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Sunday, 24 November 2019

Dorset Short Break - 4th to 8th November, 2019

Feeling in need of a change of scenery, Lindsay and I booked a short break at a self-catering property in Lyme Regis, on the Dorset coast. We have stayed in this area before, but never in Lyme Regis, which we had only visited for a few hours once before.

Monday, 4th November

Rather than take the fastest (motorway) route, we opted for the scenic route, travelling the Fosse Way (an old Roman road) for much of the way. We stopped for lunch at the Yellow Brick Cafe in the splendid Cotswold town of Moreton-in-Marsh, where they make some of the best ice cream that we've ever tasted, with wonderful flavour combinations.

The rest of the journey was pleasant, but uneventful, and we arrived at the property just before 4 pm. The property did not have a parking space, but we managed to find a space in the small parking area over the road outside the library. This enabled us to unload the car with relative ease. However, parking between 9 am and 6 pm was limited to one hour, with no return within an hour, so we felt the need to park elsewhere after unloading. The nearest car park was the Holmbush car park, which was very reasonably priced at £2 for 24 hours, but was a stiff uphill walk to get back to!

That evening we did a quick shop at the Co-op before heading into the Indian restaurant just a few doors up from our new home. We had a splendid meal there, and resolved to return later in the week. However, Lindsay had an upset stomach that night, which rather put her off and so we never went back.

Tuesday, 5th November

Sadly, we both had a really uncomfortable night. The bedroom floor had a considerable slope to it and this had not been compensated for with the length of the bed legs, so the bed sloped from one side to the other, and it sagged badly in the middle. Lindsay had a greater problem with this than I did and only averaged around three hours sleep a night whilst we were there!

After breakfast, the weather was fine - if a little chilly and breezy, and we resolved to take a good look at Lyme Regis. Lyme is a delightful town, and we started by walking down the main street, exploring the antique and curio shops and the charity shops too. Purchases were made! We then approached the sea front from the east end.

I hadn't taken my usual camera out that day as I was expecting some hazardous conditions later, so had taken an old bridge camera that I'd been given , but had never used before. When examined, the results were a little disappointing. The first view, below, was taken looking eastward towards Charmouth and the second was looking westward towards Lyme beach and The Cobb.

view eastward from the east of Lyme Regis
view westward from the east of Lyme Regis
We then set off westward along the beach. The rental of the property included the use of a beach hut and, indeed, this was one of the reasons why we chose it. We had, therefore, to make use of it! There were probably around 30 beach huts, and none of the others were being used and so, unsurprisingly, it attracted a lot of attention when we sat outside, and some delightful conversations ensued! 

Lindsay at the beach hut, Lyme Regis
After about half an hour it got somewhat chillier and so we packed up and and took a walk along to The Cobb. Out on The Cobb I saw a few birds, but nothing of great interest, and my attempts with the bridge camera were discarded.

We had a good light lunch at a cafe on the main street, before heading off to Charmouth.

The coast in this area is known as the Jurassic Coast with good reason. The geology is such that the coastal cliffs are rich in fossils, and this is where Mary Anning rose to fame. Sadly, the tides were such that fossil hunting was going to be greatly limited during our stay, but we did manage a couple of hours on Charmouth East Beach before it got dark. I had little luck with my fossil hunting, finding just three bellemnite guards and two pieces of ammonite, all of which were passed to other persons who had not managed to find anything at all.

I'd realised that if we returned to base after 5 pm and there was a space in the car park opposite, we would be able to stay put until 10 am the following day. This served us well for the last three nights. That night we had a simple meal of soup at the property.

Wednesday, 6th November

I had been aware of Seaton Wetlands being a nature reserve beside the River Axe which attracts wildfowl during the winter, but had never visited. Lindsay had graciously volunteered to sit waiting in the car, reading a book, while I took a look at this place this morning. Having parked the car in the car park, accessed through the cemetery, I set off - realising when I got back onto the road that I'd taken a wrong turning! I retraced my steps and soon saw where I'd gone wrong.

A bird photographer, coming in the opposite direction, offered some interesting 'pointers', one of which later led me to doubt his recognition skills. 

I first went to Island Hide, where the most photographable subjects were a few Teal that were near the start of the approach to the hide.

Teal (Anas crecca) (female) - Seaton Wetlands

Teal (Anas crecca) (male) - Seaton Wetlands
I next moved on to the Discovery Hut area, but little was seen here so I moved northward once more, ending up at the hide that's by the tramway on Colyford Common. Here there was a male Stonechat on the wires and a distant Little Egret. 

