Making the most of a post-lockdown staycation: Dorset To Cornwall Driving holiday.
✍ Rosie Pentreath, September 2020.
“This is how the entire course of life can be changed – by doing nothing.” – Ian McEwan
When Edward hastens to catch up with Florence on author Ian McEwan’s Chesil Beach, there’s a quality of haste and hurry in the writing; with ease, Edward can catch up with his bride of a day, and do that “nothing” that changed the course of his life so profoundly.
The Chesil Beach we met, on a frigid, misty day at the beginning of an unsympathetic September, had no such insouciant quality. The foot-sized pebbles at the Portland Island end of the 18-mile shingle pile are heavy and cold, inclined to thud dully over a foot arch without enough care taken.
Absolutely biting wind pushed back on us with almost an equal and opposite force for every step we took. Moving forwards was ambitious, and incremental at best. It was a ten-minute jaunt that left us exhausted, but exhilarated in the way that only ancient, wild lands can.
We came to Portland in the middle of a drive through Dorset, where we had already spent time in pleasant Swanage and it’s much prettier sister, Lulworth – diving in the clear waters of Jurassic Lulworth Cove – with dignified Lyme Regis in front of us.
Lyme Regis is a gem. We’re free to explore the ammonite pavement, where marine life from 199 million years ago dumped its slow-moving, mammoth-sized molluscs, scowling at the parents who’ve equipped little Jimmy with rock cutting equipment to steal a piece of Jurassic history. In the evenings, we let the jaunty Medieval Cobb in Lyme harbour whirl us round for a look over the horizon. We enjoy cold craft beer, and old-fashioned Indian cuisine, wait staff rattling between narrow table gaps with metal food trolleys from the 1970s, and a good local pub with welcoming local characters. They’re nodding to us with an air of respect by the second visit. Our pints there punctuate pastel beach huts and cold September swims off the shingle.
From Lyme, it’s the long drive down to Cornwall. And not Newquay, Padstow or up above Helston. All the way down.
To St Just-in Penwith, where we return to my childhood home.
Swimming’s been one of the main motivations of this trip, and our next Autumn dips are taken at the soft sandy beaches of Sennen, and Porthmeor in St Ives. There is a glimpse of barbecue weather, and outdoor glasses of sweet, cold white wine with a neighbour – seated at a distance, in accordance with ongoing coronavirus pandemic restrictions – and plenty of pints in dark, granite pubs.
Soon, the call of metropolitan life beckons once more, and its time to take the 300-mile road back to London.
Read with: ‘The Barrel’ by Aldous Harding