One thing we are very lucky with in these Isles is our weather, its unpredictability continually changing the back-drop to our lives with some wild extremes. It also drives the wimps away to foreign climes, taking their moans and groans with them, leaving a bit more space for those content to enjoy what is on our doorstep. Today our doorstep extends 50 miles to the West, to Lyme Regis, where we head off for the dual purpose of a bit of shopping (there are two items on this shopping list-a piss pot and a smock) and because 45-55 mph winds are predicted for the day. As these are coming from the South West, backing South at times, it promises to be a lively seafront to walk along when we feel the need to escape the shops. There is the added bonus of it being a good 50 miles to drive twixt our garret and this tiny seaport, the road taking us there passing through some spectacular veiws-with the hills stretching inland on one side and the Engish Channel on the other. We are adding "shopping" to our list of reasons for heading to Lyme safe in the knowledge that this activity is only going to involve two shops, one of which is more like a museum of Britain between the years of 1900-1970. In one of these shops we know we can buy the smock, in the other we hope to find the piss pot.
Only it doesn't work out like that: the smock shop no longer stocks them, instead it now seems to be full of fleeces. Traditional Cornish Cotton gives way to recycled cola bottles. Boo, but never mind-it is a sign of the times and this minor disappointment is more than compensated by a visit to the seafront Antiques Centre-an Aladdin's Cave of all of those things from your childhood now half forgotten, but bringing forth instant memories as soon as you spot them. It is stuffed full of items that must have spent many decades in folks attics before finding their way here-branded tin containers for cough lozenges, bakelite telephones, art deco whimsy, flying helmets, metal signs, wooden toys and tin soldiers, a policeman's helmet (Tempting!) sheet music and old 78s, enamel bread bins, copper measures etc etc and-deep joy-a piss pot. £6.50, bargain! Deal done and that's enough shopping for one day.
We have a wander around the town-all Art Galleries and Fossil Shops it seems, but the lay-out of the narrow side streets, with their twists and turns making the buildings into a shantytown of crooked houses, is a relaxing place to explore. In the midst runs the River Lym, the houses situated to allow its passage to the sea, and alongside this still stands the Lepers Well where, 700 years ago a Leper Hospital was established. Nowadays,with the Hospital long gone, the area is set out as a garden and is open to non-Lepers. But our main destination is The Cobb, the harbour wall protecting the small anchorage, whose enigmatic presence has drawn folk to Lyme Regis for centuries and inspired writers and artists to capture its essence in their work.
The Cobb. It was created in the 13th Century or maybe earlier, nobody can agree on this one though-in the manner of "experts" everywhere-many claim to know for sure. It went through various incarnations until it arrived at what you see today in 1820. At one time important as one of Dorsets' four ports (the other three being Bridport, Weymouth and Poole) what it has now lost in its position as a seaport has been more than compensated by it retaining its character. From the earliest structure, built of wood, through to the later designs in stone it has taken the battering of the sea in its worst fury and, occasionally, fallen. It protects the town of Lyme Regis which built up around it and when The Cobb fell then parts of the town went with it. The doggedness of the folk who, undaunted, rebuilt both Cobb and town can be seen on this day on a much smaller scale in the few like ourselves determined to take a stroll along The Cobb. The strong winds are sending the seas crashing into the sea wall and some of these waves are being driven over the top and down onto the unwary with the force of a swimming pool falling out of the sky without warning. Fully grown adults are indulging themselves in a playground game of "Dodge the Waves" whilst their kids look on in bafflement before joining in the fun with enthusiasm. The Durogantes get through, and back, with just a comparatively light splattering from the spray and enjoy the spectacle of those whose timing was not so fortunate, resulting in a good soaking. Savage humour? Nah, its all in the spirit of fun and none are laughing more than those who copped a wave.