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Colyford Common
Up until now, the weather had been rather dull, and whilst in the hide it had started raining. As it looked as if the rain had set in, I started heading back to where Lindsay was, no doubt, sleeping in the car.

In a small pond near the Discovery hut, a young Mute Swan was drifting around - and the rain had stopped!

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) (juvenile) - Seaton Wetlands
Nearer to Island Hide, I got a few shots of a Shelduck.

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) (male) - Seaton Wetlands
A return to Island Hide showed that the Black-tailed Godwit on the nearby island was still asleep with its head tucked in whilst a second bird was wandering around in the water at some distance.

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) - Seaton Wetlands
Figuring that Lindsay was probably enjoying sleeping in the car, I next ventured to Tower Hide. On the way there, I stopped to photograph a Stonechat that was a little more obliging with its chosen perches than the previous one.

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (male) - Seaton Wetlands
From Tower Hide, anything of interest was at a great distance, and no photographs were taken. It was time to head back to the car and gently waken Lindsay from her slumbers.

We drove into Seaton and were delighted to find that the fish & chip shop (Seaton Fish Bar), that we used to occasionally eat in many years ago when we were staying with my mother who lived nearby in Chardstock, was open at lunchtime. Lunch was basic, but absolutely delicious!

After lunch, and a visit to a few shops in Seaton, we headed back to Lyme Regis as we wished to purchase a polished ammonite pendant that we'd seen the previous day, and which Lindsay had decided she would like as a souvenir. 

I made a quick visit to the gardens at the top end of the main street and was impressed by the view down to The Cobb.

view to The Cobb from Langmoor Gardens, Lyme Regis
The evening was one of gentle relaxation at the cottage.

Thursday, 7th November

From the outset, this day had been forecast to have the best weather during our stay, and so we had planned to visit one of our favourite lunch venues - anywhere! We woke to find the forecast had held true, so set off for Ferrybridge, near Weymouth, after breakfast. 

Ferrybridge is at the eastern end of the amazing Chesil Beach - a shingle 'barrier beach', 18 miles (29 km) long and up to 15 metres high and 200 metres wide. You can find more about it here.

There is a visitor centre by Chesil Beach at Ferrybridge with a cafe and also an area manned by the Dorset Wildlife Trust, where the volunteers are very helpful. I had a quick look round outside and was delighted to see that there were good numbers of Brent Goose present. Most were at a great distance but there were a couple that were only about 100 metres away. I don't know my Brent Geese well, and have only ever seen one once in my home county, but I think that one of the two, depicted below, might have been a young Pale-bellied Brent. Please let me know if you think I'm correct!

(Pale-bellied?) Brent Goose (Branta bernicla (ssp. hrota?)) (juvenile) - Ferrybridge
It was around 10h30, and Lindsay and I popped in to the cafe for refreshments. My tea was consumed in no time flat, and so I left Lindsay nursing hers, with a piece of cake, and went out to get more shots of the Brent Geese. I was very lucky as, on two occasions, I picked a spot, waited, and a goose continued coming towards me.

Brent Goose (Branta bernicla) - Ferrybridge
There were a few gulls around, and those that know me will probably be aware that gulls are not my thing. However, I was a little surprised to find that one of the gulls I photographed was a Mediterranean Gull.

Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) - Ferrybridge
A Carrion Crow looked as if it had been confused by beach pebbles, thinking they were eggs!

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - Ferrybridge
As I went to rejoin Lindsay a group of Brents flew in and made their way past me.

Brent Goose (Branta bernicla) - Ferrybridge
It was then time to pick up Lindsay and head off to The Crab House Cafe where we had booked a table for 12 noon. This sits beside The Fleet - the long stretch of water protected from the sea by Chesil Beach. This may not look too special from the outside but it is somewhat famous for the quality of its food.

The Crab House Cafe - Ferrybridge
This is the view from the cafe, over The Fleet, with Chesil Beach behind. This will, I hope, give an impression of how massive Chesil Beach is - the sea is beyond.

view across The Fleet to Chesil Beach
We both had a starter of crispy Pilchards, followed by baked John Dory  - it was wonderful!

After lunch, we headed onto the isle of Portland, over the causeway, going directly to Portland Bill on the south end of the island. Tiredness had overcome Lindsay once more and so she stayed in the car while I had a scout around.

