Staring at my cat neurotically tapping a crumpled chocolate wrapper across the living room floor, as the rain hammered against the window and an obscure film murmered on in the background, I felt slight despair. For everyone but myself, it seems that Christmas time is a holiday period to relax, nap, eat a lot, watch films and generally hibernate. For someone, like me, however, who hasn’t managed to stay in their pyjamas past 10:00am, ever, the winter break can be slightly depressing. Amongst the discarded wrapping paper, empty wine bottles and gifted toiletry sets that I’ll never use, I sat longing for sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. And it was as the cat retched up the now partially consumed chocolate wrapper, that I took decisive action.
Rousing myself from the corner of the sofa, I opened my laptop and had a quick search of seaside breaks in the UK. Having visited Dorset earlier in the year, I’ve been longing to return, and so it seemed like a good place to begin. A mere fifteen minutes later, it was booked. In 48 hours, I was off, with my slightly reluctant fiance in tow, for a rather wintry, rainy and blustery break along the Jurassic coast of England, and I felt jubilant.
The Jurassic Coast coast stretches 95 miles from East Devon to Dorset (along the Southern coast of England), and is as ragged, wild and beautiful as you might expect from a coastline that’s been in existence since dinosaurs once stomped this earth. I chose to stay in Lulworth Cove, a famous spot along the Jurassic coast and home to its equally famous neighbour, Durdle Door; a pebble beach only accessible by foot with a limestone arch dominating the shoreline.
On New Year’s day we rose early (long are the days that New Year’s Eve entailed a late night) and after a two hour drive, we arrived at our beautiful little hotel, the Limestone Hotel. Set on a hill, overlooking the quaint thatched cottages of Lulworth, the cottage hotel gently pumped wood smoke out of the chimney and its Christmas lights twinkled gently against a very grey and misty morning. Tumbling out the car, I sucked in some fresh air, muttered something about the great outdoors, and strode up the hill, walking boots swinging in a little plastic bag alongside me.
It wasn’t long before I had fully unpacked, donned my walking boots, an anorak, a woolly hat and intensely studied a worn map that gave tips on popular hikes in the area. Finding what I was looking for, the route to Durdle Door, we were off, into the great outdoors, far, far away from my living room sofa and sad looking Christmas tree.
The hike up over the hill and along the coastline to Durdle Door is quite a testing one, more so when you have hurricane strength winds (I exaggerate) and pelting rain, but I was in my element. The walk took us half an hour, taking us along cliffs high above the crashing waves below before winding down the steep steps to the famous pebble beach. Surprisingly, the beach was teaming with over-excited, sea-soaked dogs; their owners huddling together against the salty surf, children daring the waves to catch them, and even the odd selfie-stick couple. When you’ve lived in England long enough, you realise you have little choice but to embrace the weather, come wind or shine.
Durdle Door itself is one of nature’s wonders, eroded perfectly to create a limestone arch, 100 meters or so from shore. As the waves crashed around it, it was an impressive sight, despite the weather, and I allowed myself half an hour sat amongst the pebbles to fill my dusty lungs with salty sea air. It was excellent training for my Arctic trip at the end of January.
Despite my now wind-swept hair gathering into a giant knot atop my head, snot whipping my face, and my knickers increasingly damp from the persistent rain, I was feeling satisfied and the irritable mood that had been following me around the last few days was lifting. And so, with aching legs, we made our way back across the cliff tops to our hotel, where a log fire, thick hot chocolate and board games awaited us.
As night quickly drew in (i.e. the middle of the afternoon) I cocooned myself by the crackling fire to play endless games of chess and checkers, before taking a bubble bath and eating in the restaurant’s extra cosy restaurant. Bed time was an extravagant 10pm, worn out by fresh air and 44% incline cliff walking, I had one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long while, snuggled in a big duvet as the rain continued to batter the window outside and the sound of crashing waves could be heard in the distance.
The next morning we were treated to a full English breakfast, and spent a lazy hour by the fire again playing more board games before donning our walking boots once more to explore Lulworth Cove. This beautiful horse-shaped beach was used by the Germans as a key navigation point during WW2, and is a bustling seaside spot during the summer. As we stomped down the hill to the beach, the sun was emerging behind the bloated grey clouds, and people were gathered to have a spot of pebble throwing fun. In a very British way, we all queued politely, waiting our turn to throw our chosen pebble into the sea froth, before a small toddler made a bid for freedom into the oncoming waves, and the game was quickly cut short.
The cove is home to a few restaurants and cafes, classic seaside souvenir shops and a fossil museum (geeky excitement). We had a potter around some of the shops before taking a walk up to the top of the cliffs to view the cove from above. The sun was warmer now, and the wind slightly less hurricane like, so we took a seat on a bench over looking the sea and discussed our hopes and dreams for 2016.
Before long, home time loomed, so we treated ourselves to a huge slice of Victorian sponge, in a cafe by the sea, before dismounting from our walking boots and making the long journey home. It may have only been short and sweet, but 24 hours away from home, with long walks, crackling fires and time away from the digital world, did me the world of good. Who says you need a tropical beach to feel relaxed.