Ruby’s happy place down at West Bay

With Storm Barra battering the country just ten days after Storm Arwen left a trail of havoc in its wake, now is not a good time to visit the coast.

Usually, I would have been down at West Bay this morning, letting Ruby run wild on the farthest beach on the Esplanade to the west, which is open to dogs all year round.

This part of the little resort on the Dorset coast is my girl’s happy place.

But the tide is high today and and the field and hills are wet with mud and rain. So she’s restricted to a quick scoot around the village before we hunker down at home.

On her beach at West Bay, Ruby loves to chase seagulls along the shore. It’s lovely to come here first thing, just as the sun begins its daily journey west.

I’m impressed by the sea swimmers who jump into the water quite often at this time of the morning. But that’s not for me.

At this time of year, though, when the hill and the fields are muddy, the beach down at the Bay is where you’ll find Ruby and me.

I love West Bay. I have done since I first arrived in Bridport as a young reporter nearly forty years ago. My brother, though, just doesn’t get it, preferring instead the beauty of Lyme Regis. My late father used to call West Bay ‘that place with a hole in the middle’ (meaning the harbour). But I love the Bay for its cliffs and shoreline, although I steer clear of going anywhere near East Cliff, which is prone to landslips without warning.

I love West Bay for its harbour, its eclectic mix of buildings of all styles, its mix of chi chi and pleb, the caravan site and its food kiosks, although I would recommend avoiding the two operated by convicted puppy farmers.

There’s nothing quite like starting the day down on the beach with Ruby, feeling the wind blowing through your hair and watching the sun coming up over the water, casting rays of light like an advert for a spiritual awakening.

And then popping into the Windy Corner Cafe for a very nice coffee and cake – or breakfast if that’s your bag. Dogs are welcome here, to the extent that they’ll be offered a biscuit or five within seconds of walking through the door. Lovely. They can have my custom any day.

But today, we’re confined to the house as we watch Storm Barra doing its business outside.

That’s about it.

Love, Maddie x

Tout Quarry, Portland, England

We’re at Tout Quarry on Portland, Dorset, for a wander with Ruby. It’s an absolutely fascinating combination of geology, nature, history and art, where creativity and the elements meet in all their glory.

And fantastic views of Portland Harbour and the sweep of Chesil Beach to the west.

Portland is a strange place. An island connected by a causeway to the end of the Chesil Beach and the sweep of the bay at Weymouth. There is something about Portland that is compelling and other wordly, especially on a grey day.

Forget the fact that it’s exposed, bleak and known for its prison for sex offenders, young offenders institution and former naval base. There are parts of Portland that are really pretty and dramatic.

It’s that whole island vibe and the way the past has shaped the way of life over the years. The Isle of Portland was full of great quarries producing Portland Stone, the stone that St Paul’s Cathedral is made of.

Take a look at this lovely piece of old film, which is part of the Windrose Rural Media Trust archive.

Tout Quarry is not that easy to find but, if you’re up for being a bit adventurous and you’re an off-the-beaten track kind of person, it’s well worth a morning out, with dogs or children or just on your own.

It was worked commercially from 1780 to 1982. These days, limestone remnants left over from this work have been used to create sculptures all across the site. The more than sixty sculptures include Still Falling by Angel of the North sculptor Antony Gormley. 

Here are just some of them. The Still Falling sculpture is the last photo:

Entrance to Tout Quarry is free and the reserve is open at all times.

To find out more, visit the websites of Portland Town Council and Dorset Wildlife Trust.

That’s about it.

Love, Maddie x