dorset

The Day I Found My Family

"Excuse me, I think you're my Uncle Laurie's grand-daughter..."

When we booked our Dorset trip, I was hoping to find the time to visit somewhere that has been calling to me for years. Tucked almost at the tip of the Isle of Purbeck, within sight of Corfe Castle and the sea at Swanage, is Langton Matravers. It's a small and insignificant little Dorset village, like many others scattered along the coast and to most people, it's a blip on the journey from sea to scenery.

For me, its meaning is almost indescribable. My grandfather, my adored Grandad, was born in Langton Matravers, on a dairy farm to be precise. He left, became a pilot, flew throughout World War II, dropped paratroopers on D-Day, met my Gran who was nursing in India and returned to England via a three week boat trip down the Suez Canal in the late forties with the baby who became my Mum in tow. I love my Grandad - his medals hang above my desk, my son has his Grandad's name as his middle name and when I was looking to change my surname after my divorce, it was his name I chose.

So today was a pilgrimage of sorts. I wanted to see the church where he was christened and where my great-grandparents are buried. My great-uncle who also joined the RAF and was killed in action in World War II was returned to Langton Matravers after his death and his grave also sits in the cemetery. This was all I hoped for - a visit.

We found the church quite easily - it stands on the high street in the village, built of solid local stone. We wandered through the churchyard, unable to find the headstones I was searching for so we went into the church and there, by the door was a memorial.

 Richard Eastment, RAF, remembered.

Richard Eastment, RAF, remembered.

I felt incredibly content - my great-uncle was remembered, his sacrifice was recorded and as long as the church in Langton Matravers stands, he'll always be there.

At this point, we thought our journey was complete. We were walking down the steps from the churchyard, back to the car, looking at the headstones again, just in case we'd missed something, a inscription hidden over time, when a man's voice called out "Are you looking for someone in particular?" I explained my story, my family connection with Langton Matravers. "Oh yes," he said "I knew your Grandad."

My heart almost stopped beating - this man who just happened to see us knew my Grandad. A moment later or earlier, and this meeting wouldn't have happened. "Come with me," he said "we've got things in the museum about the family." We followed him to the little village museum and there was my family - photos of my great grandparents on their farm, photos of my grandad, of my great aunts and uncles and a book written by my great-aunt. This man, this amazing ninety year old man, told us stories of my family. He told us where my great-grandparents and my great uncle were buried - in the cemetery further along the high street.

We walked down the street, lifted the latch into the cemetery and there they were...

 Ernest and Amelia, my great-grandparents

Ernest and Amelia, my great-grandparents

 My great-uncle.

My great-uncle.

I wished I had taken something to leave on their graves, to show they hadn't been forgotten. I had nothing with me but I was thinking of them in that moment and had been for a long time. It was a good place to be for eternity - looking out toward the sea, surrounded by the village you knew so well.

 Langton Matravers cemetery

Langton Matravers cemetery

Outside the cemetery, I stood for a while, looking at the village map, trying to find my family's farm when I heard a voice, a warm voice, saying "Excuse me, I think you're my Uncle Laurie's grand-daughter." I turned around to see a woman, not unlike my Mum, smiling at me. My second cousin. My relative who I've never met, who I barely knew existed was there, right in front of me.

We hugged, we talked, we stood by the side on the road on the high street in Langton Matravers, clasping each other's hands with mistily moist eyes and we found each other. We kissed goodbye having made arrangements to meet again.

So, today I went to Langton Matravers, today I fulfilled a long cherished ambition to connect with my grandad and today I made a bit more sense of me, of where I came from and who I am.

So, today, I found my family. 

 Me. In Langton Matravers. After all this time.

Me. In Langton Matravers. After all this time.

 My second cousin and me. Do we look really rather shell-shocked at finding each other? We were.

My second cousin and me. Do we look really rather shell-shocked at finding each other? We were.

Review - The Hut, Dorset

There is something about choosing somewhere to stay that can turn my usually sensible and unflappable brain to mush. I blame a distinctly dodgy hotel near Cambridge - you know the thing, looks good online and yet, like everyone's idea of a dodgy internet date, in reality it is really rather horrid. Anyway, I'm now the nittiest of nitpickers when it comes to booking getaways.

Happily for me, the Sawdays website never lets me down and it was on here that I found The Hut. Straight away, I knew this would be the place - yes, it would involve a slightly lengthy drive to and from Weymouth twice a day to fetch & carry My Mr to the Jurassic Coast Challenge but I didn't care. An hour or so in the car to be rewarded by wrapping myself up here for three days...

 The Hut - it really is perfect. The location, the design, the decor. The moment I walked in, I was happy. What more can you ask?

The Hut - it really is perfect. The location, the design, the decor. The moment I walked in, I was happy. What more can you ask?

 This is the view from the deck that you can see in the photo above - straight out over the countryside. I have spent much of my weekend walking around the lanes and paths that surround The Hut or ensconced in a big armchair by the window reading. Either way, this view has been the backdrop to my days.

