Wednesday 25 June. We decided that today we would move the car and set out to leave Devon by the back door and ventured into Dorset, the next county along, coming into the town of Lyme Regis.
I remember fondly in the past, you parked your car in a car park and then when ready to leave you paid an attendant who calculated what you had to pay by how long you had been parked. These days no one is willing to employ people to do this when machines can do the job. But unfortunately they don't seem able to do exactly the same job so you have to decide before leaving the car how long you want to stay and pay up front. Most people err on the safe side and car parks get extortionate amounts from people who then find they have exhausted a place of all they want to see and leave before their due time.
We parked in an NCP car park which ended up costing eight pounds for two and a quarter hours. The fee covered a parking duration of between two and four hours so we did not pay for time that we didn't eat into a bit but even so... I'm sure you could park in central London cheaper than that!
Lyme was a Saxon town, mentioned in the Domesday book by the Normans and given its charter by King Edward I in 1284 at which point the word Regis was tagged onto the town's name.
We found this enticing display opposite a typical south coast pebble beach and I wondered about the shop owners' sanity until we found that further along on a corner of beach before the harbour there was a wonderful sandy swathe of beach. Maybe it was imported, maybe it's always been there, I'm not sure.
Buckets and spades were always metal when I was a lad. Spades hurt when you dug one into your toe by mistake...
The Cobb is Lyme's harbour. Famous for being the main lookout for The French Lieutenant's Woman and also mentioned in Jane Austen's novel Persuasion, it is Lyme's most literary spot.
The film with Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons was partly filmed in Lyme. That is indeed the Cobb harbour wall that features on the poster.
Looking from our spot closer to the harbour back towards the east we can see the blue cliffs of this bit of the Jurassic Coast in the distance. They are the Blue Lias cliffs, richly deposited with fossils of early dinosaurs and sea creatures with both ammonites, the large spiral shelled icky-looking creature and bits of the pleasingly ferocious-looking ichthyosaur, a sort of reptilian shark being found in seemingly abundance.
The ammonites in particular are so well represented that even numpties like me can find them lying on the beach, though you have to be a bit luckier to find one that hasn't been weathered to mere coloured lines on a stone! The town's lampposts incorporate the ammonite shell structure.
We sat on the corner of the sandy beach on a picnic bench provided outside Jane's Cafe and had a morning coffee. The cruet set made me wonder just how many portions of fish and chips must be eaten by the seaside every day? Answer: none - they are all eaten by people... Sorry - a momentary lapse...
Whilst we sat peacefully listening to the dog on the next table which clearly wanted to rip out the throat of the well-behaved dog at the table opposite, a class of school children walked in a long line to the sandy beach and deposited backpacks on the sand by the low wall. Then at a word from the teacher a mighty cheer split the air and they charged out onto the sand in small groups of friends in a brief frenzy of uncoordinated activity before the drawing boards and pencils came out for a more formal (if just as much fun) lesson.
We blanched a little at the mountain of salt and pepper that was emptied onto a plate of beans on toast at the next table. Yeuch!!! Half the pots emptied! But it wasn't quite to the taste of the perpetrator, for after a single mouthful, she reached for the pots again and emptied the other half... Happy heart attack... Surely the only thing you need to apply to baked beans is heat? Each to their own!
After our coffee and a walk around the Cobb area, we walked back along the seafront to the town. We had a look in the Lyme Fossil Shop. They had some wonderful examples of fossils and crystals with a full ichthyosaur fossil in a display case in a little grotto of a room reached by a short staircase.
This is Lyme Regis's Guildhall. Dating back to Stuart times it is built on the site of the town's lockup. Close to the seafront it can be hired for weddings, holding up to 50 guests according to the Lyme Regis website, 75 guests according to the Dorset For You website. Perhaps the extra 25 have to be capable of sitting on knees?
The theatre sadly had no performances whilst we were there. What do plate spinners, jugglers and ventriloquists do with their time these days, I wonder?
There's a little seating area with a couple of bench seats and an old cannon pointing out to sea on a high viewpoint at the foot of the hill. I had a sit down to watch the comings and goings whilst Fran went into a couple of clothes shops and craft type shops nearby. I'd have only got in the way or knocked something over... Safer to sit and watch the world go by.