Saturday, 9 April 2011

Memoirs of a Beach-Comber

If ever an 'Agatha Christie' type crime were to be committed on the beautiful Studland Bay beach, on the 25 mile-long Jurassic coast of Dorset, then this would be the centre of operations for investigations. It is the Studland Bay Police Station, and not - as you might have first thought - the place where all the local Hobbits go for a night on the ale.

It's amazing what gets washed up on Studland beach at high tide, and it's even more amazing what they do with it once discovered. This WW2 anti-ship mine was simply given a lick of paint and put on display on the lane which leads down to Middle Beach. I suppose they took the ton of high-explosive out of it before planting it on the verge, but I have no reason to believe that from the outside, and I didn't want to kick it too hard to see if it sounded hollow.

At the foot of Chesil Beach, there is a little bird-watching and wildlife centre, and among the exhibits is flotsam and jetsum which has washed up in the numerous bays of the area. Amongst them are a dolphin's skull (which I first thought was from a bird of gigantic size), parts of a Hurricane fighter which crashed into the sea during the war, pieces of a Barnes Wallis, 'Bouncing Bomb' which was tested in Portland bay and several 'messages in bottles' which have arrived over the years. One of these bottles contains a greeting from someone in Arizona, USA, and another commemorates the fact that a passenger of a cruise liner gave up smoking on board ship, but doesn't give any locations or dates.

Now this is where all the local Hobbits go for a beer at night in the Studland area - I know this because I was mistaken for one by a drunk tourist. I know he was drunk, because I am at least 4 feet taller than the average Hobbit, but just to make sure I am never embarrassed in public like that again, I have had my hair cut. That car is a 1940s Vauxhall, if anyone is interested.

The two windows directly above the apex of the entrance was H.I.'s and my room for the night, and had a good view of the bay and the ghastly Bournemouth way over on the other side. The lights looked nice when twinkling at night, though.

This pub is called , 'The Bankes Arms' and is named after the previous Lords who ruled it over the area since the Norman times. The Bankes family built Corfe Castle - a massive and sprawling ruin perched on top of an impossibly steep knoll a few miles inland. For some of you (you know who I mean) the name 'Bankes' is not unfamiliar, and I wonder if there are some land titles up for grabs in the area? Considering the average 10 foot by 10 foot beach-hut sells for about £200,000, then I think this is well worth looking into.


  1. I love Corfe Castle... didn't Dr Dolittle live there?

  2. That's the first I've heard of it. I know he spent some time in Castle Combe, near Bath - maybe that's what you're thinking of?

  3. Yes, of course. Puddleby was Castle Combe. You're right, I'm getting old!

  4. I'm glad they kept all those interesting bits washed up on the beach. The message in a bottle from Arizona and the other one from that cruise ship are amazing. When we were children, it used to be a big excitement to send a message in a bottle and watch the waves take it out. Don't know whether anyone ever recovered them - probably not! Been looking at your previous posts, Tom. The coastline looks unspoilt and beautiful!