On Chesil Beach

I thought twice about the title of this page, having found Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name quite dire! But what the hell, that’s where I was on a cold, windy but very sunny spring day.

We started off at the beach car park and walked along the crest of the shingle bank as far as we could. Our way further east was blocked at the line of tank traps you can see at the top of the page. It’s just at the west end of The Fleet, where the famous Swannery is found – you can see two inmates scouting for a country residence away from the suburbs on the opposite bank.

The boardwalk at the car park first captured my fancy, with the contrast between the lichened and weathered boards and the polished flint pebbles in the gaps. (The pebbles are almost perfectly graded from the Portland end to West Bay and beyond, getting smaller and smaller the further west you go. Here at Abbotsbury, they are just right; easy to walk on and not providing grit in your beach picnic when the wind gets up. I spent many happy hours as a child on holidays, sorting through the treasury of smooth warm nuggets in all sorts of colours while Mum and Dad read the papers or snoozed, and my sister got her wellies full of seawater!)

You are exhorted not to walk on the landward side of the bank to protect flora and ground-nesting birds, so we were careful not to stray, though I couldn’t resist creeping carefully up to a couple of isolated patches of sea campion and purple seakale. Later in the year, I’d hope to see sea beet, horned poppy, sea bindweed, mallow and several other species, and the kale will have huge foamy heads of white flowers.

Down by the sea, the tank traps are smooth and well-worn – no prizes for guessing where they got the ballast from!

On the walk back to the car, there was the inevitable tangle of fishing line and hooks (it’s a popular angling spot), bottle caps, scraps of fishing net etc. to pick up – I always mean to bring a container to carry it and end up with both hands uncomfortably full of rubbish. I did find a couple of tiny sea-fans, much smaller than I’ve seen before. There were two trawlers circling not far offshore, so perhaps they knock them off before they’ve had a chance to grow big.

We finished our trip with a welcome cuppa and flapjack at the café in Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens.

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, West Elworth, Dorset