Step back in time
Claudia Dowell enjoys recapturing some childhood memories of caravan holidays in Dorset, as well as creating some new ones to store away
After storming Corfe Castle, Claudia and Diana beat a hasty retreat
24 | NOVEMBER 2011 | www.practicalcaravan.com This month’s Great Escapees Who went? Travel editor Claudia Dowell and her Aussie chum Diana Waterman What outfit? 2011 Bailey Orion 430-4 and 2011 Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Zetec estate How long? Six nights Why tour here? Great beaches, the odd fossil or two (of the Jurassic variety) and gorgeous countryside – what’s not to like?
We stay on the sites We tow the vans We live the dream!
Corfe Castle Camping and Caravanning Club Site was Claudia’s base
THERE’S A GOOD REASON why Dorset is well endowed with touring sites. It is a beautiful county with a stunning coastline and some wonderful places to visit.
In fact, my first experience of caravanning was with my parents on a site at Durdle Door. The van was small and lit by gas mantles, and my sister and I slept in a tent on Lilos. I don’t remember much about the site except that it had a sweet shop and we went to the farm at the top of the road for milk. I do remember the steps down to the beach and how terrifyingly high the cliff seemed. Day-trips to Corfe Castle, Lulworth Cove and Kimmeridge are fixed in my memory, but those to any towns or villages didn’t register. That was years ago, so a return trip to this lovely part of Britain was overdue.
I wanted to visit new places as well as rediscover old haunts, and was chatting about it to my friend Diana, who knew Sandbanks and Poole but that was all. She decided to come along. I chose Corfe Castle Camping and Caravanning Club Site as our base. It’s close to those old haunts, and the towns of Wareham, Swanage and Dorchester are all within easy reach.
It’s an easy drive to Corfe Castle from our homes in West London. The site is off the A351, on a road to the right signposted Church Knowle, just before the castle itself. With the help of warden Mark Dando we were soon pitched and ready to explore. I don’t remember Corfe Castle village from my childhood visits but, clearly, it has been here a very long time. You can walk to it from the site, but we jumped in the car for the short journey.
We found a parking spot where you can stay for an hour right in the village square. The pretty village is built from the same grey Purbeck stone as the castle. There are several eateries, including pubs and hotels, but we chose the Model Village Café to have lunch.
My delicious goat’s cheese salad disappeared quickly, so there was time for a look around the Model Village itself. The charming 1/20 scale model shows what the castle and village would have looked like during the late 1640s. The surrounding gardens are lovely, too, and you can have a game of croquet or giant draughts. Our time in the square was up, though, so we set off to explore the surrounding area.
Mind the tanks There is a military training area between Lulworth Cove and Kimmeridge known as the Lulworth Ranges. As you drive around, the army is greatly in evidence and, due to the location of a gunnery school at West Lulworth, we did hear firing from our site one night. There is also a tank museum, but we opted instead to pootle around the villages of East and West Lulworth. On the way back to the site we came across the Blue Pool at Furzebrook. The sky was grey the day we visited and I doubted the pool would be that blue, but we decided to have a look.
The pool is in an old clay pit filled with rainwater, and clay particles in the water produce the notable colour, greeny-blue on our visit. It sits in 25 acres of Site of Special Scientific Interest, but we settled for a walk around the water. It was very peaceful, with plenty of places just to sit and be. We also had a quick nose around the gift shop.
Bright sunshine greeted us the next morning and we set off for Athelhampton House, just outside Dorchester, about 15 miles from our site and close to Puddletown. The house is privately owned but visitors are able to see a good deal.
The Great Hall was built during the Tudor era and, with PHOTOGRAPHY
ID L F SM
www.practicalcaravan.com | NOVEMBER 2011 | 25