Over half term, we spent a very relaxing few days in Dorset with all the family to celebrate my Dad's recent big birthday. The kind that ends in a zero. It was absolutely wonderful and I had been looking forward to it during all the long, busy weeks at work in September and October.
There were fourteen of us altogether and we rented a big barn conversion which came with a pool and games room - it was perfect. The grandchildren (six of them, aged between twelve and fifteen) had so much space to spread out and even managed to separate themselves from their phones for a short time.
Many of the adults also enjoyed the games room, although some found that they were not quite as good at pool or snooker than they remembered they were. Apparently the table was wonky.
The house was on a working farm (you had to be careful of the chickens when reversing) and the view from our bedroom window was utterly charming, with a shepherd's hut, alpacas and a donkey.
The local village was picture perfect, with old rectories and thick, wooden doors tucked away into old stone walls.
Despite it being one of our neighbouring counties here in Hampshire, I don't know Dorset very well. We mostly drive through it to get to Devon or Cornwall. Well, silly me, because it is beautiful with such a perfect mix of ruggedly dramatic coastline, rolling hills, tiny Miss Marple-style villages and towns with a tempting array of shops.
Some of the best parts of the trip (apart from all the big meals together in the house and family time) were:
Walking along the coastal path between Durdle door and Lulworth Cove.
Shaftesbury was lovely. I had really wanted to visit as it is home to The Botanical Candle Co. , who I have been following on Instagram and buying from for many years, so it was nice to visit their actual shop. It is also home to famous Gold Hill, or "Hovis Hill" as it is nicknamed, due to it featuring in a Hovis bread advert many years ago.
We spent such a happy few hours in Shaftesbury. As well as the shopping and exploring, we ate pasties for lunch and I found a bakery that sold Lardy Cake (a local sweet bread that is delicious and impossible to find anywhere now) so of course I had to buy some of that. Then, in a lovely waffles and gelato place I spotted this ice cream flavour, which I had never heard of before. Sea buckthorn - sometimes called seaberry - is a wild berry which grows along the coastline. It tastes like orange starburst, the lady in the shop told me, and she was right.
Naturally I had to try some of that, too. It was like a creamy sorbet, orangey and sweet but with a slightly sour tang too, which was completely delicious.
Finally, one of the unexpected highlights of the trip was Bovington Tank Museum. Now, I was not remotely interested in visiting but John and Angus were, so we went and it was absolutely brilliant. Not so much the rows of tanks, they all look the same to me, but the excellent WW1 and WW2 exhibits, especially the parts about local people from the area and the stories they could tell.
Angus was in his element, reading every single piece of information and availing himself of all dressing up opportunities. I love that he is still game to have his photo taken while looking ridiculous.
It was one of those breaks when, despite only being a couple of days, you do feel yourself start to relax. While there I finished a pair of crochet socks, sewed more of my patchwork quilt and mended my jeans for the thousandth time. I read a magazine and finished a book. Things I never get time to do at home.
We are all now very much hoping that my Mum wants to do something similar when she celebrates her own big birthday next year......