberyard, the big old warehouse you can see as you look out of the front bedroom window, houses two artist’s studios on the top and middle floors. It was a pleasure to visit them and see their work inspired by the sea and rocks of the coast here, with the added bonus I could see our cottage out of their windows from a viewpoint I’d never had before!
On the middle floor is the huge studio of abstract artist Jon Adam. His pictures were big and stunning but I couldn’t help being sidetracked by his… floorboards! Not something I usually get distracted by but they were the same as the ones upstairs in the cottage, dark and unusually wide. In the studio some of them were very, very long too. I’d always though we had these wide boards due to the ship building history of West Bay, with the same planks used for ship decking too. Jon told me that actually the tree trunks our floorboards are made from were shipped back from America in the eighteenth-century. West Bay, then known as Bridport Harbour, was a busy port with ships setting sail laden with rope and nets to trade. For the return journey large American logs were used as ballast in the ships’ holds in order to remain upright and stable at sea. Upon arrival in England, those same timber cargoes were made into, amongst other things, our floorboards.
On the top floor is Amanda Wallwork. Her work is concerned with the archeology and geology of the South West landscape. Her richly coloured and rocky paintings are constructed from layers of plaster and oil paint. She’s also created charts of the barrows of the Dorset landscape, reimagining them as constellation maps. Most recently she has produced a Field Guide and two maps (more to come) exploring the landscape of the South Dorset Ridgeway. The concept behind these is to highlight how the rocks below the surface influences the landscape we see today. The Field Guide gives an introduction to the landscape and some of the things to look out for, with the two maps show walking routes in the Abbotsbury and Portesham area. There’s now a set in the cottage cupboard.
Unfortunately my budget wouldn’t stretch to an original painting but I did treat the cottage to a print of the harbour. Very appropriate I think. The artist is Chris Neaves and he has a little gallery in Bridport on Gundry Lane called Cloud 9 Studio. I’ve given it a frame and it’s now waiting to return home to West Bay.
It’s not Glastonbury but Bridport has its own music festival, Jurassic Fields. This year it’s on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th July in Asker Meadows. Have a look at the line up and buy tickets online here.
Some West Dorset music trivia
Billy Bragg is probably the most well-known local musician. He has lived for almost twenty years in one of the big white houses up on the cliff near The Hive Beach Cafe in Burton Bradstock (the other is now the Seaside Boarding House). The singer songwriter and socialist activist, originally from Barking in Essex, has had a successful career over the past 35 years. His songs include A New England, She’s Leaving Home and Between The Wars. In 2011 several national papers reported that up to thirty Burton Bradstock residents had received hate mail attacking him and his politics. The letters labelled him a hypocrite and wanted the locals to drive him out of the village. Many of his neighbours sprang to his defence.
Indie-blues singer Polly ‘PJ’ Harvey was born in Bridport in 1969 and grew up on her family’s farm in Corscombe. She attended school nearby in Beaminster. In the early 90s she rose to fame as a musician, singer-songwriter, composer and artist. St Catherine’s Chapel was the inspiration behind her song “The Wind”, from her 1998 album Is This Desire?. In 2010 she recorded her eighth album Let England Shake at St Peter’s Church in Eype during five weeks and previewed the album with a show in the church. It went on to win the 2011 Mercury Prize. She was awarded an MBE for services to music in 2013.
Rock vocalist and songwriter Ian Gillan lives in Lyme Regis. He found commercial success as the lead singer and lyricist for Deep Purple in the late 60s. He was the co-writer of hit Smoke On The Water, selling more than one hundred million records. In 2014 he took part in Lyme Regis’s Guitars On The Beach, playing Smoke on the Water on stage together with a couple of thousand of guitarists on the beach.
Other musicians which come from the Bridport area include the acoustic band Show Of Hands and Afro Celt Sound System (founder Simon Emmerson, lives in Broadwindsor).
And, finally, the Fleet Lagoon features on the cover of the hit record Echo Beach (1980) by the Canadian band Martha and the Muffins. The original version of the single shows a map of the Toronto Islands in Canada, but latter issues show the sand bar and Chesil Beach in Dorset. Not a lot of people know that…