This is the view from the deck that you can see in the photo above - straight out over the countryside. I have spent much of my weekend walking around the lanes and paths that surround The Hut or ensconced in a big armchair by the window reading. Either way, this view has been the backdrop to my days.

 The living area - that woodburner has been wonderful in the evenings as we cosy up and there is really nothing missing at all. The amazing flooring is reclaimed scaffolding boards, the side tables are old tea chests and there are blankets on the back of the sofas. It's like a secret hideaway for adults.

The living area - that woodburner has been wonderful in the evenings as we cosy up and there is really nothing missing at all. The amazing flooring is reclaimed scaffolding boards, the side tables are old tea chests and there are blankets on the back of the sofas. It's like a secret hideaway for adults.

 Just a few of the details in The Hut that have made me smile over the weekend. The fact that the place is full of books has made my heart sing - they lurk everywhere like attentive servants waiting to be helpful. The beer bottles are taunting My Mr however as, due to his marathoning, he's been off the booze.

Just a few of the details in The Hut that have made me smile over the weekend. The fact that the place is full of books has made my heart sing - they lurk everywhere like attentive servants waiting to be helpful. The beer bottles are taunting My Mr however as, due to his marathoning, he's been off the booze.

 More Hut happiness and the great details that I keep finding. On a practical note - the bathroom is excellent and My Mr has been much comforted by long hot baths post-race each day. There's also a large and toasty shower which I have struggled to leave each morning.

More Hut happiness and the great details that I keep finding. On a practical note - the bathroom is excellent and My Mr has been much comforted by long hot baths post-race each day. There's also a large and toasty shower which I have struggled to leave each morning.

 The kitchen. Sigh. It's totally country, totally vintage and totally great to cook in. I have got to grips with the Aga but there's also a 'normal' oven and hob too plus fridge-freezer, dishwasher and washing machine. 

The kitchen. Sigh. It's totally country, totally vintage and totally great to cook in. I have got to grips with the Aga but there's also a 'normal' oven and hob too plus fridge-freezer, dishwasher and washing machine. 

 Kitchen details - it's been a lovely place to be and all the meals I've cooked this weekend have been from Jack Monroe's 'A Girl Called Jack' and I'll be reviewing that on the blog soon too.

Kitchen details - it's been a lovely place to be and all the meals I've cooked this weekend have been from Jack Monroe's 'A Girl Called Jack' and I'll be reviewing that on the blog soon too.

 The sign to much weekend happiness! So, the nitty gritty - the hut sleeps two in a gorgeous sleeping area upstairs. There's also a dressing/office area up in the eaves too. Downstairs is the kitchen, the bathroom, the living area and a small dining area. Outside, the deck runs around two sides of the building so you've always got a sunny spot to sit in. The garden is enclosed so dog friendly (although I didn't bring my girl) and there's also plenty of parking space. There's wifi, logs for the burner, coal for  the aga and towels provided too. Really, I absolutely can't fault  The Hut  at all - it's so perfect and a really special place to escape to.      *please note, I've not been paid/rewarded/bribed or coerced into writing this piece. It's just my humble opinion.

The sign to much weekend happiness! So, the nitty gritty - the hut sleeps two in a gorgeous sleeping area upstairs. There's also a dressing/office area up in the eaves too. Downstairs is the kitchen, the bathroom, the living area and a small dining area. Outside, the deck runs around two sides of the building so you've always got a sunny spot to sit in. The garden is enclosed so dog friendly (although I didn't bring my girl) and there's also plenty of parking space. There's wifi, logs for the burner, coal for  the aga and towels provided too. Really, I absolutely can't fault The Hut at all - it's so perfect and a really special place to escape to. 

 

*please note, I've not been paid/rewarded/bribed or coerced into writing this piece. It's just my humble opinion.

Wanderlust - Chesil Beach

So, on Friday 21st March, I found myself in the strange situation of being at a loose end. The loosest of loose ends in fact because I dropped My Mr to start his first marathon at 7.15am and then had hours to fill before either a) he finished or b) 3pm rolled around and I could check us into the little hideaway we'd booked for the weekend.

Happily, the weather took pity on me and my rather hopeless situation. The sun shone and as My Mr was walking along the coast path from Charmouth to Weymouth, I made up my mind to potter along the coast road, seeing him at checkpoints and indulging in a bit of beachside photography/reading/people watching.

And do you know what? It turns out being at a loose end along Chesil Beach is really rather stunning...

 Ok, so I should be honest and say my day cruising the coast road didn't start quite how I thought it might. I was driving  to Abbotsbury and saw a sign for 'The Hardy Monument'. Oh hurrah, I thought, Thomas Hardy, Dorset's famous writing son. So I pulled off and drove to  the monument. Impressive, I thought as I walked toward it in the sunshine. However, when I got to the little info board, it became clear I'd got my Hardys confused. This wasn't a monument to Thomas 'Far From The Madding Crowd' Hardy. No, this was a monument to Thomas 'Kiss Me Hardy' Hardy, the giver of Admiral Nelson's goodbye kiss at the Battle of Trafalgar. Quite a difference you'll agree but two Thomas Hardys from a little part of Dorset - who knew?

