Dorset Trip

The trip started with a meeting at the boat shed for the loading of two cars with six boats plus kit and the obligatory fish and chips before setting off to Dorset.

Arriving at the campsite (we only went wrong once), Simon and Gwyl led both cars on a grand tour of the Steeple Lease Farm before settling on a site we had passed about twenty minutes previously on the way in. During the 'Tent Building in the Dark' event, the head torches had to be quickly discarded as bugs aiming for the light generally arrived in the eyes and mouth of the wearers. However, help was on hand when Simon blew one of the bulbs of the lamp - this acted as a much larger target for the kamikaze creatures - and the tent was successfully erected. After a short discussion, the second tent was also put up initially as a kit store but it ended up being home for Kate and Niamh. In the other tent, Jen, Simon and Gwyl all shacked up in the master bedroom, with Emily having the living-room to herself.

An interrupted night's sleep was had by most with reports of loud sheep, loud music and a drunken convoy of revellers heading to the facilities.

Saturday morning started way too early with alarm clocks all round. Choice of breakfast was interesting all round but Simon won hands down with meatballs and pasta, although Kate's cereal with strawberry milk came a close second. We finally made it to Swanage Bay by 10 o'clock to meet with Helen and Glynn, who travelled down for the day. By this time, the clouds had cleared and a beautiful day was on the cards. Once Gwyl and Simon played around under the pier, we all headed towards the Old Harry Rocks, taking the time to explore the caves along the way. Passing speedboats, diving boats and ferries provided some gentle surfing waves to play in, with the occasional diver popping up.

On reaching the Old Harry Rocks, most of us went around the fingers, but Gwyl and Simon just had to go through the gaps. Thankfully, Simon was able to rescue Gwyl who had jammed himself into a very tight spot. We pulled up at the base of one of the larger fingers for lunch with half the team instantly finding several things to climb up, around, through or over. After lunch, the rest of the small beach was explored. At this point it was very useful having a resident geologist on the trip, with an entertaining and brief lecture on the two schools of thought on chalk formation provided by Kate. There was even a (very distant) display by the Red Arrows who were exhibiting at an airshow down the cost.

Heading back, the more experienced paddlers headed further out for the larger waves to try some surfing, while Emily and Niamh stayed closer to shore. The paddle was rounded off by ice-cream for all in Swanage and a trip to Jurassic for more gas for Simon's lamp.

Back at camp, Emily went hunting for wood for a campfire and managed to sneak these back to the tents without being caught by the farmer, who was doing the rounds selling pre-chopped firewood. Helen and Glynn joined us for a barbeque and Glynn even managed to swap his Dr. Pepper for a beer at some point. Gwyl did a sterling job on the barbeque despite heckling from the audience. Once the campfire was lit, we all gathered round for a review of the day's photographs, prepared by Gwyl on his lovely, new netbook (which he insists was only brought on Simon's instruction). This was followed closely by a short nap for everyone, although that may have been because we were all lying down in front of a fire, and some of us were already in our sleeping bags. Absolutely nothing to do with the many, many wonderful photographs shown.

After a final trip to the 'facilities', most of the ladies returned to find the two gentlemen discussing the best way to move a still-sleeping Kate to her tent without waking her up. As it turns out, heaving her onto the groundsheet and dragging it across the field didn't really work. Everyone slept very well the second night, although Jen reported hearing drunken renditions of 'Hey Jude' amongst others during the night.

Sunday morning was much more relaxed with no alarm clocks in use. Breakfast was another round of weird and wonderful, with Simon repeating his meatballs and pasta, and Kate repeating her strawberry milk with cereal. Gwyl partook of some leftover burgers from the night before which then repeated on him for several hours.

Once the tents were packed up, water bottles refilled and kit collected from a variety of creative drying points, we again hit the road, this time for Poole harbour. The drill was familiar by now so we were all paddling by midday. After a vote between going around the Brownsea Island nature reserve versus going for ice-cream, the island won. The sun was as warm as the previous day and the higher winds meant the clouds were clearing fast. There was a lot more water traffic out of Poole harbour - body boarders, wind-surfers and sail boats, even a kite-surfer, but we navigated safely through to the island.

Paddling around the island was a mixture of quite choppy and turbulent through to mill pond calm. There was some confusion around the ferry terminal as the presumed harbour master waved us into the port so he could tell us to move out of the way. Still, this gave us the opportunity to work through the heavy waves in the area. Since the island is mostly a nature reserve, the coastline was completely protected from landings of any type. However, about half way around, there were some small public beaches and we managed to land for lunch on one that was unoccupied, probably because there was a huge tree hanging precariously from the cliff. We ignored it and lunched close enough to get a good view if it crashed.

There was another geology lesson after lunch when the formation of sandstone was discussed with some wonderful examples provided for show and tell. Some minor discomfort was caused in the hunt for a suitable natural bathroom as the beach was completely open to both the water and the cliffs above, complete with resident audience.

As the paddle continued around the island and we headed back into Poole Harbour, we had a seal's -eye-view of a WWII bomber plane as it circled overhead. Our last stretch of open water before reaching shore was hampered as we gate-crashed a regatta and several races in every direction. The route back involved several short and fast dashes between buoys until we finally all made it back and celebrated with ice-cream for all and tea for Emily.

Throughout the two day trip, much discussion was had between Jen and Kate on how many calories they had used up according to their new heart monitor gadgets. Gwyl had to absent himself from this little competition as the strap produced a mark suspiciously like a bra-strap around the mid-chest area, not a good look for any male, and especially not given Gwyl's reputation for stripping off.

Once the kit was rinsed off and stowed away, we all headed north for Oxford. Unfortunately, the traffic home did not match the rest of the trip and both cars endured one long traffic jam after another most of the way home. This will not deter us from doing it all again at the first available opportunity.

For those of you interested, Jen did eventually meet her weekly target of calories burned and her little wrist monitor gave her this week's little trophy on the screen. Go Jen!

- Niamh

Glynn and Helen's pictures: