Easter Update 2019

Going up the stairs now...

We had the chance to spend a very long weekend in the cottage at the start of the Easter holidays. A working holiday so to speak as we had a few jobs to get on with. Here’s a quick update.

#shelfieWe put up a new shelf in the kitchen. In the New Year I’d spent a good many hours sanding and waxing an old scaffold plank and deciding which shelf brackets to buy. More fun was deciding what to put on it. Moving the mugs and tea and coffee things to it makes it much more practical when making a cuppa. Do you like the lucky barn star? I couldn’t resist the “Captain” egg timer I saw in a vintage shop too.

Vintage mirrorThe double bedroom got a new mirror. Actually quite an old one, an eBay find that needed a home after my plan for a vintage mirror wall was not met with the same enthusiasm as my own by a certain member of the family.

Oh dear, our wooden table had bad stains on it, we suspect from red wine. Luckily we’d bought an electric sander with us (a Christmas present so I could do my shelf!). So that was sanded and it and the kitchen worktop got an oil too. So did the door step.

The front door got a bit of TLC and a fresh coat of paint.

Graham has the mucky job of jet washing the back paving stones while I had a go cleaning the windows. It was one of the times I’m glad it is only a little cottage!

Big nail!

West Bay Discovery Centre

I popped into the Discovery Centre with a rusty nail. Sarah, one of the volunteers there, had read my blog (hurrah) and wondered if we would be willing to lend the huge nail I’d dug up last summer. During this summer the Discovery Centre is having an exhibition about ‘Shipbuilding in West Bay’. This year marks 240 years since the shipyard was opened. Obviously we would (I was just glad it hadn’t been thrown away). Our nail is going to be displayed in one of the glass cases!

The Cornish Bakery

Eating

We didn’t investigate different places to eat this time but did revisit some of our tried and tested favourites. Luckily when we arrived on Friday evening the Seasider was still open. I’m glad to report their fish and chips are still very good. We found The Cornish Bakery a very handy place to have around the corner when you are busy doing things and don’t want to “down tools” for too long. I can’t resist one of their custard tarts every time I go there. And we met some friends who live in Exeter and had a very nice evening at The River Cottage Kitchen in Axminster. Tasty food and a relaxed atmosphere.The deli looked appealing too but sadly we were off the next morning so had no excuse to food shop.

And that was it for us. Hope you had a lovely Easter break too and didn’t eat too much chocolate? Our daughter got a lot and I think it is calling to me from the kitchen!

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.

A Weekend In West Bay

West Bay Cod & Chips

I was mulling over writing a post with ideas of how to make the most of a weekend in West Bay. A rough plan of where to go and what to do with a bit of a timetable too. Then I came across one that someone had made earlier. I like it. It suggests roughly the same things that I would. There’s lots more that I’d like to try to squeeze in but realistically it’s a good itinerary if you only have two days. I mean the weekend is meant to be enjoyable, not a mad race against the clock. The post has also got a nice little film, which is more than you’d get from one of mine. So rather than write my own post this time I thought I’d share this one with you: Click here.

Thanks to Claire, the owner of the blog. That’s a photo from the post at the top here (picture copyright Weekend Candy).

It almost goes without saying that our cottage is perfect for a West Bay weekend. By arriving on a Friday it means you wake up on Saturday ready for action. This is great as you really should visit Bridport Saturday morning / early afternoon with the market in full swing and Bucky Doo Square at it’s liveliest.

Read about 10 of our favourite things to do locally here.

Thinking of a weekend break in West Bay? 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 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.

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.

Inspiration For Your Romantic Break

Romantic break

Do you want to whisk someone off on a fabulous romantic break? West Dorset is a perfect destination. Perhaps some of these ideas will inspire your romantic escape to our cottage for that special getaway!

  • Enjoy a countryside walk and the dreamy scenery of gentle rolling hills.
  • Stroll around the harbour together with an ice cream or a bag of chips.
  • Simply take to the South West Coast Path and gaze at the beautiful coastline.
  • Feast your eyes on the blanket of bluebells across Eype Down in late spring.
  • Enjoy an afternoon cream tea at Downhouse Farm or The Seaside Boarding House.
  • Visit Bridport on a Saturday where you can meander all morning perusing the market, record and book shops, cool cafés, antique and craft stores.
  • Walk along a beach holding hands.
  • Pack a picnic and head to a scenic spot, perhaps Hardy’s Monument, St Catherine’s Chapel or a local beach.
  • Fly a kite on Eggerton Hill.
  • Tour a vineyard and enjoy a tasting at Furleigh Estate, a vineyard and winery.
  • Set off in a rowing boat and take in the glorious scenery while drifting along the River Brit.
  • Walk through the woods on Langdon Hill.
  • Enjoy a distillery tour, vodka cocktails and lunch at the Black Cow Distillery.
  • Take to the skies on a champagne balloon flight.
  • Take a portable barbecue and supplies to a secluded beach for an evening supper.
  • Head to Bridport early evening for a movie or a show at the art deco Electric Palace.
  • Get yourselves down to the pier at dusk, look towards Lyme and watch the sun sinking over the sea. You may be rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
  • Enjoy a candlelit meal in one of West Bay’s restaurants or pubs.
  • Make the most of Dorset’s dark sky and gaze at the stars together.
  • Snuggle in front of the wood burner in the cottage.

Feeling the love? So why not channel your inner Bridget Jones and visit West Dorset for a Full-Blown Mini-Break Holiday Weekend, or stay longer and explore all that the area has to offer. If 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.