Dorset, England, Europe and Middle East, Newsletter, Trip Reviews, United Kingdom

Dorset Staycation

16/11/2021This entry was posted in Dorset, England, Europe and Middle East, Newsletter, United Kingdom and tagged on by .
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Anthea Gerrie test-drives a Ford Transit Custom Nugget on a tour around England’s Jurassic Coast

A Ford Transit is not a vehicle you’d necessarily think of taking on holiday, but add a cooker, fridge, beds, loo, shower, awning, and pop-up roof and suddenly you’ve got a Nugget, a swish take on the campervan which, kitted out like the one we took to Dorset, comes in at a cool £70,000.

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Why Dorset?  Because Ford, who loaned the Nugget to test-drive for the weekend, have partnered with RNLI, Britain’s leading charity, to raise awareness of beach safety, so we were invited to hit a stretch of shoreline and practise staying safe.  Having heard so much about the Jurassic Coast but never having explored the historic and exquisitely beautiful county sandwiched between the New Forest and Devon beyond the odd visit to Bournemouth, it was Dorset, immortalised by Hardy, that we plumped for.

However, if you’re a van virgin, it’s worth noting you’ll have to learn to drive using the oversize wing mirrors – although there is, unlike a regular Transit, some rear vision.  Otherwise, it’s remarkably ordinary to drive, as long as you remember you’re piloting something in every way considerably bigger than a family saloon, so pick your parking spots carefully (ours had a wonderful reversing camera) and avoid narrow routes.  For what it is, it also packs a decent amount of oomph and gets far better mileage than might be imagined.

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Given that the cold had set in by October, we decided to make ourselves at home in the van – a great place to eat sandwiches in the rain and/or heat up a drink – without actually sleeping in it.   Our base was the Limestone Hotel, a comfortable inn high above the road in Lulworth Cove, one of the most accessible of the scenic stretches of Dorset coast before it becomes a question of scrambling down cliffs.

The Limestone has two virtues – it’s dog-friendly to the extent that it actually has a dog-friendly dining room, a snug we found cosier than the main restaurant and just a few steps from the two rooms pooch-owners can stay in with their pets, leading directly out onto a lovely garden.   The food is a cut above usual hotel fare, thanks to a chef-patron who cooks up a dream with continental panache.

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In contrast to a fine supper of seared Lyme Bay scallops – a must in Dorset – with baked sole to follow, lunch the next day was a mix of wild carrots and sea vegetables seasoned with peppery edible seedheads plucked from the roadside on a foraging walk with Dan of Foreadventure, who brought some homemade focaccia to go with, along with seaside produce pickled by his wife which we enjoyed laid out on a table beside the bay.  Lulworth Cove is idyllic, with its cafes overlooking a crescent of coast dotted with kayaks and is one of many places in the county to buy dedicated doggie ice cream – our retriever was impressed!

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Lulworth sits midway between the attractions of the western stretch of Dorset shoreline, the aforementioned Jurassic Coast, where fossil walks with an expert are possible, and the eastern stretch, encompassing the beautiful wild sandy beach of Studland and beyond it Mudeford, with its beach shacks,  confluence of currents, a quayside fishmonger selling local scallops and other mouth-watering seafood seven days a week, an RNLI lifeboat station you can visit and the New Forest shore just across the Hampshire border.

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But before heading east we went west to the Abbotsbury Swannery where many hundreds of elegant long-necked birds have been bred for a millennium.  Originally monks raised them for food, but happily, now they are free to just swim, feed and entertain their adoring audience; for the best views, come at 4pm feeding time to see them dancing and diving in the lagoon.   On the way back we stopped in Weymouth and were enchanted by this historic town of two waterfronts lined with buildings dating back to before the 18th century when the town preceded Bath as the place for high society to gather. In fact, it was a prosperous Weymouth entrepreneur who foresaw the need for a dedicated spa resort and used his wealth to transform Bath into a handsome, distinctly upscale social hub.

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Studland is where we learned beach safety tips for both man and dog, courtesy of Gavin Muldoon and his wife Jeanette, trained canine behaviourists who have imparted their knowledge to a host of celebrities and their pooches.   Our golden loved stepping up onto the verandas of beach shacks in order to grab a tiny treat,  the exercises Dan taught us to do with our ageing pet to help strengthen his core and keep his leg joints mobile.  We learnt to make sure he did not swallow seawater when paddling and the golden rule of never turning our backs on the sea, with or without dog in tow; this stretch of coastline is exceedingly tidal.  Another tip is to remember that dog-friendly beaches are so stimulating to pets because of the information overload they create through interaction with other pooches, they need a couple of quiet days to recover from all the social excitement.

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Studland is also home to The Pig on the Beach, a relaxed but sumptuous and fashionable dog-friendly hotel that does not allow pets in any part of the delightful, shabby-chic greenhouse dining room.  This is where the Nugget came into its own; we may not have wanted to sleep in it with winter coming on, but the dog considered it home within his first 12 hours in the spacious living area behind our seats and nested happily Inside sleeping while we dined on kitchen garden food with plenty of piggy bits, all grown on the premises or sourced within no more than 25 miles.

Ford has sold more than eight million Transits since its 1965 launch and they’ve served many a purpose, from being every rock band’s first tour bus to being the go-to choice for all budding White Van Men.  Now you can add to that being a hugely adaptable, comfortable mobile home away from home which you can take just about anywhere.


Tell Me More About Staycationing In Dorset

Limestone Hotel Pig On the Beach Abbotsbury Swannery

Dog training and beach safety sessions Foraging sessions Fossil walks


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