Ok, so I should be honest and say my day cruising the coast road didn't start quite how I thought it might. I was driving  to Abbotsbury and saw a sign for 'The Hardy Monument'. Oh hurrah, I thought, Thomas Hardy, Dorset's famous writing son. So I pulled off and drove to  the monument. Impressive, I thought as I walked toward it in the sunshine. However, when I got to the little info board, it became clear I'd got my Hardys confused. This wasn't a monument to Thomas 'Far From The Madding Crowd' Hardy. No, this was a monument to Thomas 'Kiss Me Hardy' Hardy, the giver of Admiral Nelson's goodbye kiss at the Battle of Trafalgar. Quite a difference you'll agree but two Thomas Hardys from a little part of Dorset - who knew?

 You'll be pleased to hear that I made my way to the beach quite safely. It was signposted as a beach and a seaside strand it turned out to be so the day got better. And with this view, it's safe to say that the day got much MUCH better...

You'll be pleased to hear that I made my way to the beach quite safely. It was signposted as a beach and a seaside strand it turned out to be so the day got better. And with this view, it's safe to say that the day got much MUCH better...

 I had forgotten how loud beaches were, even without people. The noise of the water and the movement of the shingle and the rush of the wind across my ears. It was all encompassing and utterly enlivening.

I had forgotten how loud beaches were, even without people. The noise of the water and the movement of the shingle and the rush of the wind across my ears. It was all encompassing and utterly enlivening.

 The coast path - My Mr's home for three days...

The coast path - My Mr's home for three days...

 I have absolutely no idea why this little obelisk was sat on the beach but it was great. Sun-bleached, spray-smoothed and clinging on to its little area of shingle like the most determined holidaymaker.

I have absolutely no idea why this little obelisk was sat on the beach but it was great. Sun-bleached, spray-smoothed and clinging on to its little area of shingle like the most determined holidaymaker.

 This image makes me realise what you miss by living in a town. Sky. You miss the huge and soaring skyscapes when you're surrounded by buildings. There was just so much blue above me and around me. Huge huge skies that went on forever until they touched the sea on the distant horizon. 

This image makes me realise what you miss by living in a town. Sky. You miss the huge and soaring skyscapes when you're surrounded by buildings. There was just so much blue above me and around me. Huge huge skies that went on forever until they touched the sea on the distant horizon. 

 And here he comes! My Mr toiling across the shingle and slip-sliding on the ever-shifting pebbles. It was great to see him looking perky.

And here he comes! My Mr toiling across the shingle and slip-sliding on the ever-shifting pebbles. It was great to see him looking perky.

 After seeing My Mr on Cogden Beach, I drove along to Abbotsbury (home of the swannery but with my irrational bird hatred, there was no way that was on my agenda)) and parked up at checkpoint two. I loved the boardwalk, disappearing up the bank of the beach.

After seeing My Mr on Cogden Beach, I drove along to Abbotsbury (home of the swannery but with my irrational bird hatred, there was no way that was on my agenda)) and parked up at checkpoint two. I loved the boardwalk, disappearing up the bank of the beach.

 Swannery? No thank you, I'll stick to my spot in the sun.

Swannery? No thank you, I'll stick to my spot in the sun.

 Yippeee! It was a great day (despite my monumental mistake early on) and My Mr finished marathon one of three safely, happily and sans blisters. 

Yippeee! It was a great day (despite my monumental mistake early on) and My Mr finished marathon one of three safely, happily and sans blisters. 


Wanderlust - Weymouth Harbour

I'll be completely honest and say that Weymouth has never really been on my list of places to go but as My Mr is taking on the Jurassic Coast Challenge this weekend, we needed a place to lay our heads the night before the race and Weymouth is right on the doorstep of Race HQ.

As usual, Sawday's Special Places did not let us down and we tipped up to Old Harbour View on Thursday afternoon...

 Squeezed onto the frontage, Old Harbour View is an absolute gem.

Squeezed onto the frontage, Old Harbour View is an absolute gem.

And it was really rather perfect. Welcoming hosts, ready with tea and homemade cake, a great little room, parking outside, the most amazing breakfast and a happy little dog to make it feel more like home.

On Thursday night, we headed out to The Crab House Cafe and had some super fresh fish and seafood in a really laid back restaurant, right on the beach. Perfect for the night before a race when you're getting a bit jittery and don't want to be somewhere too posh!

Friday morning was an early start for us both as I took My Mr down to the start for 7.30am. Whilst the alarm might have felt a little bit harsh, the early morning views over the harbour were absolutely worth the fleeting pain...

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It was a great night but with My Mr on the move along the coast, my time in Weymouth was up...