Dorset Beauty – Warbarrow Bay – Unspoilt English Splendour
[By Stephen F Aylett]
Seeing that the majority of our people live inland, it is not surprising that the many charming nooks and coves that form our coastline, should provide the change required by those who seek an environment of contrast for their annual relaxation or periodical excursion.
The ease with which the travelling public may reach their destination is rendered more simple and swift , as each year increases the efficiency of our transport systems, so that to find a quiet retreat necessitates a journey almost as far west as Cornwall; the time and cost of such a distance eliminating a vast number of would-be holiday-makers. Peaceful corners do exist, however, and I want to take the reader, in imagination, to a little beauty spot on the Dorset coast, a small stretch of sea-shore, that remains as primitive and natural as it was in the dawn of civilisation, except perhaps, that the sea, in its tireless onslaught has penetrated further inland, washing out the least resisting of its obstacles. If you already know the place, a brief description of its charms should not be amiss, but if by chance the locality has not been brought to your notice, you are hereby charged to honour and obey the moral rules and regulations which preserve this scenic treasure from the modern Vandal.
So then, let us start from East Lulworth, taking the first turning past the Inn, if travelling from Wareham, or the first before, if coming from the west. This road gradually increases in elevation, until it reaches a gradient of one in seven, winding up the side of a tall hill, that at present shuts out all sight of the sea, presenting to the traveller a wall-like bank of grass on his right and the bramble covered slopes on his left, that stretch down and down to the valley below, forming a wonderful panorama of Dorsetshire countryside, with Lulworth Castle at the base, Wareham in the distance and a view that extends over several counties, becoming enhanced in loveliness as our height grows steadily upwards. The only diversions from our contemplation of this verduous landscape are the three gates, through which we must pass, barriers across the road, at irregular intervals, each one under the care of a voluntary attendant who opens and shuts them to facilitate our passage – thus earning the monetary recognition scattered from the windows of the moving car – the gates, being no doubt, the legal symbols of the right-of-way, through which we pass.
Reaching the summit, our road bears to the right and runs down the other side of the hill, to a little hamlet, known as Tyneham, and as we traverse this declining roadway, we observe at our feet, a perspective of our objective, Warbarrow Bay, being the nest-like erosion into the valley below, bounded each side by small hills, that eventually grow to the cliffs on the shore.
The Antidote to Hurry
Those of us who are confined to office or factory every working day of our lives, with no aspect beyond the piles of bricks and mortar that surrounds us and no sound but the clicking of typewriters, ringing of telephones, or throbbing of engines, learn to distinguish inside us a craving for the soothing amenities of nature in the raw, which alone can provide the antidote to commercialism and satisfy the very definite yearning of our mental requirements. After all, just as the hunger-stricken victim suffers from the need of physical nourishment, so that unknown component of our being, that we call mind or soul, insists upon the beauties of sea and landscape. We cannot yet measure the effects of light and colour upon our system, but we know, most certainly, that our brain reacts to them, leaving deep impressions and creating a powerful influence upon our emotions.
Thus, our glimpse of the ocean awakens our sense of the infinite, as we leave the car at Tyneham and pass through a little woodland, a tiny arcadia that is complete with stream, rockeries and footbridges, all in a pleasing and rustic manner, the path ultimately leading us to cultivated fields, by the side of which we pass along, the only remaining track that divides us from the sea.
We enter the bay, by the only passage, from the north-east corner and are at last confronted by the unique beauty of our quest, an enchanting little cove, that resembles Lulworth in all respects, excepting that its cliffs are not so high and its shape not quite so circular, but dissimilar in its one important feature of virginity. Here in the full of summer, the sea approaches in gentle progress upon the shingley beach (its only defect), washing the shallow basin of its semi-circular formation with a light blue water, that is pleasingly transparent and offering a particularly safe bathing place, to the few who know of its existence. The eastern side (assuming a circle to contain sides) is the only portion of the beach to be accessible, it being a stretch of piled up rocks of small dimensions, that just represent a whim of the tide in its method of orderliness, but our eye picks out, here and there, the bright hues of a silk sunshade that shelters into enterprising Eve who has manipulated the boulders, to gain a position of advantage at the water’s edge.
The white clay-like substance of the cliffs all round, stretch up to the grassy slopes above reflecting the sun’s rays, to the bay beneath – a fact that would account for the agreeable temperature of the water. The cliffs are so straight, in parts, that they form a rough right angle with the green of the grass at the top, giving one the impression that the bay has been cut out by the knife of a giant hand. There are one or two clefts in the precipices, which have been made by the continuous drainage of the adjoining land, each of which becomes periodically congested by the more crumbly substances of inundated soil.
The only residences are little homesteads that could be counted upon either hand, including the one construction that in any way suggests modernity. These little cots contain natives who were born in them and the visitors who share their humble abodes with their low ceilings, tiny windows and stone floors, during the holiday months are families that have done so from generation to generation, it being recognised that they or their children will continue to do so for all time. Camping and caravanning are strictly forbidden in all, leaving accommodation for the stranger an impossibility.
A Proper Guardian
The owner of the land obviously belongs to the type of landlord who, alas! are becoming few in number, as days go by. The type of person who guards the unspoiled features of his property with a passionate autocracy – and therein lies the secret of this flawless gem, amidst a portion of disfigured countryside – evident signs of his attitude being noticeable in the remains of the two coastguard cottages , the inhabitants of which insisted upon letting them to people, detrimental to the surroundings, with the result that he ejected the tenants and pulled down the cottages. The few existing structures possess the usual appurtenances of their kind, the piles of fishing nets, lobster pots, upturned boats and so on, lying haphazardly about, whilst a small lifeboat house stands by the beach, erected of grey stone slabs, the time stained surface of which seem to have a story of their own.
Looking out of the bay, we observe the passing of small craft, the sails of which seem to sway lazily to the feeble zephyr, a little to the right, or west, we may discern the faint outline of Portland Bill, while right out on the open sea, we catch occasional glimpses of ocean liners, appearing like toys in the distance.
A Sunshine Trap
Thus, as we are lucky with the weather, we are confronted with a picture that will for long stimulate our memory to joyful reflection. This rugged cove with its wealth of unaffected beauty, seems to veritably trap the sunshine which glimmers and sparkles on everything it touches, causing the gently flowing waves to flash a myriad beams of gold, that are lost to oblivion, as the fresh born ripple radiates its new-formed gleam of light, piercing in every direction an atmosphere of azure, the rich blues of sky and sea, that fill the background of our living canvas.
The lapping of the waters mingle to the sound of child laughter, and from above we hear the sharp shrill note of the seagull, as it drifts from cove to cove, along the shore, and amid this harmony of enchantment, we subconsciously detect the humming of a far off aeroplane, the sinister potentialities of which loses its menace, regarded from our blue lagoon, but reminds us, none the less, that only round the corner is the world of every day realities.
One other feature of our surroundings brings us to earth, as we notice the girls along the beach, who unblushingly change their ordinary attire for a costume of scant proportions, in which to romp and bathe in the inviting water. This dates our period to the twentieth century, the day of emancipation for the gentler sex and when we remember that less than a century ago our sisters were forbidden outside the door without a chaperon, which accompanying them to the water’s edge, would watch them decorously enter and leave it – the bathers costume’s enveloping every inch of person, from tip to toe – we realise that our women folk have progressed far along the road of reason.
Lastly, in respect of time, our thoughts might wander above to the cliffs, upon the edge of which are the ancient burial mounds, containing the long silent remains of our Stone Age ancestry, and incidentally, giving name to our dream cove, Warbarrow Bay.
Published by the Western Gazette, Friday 13 September 1935