First there was camping. Then someone decided that was too primitive, fancied it up a bit and invented ‘glamping’. Well, I’ve just invented a new type of holiday (it’s an old type really, but keep using the new name and no-one will notice). I have invented ‘gramping’. Gramping is when you take your kids to visit their grandparents and everyone has a lovely time together, without once needing to remember how to assemble a tent, spend the night shivering in a sleeping bag, or trek through the dark at 2am to the toilet block.
This bank holiday weekend we went gramping and, as well as the great time spent with my folks who kindly put us up (and put up with us) we also had a day out to the Dorset coastline. Toby is currently into geology in a big way, so following on from fossil hunting at Bracklesham Bay the previous Monday, Lulworth cove seemed like the ideal place to look at how rocks have been folded and eroded to create coastal features. This used to be part of my old stomping ground when I worked down the road at a field centre at Osmington Bay, so it was really exciting to be able to introduce my own children to a place that I had guided so many other kids around. The geology of the area is really interesting, there’s a link here for more information.
Lulworth Cove on a bank holiday weekend may seem like madness given how popular a destination it is, but one of the benefits of none of us being particularly late sleepers is that you can get in and out of tourist destinations before most people have arrived by coach, or finished brunch in the nearby caravan parks and hotels.
We started off at Lulworth itself, parking for the day in the car park which fills rapidly to bursting point if you’re not quick. We admired the little cottages and then the kids saw the cove itself ‘WOW!’ gasped Ollie ‘I thought it was going to be boring, just sea, but that is amazing!’.
Our kids, you see, had never seen crystal clear sea – the sea near us is all highly turbid, like a mysterious brown soup. Ollie kept
shouting out that it was a tropical sea (at around 12 degrees C it had the look but not the temperature) and was fascinated to see seaweed fronds floating in the clear waters – the only seaweed he’s seen is the odd desiccated bits washed up on the strand line. I expected the boys to be interested in the curious way the rock layers twist and fold, but hadn’t considered how astonishing it would be to them just to see clear water.
After exploring the cove, we headed over the cliffs to the sea arch of Durdle Door. The walk was breath taking (literally on the steepest parts) and I was glad of my hiking pole to help me down the steps to the beach as it’s been ten years, two kids and a dodgy knee since I last navigated them. We continued the lesson on coastal formations, looking at the arch and the caves, then devoted the rest of our time to paddling and making ‘sand’ castles in the fine gravel of the beach. I think we have a different definition of hot weather though as we were sunning ourselves in shorts and splashing in the sea, while bemused looking tourists passed us wrapped up in winter coats, hats and scarfs!
Around lunch time we headed back up the steps and along the coast to Lulworth as the crowds finally descended. We enjoyed a look at the visitor centre displays, including more information on how the cove was formed and a peek at some colossal ammonites found nearby. Finally I bought a couple more geology guides from the gift shop for Toby’s folder, plus a cheeky ice-cream each. It couldn’t have been nicer that day and for anyone with an interest in geology or geography it is a must-see destination.
Notes: There are toilets at Lulworth and at Durdle Door, and car parking at both. Lulworth is reasonably accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs, Durdle Door is not accessible to wheeled vehicles due to the very steep path and steps to the beach. The path between the two is mostly fenced but vigilance still needed if you have kids or dogs with you. Usual vigilance of children near water also required. Finally, it’s tempting to sit at the base of the cliffs, but due to occasional rock falls this is extremely hazardous and caution should be exercised, including staying right away from the base of the cliffs. I have no affiliation with the Lulworth Estate, links are for information only, all images and opinions are my own.