Friday, 1 November 2013

Back home, Dorset and the Jurassic Coast

Jackie and Charles

Well, we’re back home, or at least in the UK. We arrived at Heathrow airport on Monday evening (28th Oct) after an uneventful couple of flights from Singapore via Dubai, were picked up by Jon (Jackie’s brother) and driven to Langston-Herring, near Weymouth in Dorset for a week here in a cottage with Pauline (Jackie’s mum), near to Jon, Lucy, Charles and Caroline, who are in a holiday cottage just round the corner for half-term holidays.

Caroline inspects a rock
We missed the worst of the weather, a deep low pressure with rain and high winds that caused some structural damage, as it had passed over the southern half of England earlier, leaving windy conditions but reasonably clear skies and, over the last couple of days, quite a bit of sunshine, with only the occasional shower and temperatures around 16-17⁰C – quite pleasant against the hot, humid temperatures in SE Asia!

It’s great catching up with everyone again and we both got special hugs from Charles and Caroline and told that they had missed us!

Lucy, Jon and Charles fossicking on the beach
So far we’ve been fossicking for fossils on a beach up from Chesil Beach (a 29km long x 200m wide x 15m high shingle barrier beach that joins the Isle of Portland with the mainland, the English Channel on one side and the tidal Fleet Lagoon, open to the sea on the other), the coastal area comprises of 190 million year old exposed rocks, stretching for 90 miles along the south coast. Even though it was fairly windy and chilly, there were several surfers out and crowds of families on the beach with their special fossicking hammers, chipping away at pebbles on the beach and the rocks from the bank on the shore, so we had to join in.

Chesil Beach and Portland Harbour from Portland
Pauline (Gran) and Charles
Lacking a hammer, we resorted to smashing rocks with another rock, stone-age style and, although we didn’t find any ammonites, we got some interesting samples of stuff hidden in the rocks we smashed open, telling C&C that, on looking at the insides of a smashed rock, they were looking at something no human had ever looked at, how good is that! After a bit more rock hunting, skimming stones on the surface of the sea and helping C&C bury each other in the rocks, we retired back to the visitor centre and then eventually back to the cottages when rain stopped play.

Caroline and Charles skimming stones

Caroline 'buries' Charles
Charles gets his own back!

Kingston Lacey
Yesterday we visited Kingston Lacey, the former stately home of the Bankes family, now a National Trust property. It’s a magnificent house set in large gardens and surrounded by the rolling green hills of England, the estate along with Corfe Castle bought by Sir John Bankes in 1632. The family were staunch Royalists and with England at that time on the verge of civil war and the Glorious Revolution, Corfe Castle was attacked and destroyed in 1646 by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian forces, to prevent it ever being used as a fortress again, forcing Sir Johns son Ralf to build Kingston Hall as the new family home, an undertaking that almost bankrupted the family. It remained in the Bankes family for several generations, before gradually subsiding into decay after 1945, finally being bequeathed to the National Trust in 1981 following the death of Ralph Bankes.

Pauline, Lucy, Jon, Jackie and Caroline
Brian loads a cannon at Portland Castle
After a long journey there, due to a road being closed, circling the grounds to find the way in and exchanging phone conversations between us and Jon, we eventually found it and it was worthwhile. It is staffed by knowledgeable volunteers and, being half-term they were running a quiz for children, which kept them occupied and educated them at the same time. Caroline joined in, completed all the questions and got a badge, so well done! 

Pauline and Jackie look out where once King Henry VIII may have stood
Portland Castle, built in 1539 by King Henry VIII to protect Portland Harbour from invasions by Catholic fanatics incensed by his divorce from Catherine of Aragon three years earlier
The concrete structure in the centre was intended to be part of the Mulberry Harbour that was towed to Normandy to facilitate the Allied beach landings on 6th June 1944. This bit never made it
Pauline & Jackie on Portland Bill
Portland Bill lighthouse
Lunch in the café, a tour of the gardens to see formal gardens, animals, kitchen gardens and special Halloween displays and it was getting dark, so back to finish the jigsaw Pauline had bought, a glass or two of red wine and a catch up with Strictly Come Dancing ‘It Takes Two’, it’s great to be back!

Jackie prepares a pumpkin for our Halloween party - Stand Clear!!

The finished article

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