Rain couldn't stop play on west country break
Slap bang in the middle of one of the hottest Junes on record, we decided to make the most of the glorious weather for a big family weekend away in Dorset.
Three generations of us headed for Swanage in cars full to the brim with buckets and spades, rubber dinghies, and bats and balls for rounders on the beach.
But as we made our way west along the M27 the sky grew dark, the wind whipped up and the heavens opened.
Just as it had done the last time we visited the Isle of Purbeck, en masse, 30 years ago.
Back then our parents steadfastly refused to budge from their deck chairs on the beach, and ate fish and chips in the rain with us protesting to go home.
This time we had the comfort of our Swanage Coastal Park caravan to retreat to.
The Shorefield-owned resort sits on a hill overlooking Swanage Bay. And, whether it’s sun-drenched or rain-lashed, it’s one of the most spectacular views in the south-west.
On our first night it wasn’t ice cream on the beach as the sun set, but spag bol, cards and dominoes in the caravan, with a good drop of wine for the grown-ups as we made contingency plans for the next two days.
The Coastal Park has a range of caravans, lodges and even a glamping pod to choose from.
We had a three-bedroom, six-bed caravan with lots of space, which was spotlessly clean and really comfy.
On Saturday morning we ventured out wrapped in our rain macs for the short walk into town.
Beware that if you’re pushing a buggy it’s a bit of a struggle in parts where there are narrow pavements and sometimes none at all. It might be best to drive down.
Swanage is a lovely place in the sunshine but there is not much for little children when the weather’s not so good.
But they all love trains. And we had a stroke of luck when we arrived at Swanage Railway Station, a heritage line with steam trains lovingly run by dedicated volunteers.
It was the day the town thanked the Royal Corps of Signals, based at nearby Blandford, for 30 years’ voluntary service installing vital communications along the line to ensure it keeps going.
There was a grand renaming of a diesel locomotive after the regiment, sea shanties and a brief respite from the rain. We even got to meet the mayor.
It was a scenic 20-minute ride to Corfe Castle, a beautiful little village in the shadow of the ruins of a former royal fortress which once guarded the main route to the Purbeck Hills.
A wander through the cobbled streets, a quick stop at the model village and a lovely park pleased everyone.
We’d promised ourselves fish and chips on the seafront.
So, back in Swanage we bought some traditional west country cider and ate our fish supper at The Fish Plaice, on the harbour, in the drizzle.
It was scrumptious. A typical British summertime treat.
Our caravan provided a welcome, warm respite again that night. And there were more dominoes – my four-year-old niece beat us all, hands down – and more wine for the grown-ups.
Studland Bay is just 20 minutes away so the next day, on our way home, we visited the National Trust-owned beach and a miracle happened – the sun came out.
The three miles of sandy beach are glorious, and always quiet. For those who fancy it you can hire kayaks and paddle boards. We finally built those sand castles, went swimming and played frisbee in the sea.
Sailing boats were out in force, making their way around Old Harry’s Rock in the distance.
And there’s a fantastic National Trust shop full of beautiful things to take home.
After a laze on the beach we finished the weekend off with a Dorset cream tea in the restaurant.
It’s amazing how it changes your whole perspective when the sun shines. But the bad weather forced us to make the best of things so, in the end, we had the best of both worlds.