I had a brilliant break last week in Dorset. I had not been to Weymouth since just before the Suez Crisis and at that time I visited on an Aircraft Carrier which we anchored out in the bay. The town at that time was delightfully unspoilt.
On this occasion my chum and I were sea fishing from a traditionally built fishing boat called Atlanta and staying at a local guesthouse. The Skipper was Dave Pitman who has fished these waters for over 40 years and it showed. With his gifted guidance and fish-finding skills the fishing was, to mix metaphors, like shooting fish in a barrel.
Unusually and going against the long tradition of superstitious sailors who believe that having a woman on board ship is bad luck and made the sea angry. Dave has a lady crew member called Dee who was as skilful as the Skipper and as well as making up suitable rigs for each different type of fishing and teaching the less practised anglers correct methods. To watch her gutting and fishing our catch with her flashing filleting knife was a sight to behold. To finally convince this old salt’s superstition, the seas, far from being angry were more like Coleridge’s “Painted Ocean”.
Enough of fisherman’s tales! We stayed at The Florian Guest House, run by our skipper’s wife Sue, and which boasts a well deserved four AA star rating. It was very clean, comfortable and a very friendly place to stay and one that we can certainly recommend.
We managed to pick the very best weather this year, with great fishing and a nice place to lay our heads. We were however somewhat disappointed with Weymouth itself. Parking is a total nightmare, very expensive and over restricted, with parking officials who must be on performance bonuses or commission. I managed to collect a £50 fine for overstaying my time, using a disabled bay with a correctly displayed badge, by 35 minutes.
Mea Culpa, I paid the fine in time to qualify for a 50% reduction, but listening to the fishermen and local residents they are all up in arms at the way the local council are abusing their powers by using their visitors as a cash cow. It makes me question if they treated their visitors at last year’s Olympic sailing venue with equal disdain, maybe that very honour gave them the taste for a feeding frenzy. Quite an Olympic Legacy!
The town itself has turned into an overcrowded, somewhat scruffy place that seems to attract a similar crowd not dissimilar to the visitors attracted to the worst parts of Magaluf with marauding packs of teenagers of separate sexes mostly in a loud alcoholic haze. Add to this crowd, an above average number of young single mums with their offspring in tow making it an uncomfortable place for couples with young families or old farts like us. Not at all an attractive place any more.
There was worse to come – my chum had not seen very much of Dorset before, so we joined the ‘grockles’, to have as look at some of the much vaunted beauty spots, Lyme Regis, to Swanage, Durdle Door, etc. all overcrowded and down at heel, very neglected with overpriced tawdry tourist tat. Lulworth Cove, a place I remember fondly, topped the lot. I can forgive the crowds and the expensive parking after all it is sunny July and a much publicised attraction. I have been here a couple of times before and both times saw it at its very best because I skippered a yacht and moored in the cove.
This time we fought out way down the lane with the crowds, squeezing past huge over-spilling rubbish skips, cottage gardens littered with detritus from overflowing wheelie bins. We even saw ducks on the once pretty stream pecking at paper litter. More shops of cheap tat – no belay that, it wasn’t cheap it was expensive tasteless tat. It’s alarming what attracts the tourist. An ice cream cost me £3.60 which at least was delicious if overpriced.
To sum up Lulworth Cove – I thought that had all the charm of a rotting teddy bear by a kiddie’s graveside. Perhaps if I am to continue to visit Dorset I should avoid the tourist season, although the schools had not broken up, and even better continue to visit by yacht.
A “curate’s egg” is a phrase used to describe something that is at least partly bad, but with some arguably redeeming features.
Weymouth will not improve until those great public thieves called a council get out of the habit of picking the pockets of everyone who has a pocket. I can tell you that once the tourists stop coming it will be too late.