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Nov 2017

Dorset Coat of Arms

Remember up in Rookhope when it was said that another place with a bird in the name couldn't be thought of[1]?

Well, whad’ya know, down here in Dorset there were once, literally, a shedload of them but just the one today on this swan's watch.

On a warm, sunny day you can enjoy a drop of the dark stuff, all velvety-  black, necked down at a table outside.

It's like a smaller version of Weymouth with a beach on a bay but without a picturesque harbour and a 17th-century waterfront.

[1] No? You should check in here more often, it really is rather informative.

It would be telling a massive  w-hooper of a lie that this stretch of sand is just as spectacular but it does have a Blue Flag and is far more tempting when the tide retreats, probably.

  Santa-Fe Fun Park (Shore Road)

Old-skool fun for all the family including dinosaur-themed mini-golf.

Not quite so random as you think since the  Jurassic Coast starts just up the bay and where once there would have been a windmill, it's a brontosaurus' legs.

Hole in one? Don't think so. It didn't look too tatty.

Today has just tipped into November so things are somewhat  muted but it's pleasingly familiar fayre on the front and could still charm a Victorian fresh off the paddle steamer.

Not quite so much this, though, where a restaurant with the best view on the south coast, probably, sits wastefully empty.

It's an isolated aberration, eyesore-wise, but bomb damage during you-know-when isn't the reason for its standing. No, just some pen pusher's idea of progress when the Victorian original was replaced in the '60s.

  The Mowlem Theatre (Shore Road)

Housed in the eyesore that doesn't look large enough for a theatre, cinema, 'community room' and a restaurant that's up for sale.

All with the best view on the south coast, probably, here is the centre for vultures of the culture in Swanage.

There's a solid if unspectacular pier here, at least it should be solid now.

With the paddle steamers long gone and managing to avoid the inevitable fire that often and suspiciously sees to these, some 1990s restoration was required of its dilapidated state.

It costs a pound to stroll along and it's home to the UK's oldest diving school where the conditions down there are perfectly sheltered, they say.

If the thought of that sends you round the bends, there's an  underwater camera on display in the café to save you having to scuba.

  Isle of Wight

You can see the Isle of Wight from here and that's Wight as in Wiht meaning 'raised' and not as in not  black.

You can't get the 20 miles there from here, however, so you'll have to settle instead for looking the Needles right in the eye although some binoculars may be required.

Away from the front, Station Road meets the high street and provides for any potential, rainy-day mooching. At the top of Station Road?

Victorians who didn't visit by paddle steamer would likely have done so by train. When the  whistling finished, the branch line spluttered briefly on diesel but was closed to passengers in 1972 so nothing to do with so-called 'Dr'  Beeching.

The  Swanage Railway Society wasted no time but the lines had already been lifted meaning the first choo-choos could only chuff-chuff for a few-hundred yards and it wasn't until 1995 that the current route via Corfe Castle reopened.

There is honestly not that much interest in these things, you'll find they just keep following you around. Well, maybe one of us is and just a little bit more than they'd like to admit.

  Bird's Nest Buffet (Gilbert Road)

Snack in a converted railway carriage where you can close your eyes and imagine that cappuccino machine is a steaming BR 2-6-4T Class 4MT locomotive engine.

 Durlston Country Park is just a mile down the road and was 'gifted' to the town by a wealthy quarry operator. Not quite as magnanimous as you might think since those who now pay Council Tax ended up funding the castle's restoration.

It's not a real castle, neither, more of a visitor centre with a restaurant upstairs, which is how this folly first functioned back in 1887.

Highlights along the footpaths include a 40-  tun, dramatic-looking globe that shows off the local stone and some caves created by the quarrying that you're no longer allowed in.

The main path is, of course, part of an old friend, the South West Coast Path, like you hadn't guessed already.

  South West Coast Path

If you're walking England's longest National Trail anticlockwise from Minehead, well done, you're about 600 miles in with just the 30-or-so to go and that includes not cheating by heading straight to Swanage but by following the path around Peveril Point.

If you're coming from Poole, then it's still about 600 miles to Minehead.

Anvil Point Lighthouse marks the midway point of the park's perimeter so if you do make it here, you haven't seen the half of it.

If you're renting the lighthouse keeper's cottage for the week, you'll be needing extra thick curtains as it's still doing some blinding work.

There's wildlife along here and not wishing to blow one's own  trumpeters, the hang is being got of this birding.

An unmistakeable stonechat, female, juvenile[1], although it had to be double-checked.  A History of British Birds by Thomas Bewick, no less, and yes, the same one that named that  swan, which brings things nicely full circle.

If only he'd done it earlier, like 877 AD earlier. There could have been some wandering around and wittering on about what wouldn't be Swanage but what would be called Bewickswick, probably.

[1] Probably.