Portland Bill Lighthouse
I spent a little while trying to photograph a Rock Pipit. However, having looked at my photos, I find myself questioning if I'd seen something a little different. Plenty of 'unusual' birds pass through Portland Bill in the autumn. This bird was quite pale, with legs that were quite pale too and I'm wondering if it was a Water Pipit. Please let me know your thoughts. Marc Heath, whose judgement I trust, has stated he believes the Pipit to be 'Rock' so I'll go with that - thank you, Marc!

Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) - Portland Bill
I started making my way up the east side, heading towards the quarry below 'the Obs' as I was hoping that the Little Owls might still be there. I couldn't resist, however, taking a few shots of the wave action on the rocks. I love shots of moving water!

Coastal Scenes - Portland Bill
As I approached the quarry, a Kestrel was being harried by a Crow. The Kestrel landed on the quarry edge and I got a few shots in before it departed.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) - Portland Bill
I stayed a while, but saw no sign of a Little Owl, so headed back to join Lindsay, not expecting the next thing I photographed to be an Osprey - no, not that kind of Osprey but one of the very weird USAF VTOL aircraft which rose up in front of me and flew past - unfortunately, I missed the lift. Sadly, too, the light was already fading 

USAF Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey - Portland Bill
That evening was mainly spent packing as we had to vacate the property by 10h00.

Friday, 8th November

We were ready to depart by 09h00 and so set off homeward. It was another pleasant journey, with a stop for lunch at the AV8 Bistro & Restaurant at Cotswold Airport near Cirencester. We found this place a few years ago and vowed to return - we were not disappointed!

We then stopped in Moreton-in-Marsh for an ice-cream at The Yellow Brick Cafe - it's difficult to pass this place without calling in!

We managed to get home well-before night fall. Although the break had had its discomforts, and it hadn't been over-productive with birds (or fossils), it had been highly enjoyable. 

I have absolutely no idea what my next blog post will feature, but it will probably be a short one unless something remarkable happens! Thank you for dropping by.


  1. Brant Goose is a rarity here, Richard, and I have seldom seen them in Ontario. However, when we visit Miriam's sister in Victoria, BC, it is easy to find, and it always delights me. It is by any standards a very attractive bird. Not the birdiest of getaways as you say, but any time you can get in a few days at the sea it is wonderful. Too bad about the bed. Three hours sleep a night is certainly not what the doctor ordered.

    1. Hi David. I believe your Brant Goose (ssp. nigricans)is what we call a Black Brant here, and is rare too. For some reason, we call the other two subspecies 'Brent' geese. I understand that Pale-bellied Brents (ssp. hrota) tend to be seen in the north of UK and the Dark-bellied Brents (ssp. bernicla) are seen more in the south.

  2. Thank you for showing us these pictures;-)

    1. You're welcome, Anne - thank you for visiting.

  3. Pretty vacation in Dorset, I love the Brent Geese, they are handsome. I was born in Cirencester, and I love the village Moreton-in-Marsh.

    1. I never see Cirencester, Bob, as the road signs always steer you round it, rather than through it - I pass it quite often. I do like Moreton-in-Marsh - it's even more interesting on market day. My very best wishes - - - Richard

  4. It looks a wonderful place. Probably not so good in summer. Didn't they have the Olympic sailing somewhere there?

    1. I'm sure that Lyme is not nearly so attractive in summer, Adrian. Now you mention it, I reckon you're right about the Olympic sailing - it would explain why the knick-knack shops had so much Olympic related bric-a-brac in! Never crossed my mind at the time.

  5. Hi Richard I hope all is well. The crab house sounds delightful but sorry about the bed and the sloping floor. Delightful photos. I struggled to get good photos while I was away. My Nikon 55 -300mm telephoto lens was not focusing properly I discovered when I got to Johannesburg. We managed to buy another one second hand, but that was also not perfect. It took me a while to get the hang of it, A bit hit and miss but I managed some reasonable shots. Now of course I have just too many photos to go through!!! We have not been well since we returned so things are moving slowly.
    Best wishes to you both, Diane

    1. How frustrating to have camera problems when you're on a major vaction like that, Diane. I always try to take a spare camera body and a spare lens, just in case, but it's not so easy to do that if you're having to fly with limited luggage allowance.

      I know what it's like having to go through hundreds of photos, and it doesn't get any easier if you're unwell. I hope the you will both feel much better soon. In the mean time, take good care, and don't over-do it.

      My very best wishes - - - Richard

  6. Sound like a nice trip for the both of you. I think your Pipit is 'Rock'. Appears pretty dark. Some lovely scenic shots too. Looks nice.

    1. It was an enjoyable trip, Marc. Thank you for the Rock ID, I'll ammend the text accordingly. Do you agree with my observations about the Pale Brent, and Med Gull? I feel a little uncertain about both - I'm still very much a novice birder!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

    2. Your gull is definitely a Med Gull and my gut reaction is the goose is a juvenile dark bellied Brent Goose. Seems a little dark between the legs. Pale bellied are white between legs. Just my opinion which may well be wrong.

    3. Thank you, Marc. I was somewhat influenced by the fact that a Pale-bellied Brent (and a Black Brant!) had been reported from this location a few days previously, and this bird seemed a bit paler than the other juveniles and had more white edging on the wing feathers than the others. I think that you're probably correct, but will leave it open above. Many thanks for your help - - - Richard

  7. Despite the floor that was not even and the the meal that was not well becoming for Lindsay on the first evening it seems you had a wonderful time there. The English coast is most wonderful. I have been following the programme Coast on the BBC and I found it most wonderful. Also the coast with the fossil finds was in the programme and it was verry interesting to see. The Brand Geese is a beautyful bird and we see them also on our coast, that is most in The Netherlands. All in all I am glad you had a delightful few days.

    1. The British coast is quite special, Roos (I include Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, as well as England!). Your coast is very different there, but also very special. Lindsay and I would like to live near the coast, but it is quite expensive - you can't get much further from the coast in England than we are where we live!

      I hope that you are now fully recovered from your accident. My very best wishes - - - Richard

  8. I was going to try and be humorous with something like "any vacation is a good vacation". Then I started thinking about no sleep and upset stomachs and could find nothing remotely funny about either. We're so sorry and hope the overall trip will become a "positive" memory at some point in the future.

    Your photographs make us long to get over to our own bit of coast for a dose of salty air! I really like those images of moving water. Very nicely done!

    I'm of no help with your bird identifications, but it seems you have resident experts on the job! Since these are all species we don't see here, we really enjoyed viewing all the birds.

    Gini and I have been out and about quite a bit lately enjoying very pleasant weather and winter bird arrivals. We send our very best wishes that you and Lindsay have caught up on sleep and are both well.

    (I noted on your links column our blog post over two months ago being the most recent but there have several since then. Another "Blogger" user reported a similar problem with not receiving updates, but I am unsure how he resolved the issue. We thought, with your health, perhaps you may not have time/energy to visit, which is totally understandable. Just in case, thought we would let you know.)

    1. Dear Wally and Gini. We are both well, thank you, and the sleep has been well and truly caught up with. I'm delighted to hear that you're continuing to get out into nature.

      I was starting to get very worried about your lack of blog posts, and it never occurred to me that they were just not being fed through to my blog any more. I suspect that it is something to do with new privacy provisions at either your end or mine. I've had a look on my control panel settings and can see nothing that might have triggered the situation. I have now deleted the link to you blog and set up another one, but have no confidence that the problem is now resolved. If you find out how that other Blogger user sorted it (if he did!) please let me know.

      I will now spend a while catching up with your posts that I missed - it might take some time!

      My very best wishes to you both - - - Richard

  9. Very beautiful photos Richards, I love them very much. I like the coast. Have a nice sunday, greetings Caroline

    1. Thank you, Caroline, for your kind words - have a great week - - - Richard

  10. Hello Richard
    I am well aware of this problem with the beds in an accommodation, which can ruin your time. But also (half) awake, your trip has become a success, beautiful weather and great pictures ... the hawk between the rocks is great
    Greetings Frank

    1. As we get older, beds seem to get more uncomfortable, Frank. Long-gone are the teenage days when I could quite happily sleep on a hard floor if no bed was available! I wish I hadn't said that, as it has got me thinking about all the other things I'm no longer able to do - this 'getting old' thing has its drawbacks!

      Take good care - - - Richard

  11. Hello Richard,
    you do that very well to book a short holiday in a different environment. I see beautiful pictures of the teal and that is also a great beautiful duck. The little egret could also be nicely photographed. Beautiful pictures of the robin tapuit.
    Your views and landscapes are very beautiful and give a geod image of the area.
    Beautiful brent geese and the kestrel between the boulders is very special to see :-) I also love the beautiful lighthouse.

    Think carefully about yourself.
    Greetings, Helma

    1. I am very sorry, Helma - I had forgotten that I had not replied to this comment. Thank you for your visit and your kind words, which really are appreciated.

      I hope your weather is better than ours, although I suspect that it is similar! My very best wishes - - - Richard


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