Things to Do When You’re In LA But Long to Be in Dorset – Dorset, England

Things To Do When You’re In LA But Long To Be in Dorset
Dorset, England

Chesil Beach

Style overlooking Chesil Beach from St. Catherine’s Chapel in Abbotsbury

Here I am again sitting in front of the TV watching Wimbledon. Pete Sampras
is loosing! Wait, that can’t be right! And something else is wrong. I
can’t see the lovely Dorset countryside outside my window. All I can see is
a sun baked patio in the San Fernando Valley. No wonder it seems strange.
This is the first year since 1983 that I haven’t spent the whole month of
June and half of July in Dorset.

My home in Northridge is in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of LA. At one
time it was known as “the bedroom of Los Angeles” since most of the people
living here worked over the hills in the LA. area. After World War II
thousands of new homes were built, in this wide valley of orange groves and
walnut trees, that were easily affordable for Veterans on the GI Bill. My
husband and I and our ten month old son moved here in 1953. We didn’t even
have a telephone for the first year because the lines didn’t run this far
out. We felt like real pioneers. Today the Valley is heavily populated and
has much industry of its own. We have seven major shopping malls, a large
university, two junior colleges, countless movie theaters and dozens of
supermarkets. It’s a nice place to live, but oh how I miss Dorset.

In order to survive until next June when I will be in Dorset again I’ve had
to devise several methods to keep in touch with England’s prettiest county.
Thank goodness for the Internet! The first thing I do each morning, after
rushing through a minimum of housework, is to log on and exchange e-mails
with my friends who are lucky enough to live in Dorset. My friend Joyce who
lives in Corfe Mullen has been very good about sending me a negative thought
about Dorset each day during my usual visiting period. It’s usually about
the weather: “You wouldn’t like it here today, it’s pouring rain and
freezing. I wish I were in LA.” My friends the Hunts in Wyke Regis will
say: “We’re sitting in the conservatory having tea and thinking of you. The
red valerian is out and it’s beautiful this year.”

Weymouth harbor

Weymouth harbor

After the e-mails I click on to the BBC and listen to Radio 4 and The Women’s
Hour while I read the Dorset Echo newspaper. I read the local news from in
and around Weymouth and Dorchester and sometimes click over to the main site
in Bournemouth. I know all about the woman who tried to poison her husband
and then tried to kill him by putting a plastic bag over his head. I
marveled at the way an unemployed man from Portland was able to win £l,254
using his own intricate system of placing 3 penny bets. I read about
the disgraced Dorchester doctor jailed for swindling the NHS out of £799,087
over a period of seven years, and I was amazed to learn that Cecil
Beaton’s former home near Tollard Royal is up for sale with a price tag of £9
million. The Dorset Echo site is very user friendly. I can browse
around and read what’s going on all over Dorset. It even has a device that
gives me a 3D tour of Weymouth.

After the Dorset Echo I go to the Dorset Life magazine website to see if it
has a new lead story. The monthly changeover here usually happens a few
weeks before I get my copy by snail mail. The site doesn’t have the complete
magazine, just a few of the main topics, so there’s still plenty to read when
the magazine finally comes in the mail. It takes between six and ten weeks
to arrive.

Fortunately, I brought the Dorset Art Weeks guide home with me last year.
Many of the listed artists and craftspeople have websites I can visit. I can
send e-mails and order from the more than two-hundred artists listed. I’m
very tempted to order another ceramic sculpture from Furze and Rosemary Swan.
I love the one I have of a little piglet setting on top of an apple tree and
I’m sure I could use another of Sheila Sanford’s lovely watercolor prints. I
like her address at: Sheepwash Cottage, Matravers, Upholders, Bridport. I’m
glad Dorset Art Weeks only happens every two years. At least I’m not missing
it this year. The nicest thing about it is that it provides links that
can be followed to dozens of other intriguing Dorset websites.

Red Valerian

Red Valerian

My favorite is John Allen’s Images of Dorset. He provides over 1200 digital
photographs illustrating life in the County of Dorset. “They are grouped by
date, location and event to provide a virtual tour through places and seasons
that together give Dorset its distinctive character and make it one of the
most attractive counties in England.” I would have said the most attractive
county in England. There are many different ways to dip into and enjoy the
collection. I can spend hours on this one site. Maybe after all of these
years I can at last learn the names of a few of Dorset’s wild flowers. Until
John’s site with his lovely wild flower images I could only recognize cow
parsley and red valerian. Now, thanks to John, I even know about the very
cunning way the Early Spider Orchid uses to attract a certain bee species so
that pollination can take place. I didn’t know flowers could be so sneaky.

I spend a lot of time on the Internet enjoying many websites hosted by
professional photographers and I’m sure that John Allen’s is among the very
best. He’s learned the rather tricky craft of using digital technology to
record his images and produces remarkably sharp photos that never have any of
the blur that so many otherwise beautiful pictures on the Internet have. He
provides complete information about the cameras he uses and instructions
about how to achieve the near perfection he does. All of his images can be
viewed full size by clicking on the thumbnail. Because John makes monthly
additions to his collection it’s always exciting to see what new part of
Dorset he has captured for me to see here in the San Fernando Valley. He has
promised to take some shots of my favorite spot: the little valley on the way
to Old Girt Farm near Evershot.

