Saturday, 6 July 2019

A short break in Dorset (1-5 July)

Megan and I had a short break on the Dorset coast staying in a mobile home south of Bridport. Cookie came too.

Monday 01 July. We drove down to Dorset stopping for lunch at Badbury Rings, similar to a more wooded Cissbury with distant views including of the west end of the Isle of Wight. Lots of mainly Pyramidal Orchids were growing along the banks and we saw 2 StonechatsYellowhammer and Corn Bunting. We walked around the less-formal gardens at nearby Kingston Lacy seeing little and continued on to Bridport and Eype where we were staying. The last km of the journey was down a narrow lane with few passing places, some blind bends and more than occasional oncoming traffic. Once settled in we decided to walk the 2km east over West Cliff to West Bay for essentials rather than drive back into Bridport. A pair of House Martins were breeding on the site but the walk produced nothing of note, the flat-calm sea being particularly birdless.

our local Great Back-backed Gull and chick before we left

Kingston Lacy
over the hill to West Bay, the Isle of Portland visible in the far distance
Tuesday 02 July. We walked west three or four miles, over Thorncombe Beacon to Seatown and on up Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast at 191 metres above sea level. Spectacular view both ways along the coast, from Portland to Start Point. We saw a very striking looking Golden-ringed Dragonfly in a ride along the edge of Langdon Hill as we approached Golden Cap. Birds were few and far between with 12 Swifts, 3 Swallows, the 2 local House Martins and 3 Stonechats. In the afternoon we drove into Bridport, did our shopping and walked around the town.
looking east from Eype Mouth, Thorncombe Beacon on the left, Lyme Regis and the Devon coast in the far distance
looking east from Thorncombe Beacon, the jetty at West Bay visible in the middle distance, Portland a shimmer on the horizon
Seatown, Golden Cap (centre, golden mostly hidden by vegetation), Langdon Hill (right, wooded) and more distantly Lyme Regis
looking back to Seatown, Thorncombe Beacon and Portland
the view east from Golden Cap

west from Golden Cap, Start Point left (on the far horizon), Lyme Regis centre and Charmouth right
back on Thorncombe Beacon

West Bay, middle distance
Cookie and Megan leading the way
Wednesday 03 July. We visited Maiden Castle near Dorchester, one of the largest Iron Age hill forts in Europe and walked around the perimeter seeing Raven and Corn Bunting. We drove a short distance the other side of Dorchester to Thomas Hardy's birthplace on the edge of Thorncombe Forest, a rather picturesque (chocolate-box) cottage. We walked through the woods seeing little before our timed visit to the cottage when Megan looked around inside and Cookie and I stayed in the rather floral garden. It was all a bit too twee for me to take any photos. We had lunch then drove back west of Dorchester to Black Down and Thomas Hardy's monument. We climbed the 120 or so steps to the top of the 22m inverted spyglass shaped tower to a height of 260m above sea level. From the top it is possible to see five counties although our knowledge of landmarks was only sufficient to clock three - Dorset (obviously), The Isle of Wight (St. Catherine's Point just being visible 90km away) and Devon (as far as Start Point 90 km away). Thomas Hardy the author was born in 1840 while the Thomas Hardy monument was constructed in 1844 in memory of Vice Admiral Sir Thomas (Kiss me) Hardy, the captain of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. To add more confusion the Obelisk at Portland is marked TH 1844 but more of that tomorrow. Back at Eype we walked to West Bay for an ice cream seeing the House Martins2 Whitethroats and a Stonechat.
early morning walk with Cookie, looking west to Eype
Dorchester from the ramparts of Maiden Castle
Megan and Cookie at Maiden Castle
Isle of Portland from Thomas Hardy's Monument
a rather hazy Golden Cap from the Thomas Hardy Monument
Thursday 04 July. We drove back to Dorchester and down to Radipole where we spent the best part of two hours looking unsuccessfully for Bearded Tits. While there we saw 9 Mediterranean and a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Kingfisher, Great White Egret, 15 Swifts and at least 10 Sand Martins. We continued on to Portland Castle where we looked around (dogs are allowed inside) and then had lunch. Last stop was Portland Bill where in an hour we saw 5 Shags, 2 Ravens and 2 Wheatears. A check of the Obelisk at the Bill (not worth a photo) confirmed my memory of TH 1844, TH doesn't refer to one of the Thomas Hardys but Trinity House who erected it as a navigation warning marker in 1844. Back at Eype the House Martins, a juvenile Stonechat and a male Bullfinch were seen. 
juvenile Yellow-legged Gull at Radipole
I didn't see it fly but it seemed to tick the right boxes
Great White Egret at Radipole

Raven at Portland Bill

ringed Wheatear at Portland, too quick for me
Friday 05 July. We drove home leaving Eype at 08:20. Traffic was steady with no delays and we stopped at the M27 services for a short break, as much for Cookie as us. Bizarrely there was no traffic heading east on the motorway when we left, there must have been an incident just west of the services closing the carriageway soon after we'd past. Traffic remained light all the way to Chichester where only the Bognor roundabout caused a delay. A Great White Egret flew north over the A27 as we approached Arundel Station, fortunately Megan was driving giving me chance to look at it. Back home the grass needed cutting, the Great Black-backed Gulls and their slightly larger chick were on the roof at Glebelands and 15 Swifts were seen over the allotment.

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