By clicking on a link from Dorset Images I found: Nigel J. Clarke Publications where I can order books, maps, and guides to Dorset and South
West UK. The publications cover local walks, paleontology, Dorset’s
smugglers, and they tell all about the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685. I can
order Smugglers Tails of Dorset and Devon, Lyme Bay Fossils, or a book about
that Rude Man of Cern Abbas. The list seems endless. It even offers a book
called Adolph Hitler’s Holiday Snaps, two volumes which cover most of the
south of England containing Luftwaffe reconnaissance photography from 1939 to
1942. There’s another called The Battle of Britain Over Dorset – The Story
of the Spitfire Base at Warmwell During World War II. I think I’ll get that
one for my husband.

Evershot Cottage

Evershot Cottage

This ordering of books published only in England over the Internet can be
very dangerous. Every year when I’m in Dorset I pack up and mail home one or
two large post office boxes with between fifteen and twenty paperback books
in each. Postage is a bit pricey but well worth it because I like these
authors so much. Authors like Margaret Forster, Libby Purves, Angela Huth,
Lilian Harry, Ruth Hamilton, Clare Francis, Elizabeth Jane Howard and
sometimes Mary Wesley. If they are published over here I can’t find them.
The dangerous part is that now I can find new books by these same authors on
the Internet, books that I would normally find in Dorchester at Ottakars’ or
WHSmith. I can order them on line direct from the bookseller! The catch is
that the postage from the UK to LA is even more expensive than when I mailed
them myself. I have twenty hovering right now in my shopping
cart in that no man’s land of ‘saved to buy later.’ All it would take to
send them on their way is one simple click. The temptation is great. I
don’t know how long I can hold out.

I don’t remember where I was clicking from when I suddenly found myself at
David Strange’s Worth Hill Observatory. It’s situated on the South Dorset
Heritage Coast. He’s an arable farmer by profession but has been an amateur
astronomer for thirty years. The web pages on his site show digital images
and photographs taken with a Starlite Express CCD camera mounted on the site’s
main telescope – a 50 cm f/4 Newtonian. (I’m sure it’s very good even if I
don’t know exactly what it means). The
important thing is that it’s a wonderful site for astronomers, amateur and
professional, with links to many other astronomy websites.

Sooner or later I was bound to type ‘THOMAS HARDY’ in a search box just to
see what I would come up with. Amazing! After a few clicks through a
biography and lists of his work I came to pictures of a meeting of The Thomas
Hardy Society. One page was filled with pictures of members enjoying
refreshments after a meeting. I thought I recognized two faces in the crowd.
I clicked on the thumbnail and there, large enough to fill my whole screen,
were my friends Hazel and John Hunt from Wyke Regis! Hazel was just about to
take a bite of a tempting looking cake.

Mapperton Gardens

Mapperton House and Gardens is a brilliant UK Travel and Heritage Guide. If you find
this you really don’t kneed anything else. It covers all of England, Wales
and Scotland. David Ross is the webmaster and has put together a collection
about Ancient and Roman Britain as well as Anglo Saxon England, Medieval
England, The Tudor Age, The Stuarts, Georgian England and the Victorian
Period. He explores thousands of current attractions all over Britain and
provides information about cost of entry, opening times, instructions and
maps showing how to find the attraction plus how to find the best nearby
accommodation. But of course it’s his section on Dorset that I always head
to first. When I type ‘DORSET’ in David’s search box the website comes up
with 166 choices about Dorset. A few of these are my own stories that have
appeared in Dorset Life magazine but most of the others have intriguing
titles that invite investigation.

It was on a link from David’s site that I discovered The Country Bus: – “a historic and nostalgic look at country buses – mainly in the county of
Dorset.” Since I consider myself an expert on Dorset’s country buses I was
fascinated. It’s Peter Roberts’ site. When he was a child Peter dreamed of
running his own bus company. He’s spent most of his adult life working in
the bus industry. He invites the audience to “click on a link and take a
pleasant ride with him down and along the winding lanes of nostalgic memory…”

I was particularly interested in his story about the Blandford Bus Company
that was started in 1985 by John Cummings with just one bus, but was forced
out of business just five years later by a much larger bus company. One of
my nicest bus rides was on that bus with John in 1986. He picked me up in
Iwerne Courtney in front of the Cricketer’s Arms while on his way to
Salisbury. His was the cleanest bus I’ve ever been on. The windows sparkled
and the floors and seats were spotless. John was very pleasant with all of
his ladies on their way for a morning of shopping. He made sure every one of
them was back aboard when it was time to return. He helped to load and
unload all of their shopping bags and made sure when it was time for each to
alight that they made it back safely to their front doors. I’m so sorry he
couldn’t keep running his little company. It was a pleasure to ride with

Comfy Lux bus

Comfy Lux bus

Through the years I’ve had many rides on the A. Pearce & Co. buses of
Cattistock so I sent Peter a snap I took in 1986 of a Pearce Comfy Lux
Bedford as it pulled into Evershot. I am delighted to see that he has put it
on his Country Bus website. I’m glad I’m not alone in appreciating these
humble little country buses. They are national treasures that most tourists
don’t even know about.

These are just a few of the Dorset wonders I’ve found on the Internet.
There’s bound to be dozens, maybe even hundreds more. It’s going to be a
long, hot summer. If I can’t spend part of it in Dorset, I can at least go
exploring on the Net to see how many I can find. I’ll have plenty of time
but I can’t spend all of it at the computer. I think I’ll go through all of
my photos from nearly twenty years of visits and pick six or seven to have
enlarged and framed. If I hurry I can do it before Wimbledon is over. If I
can’t see Dorset out of my window I’ll hang my photos near by. There’s more
than one way to skin a cat.