Touring Abbotsbury

Abbotsbury is a cute little chocolate box lid sort of town. According to our guidebook a lot of the streets were definitely NEVER meant for cars. Though not nearly as bad as such places as Shere, it does feel a little bit tight on most of the back roads. Bascially that means ALL of the roads.

Abbotsbury is famous for quite a few things. The one thing that really stands out is the swannery. This has been in existence for at least 600 years when the Benedictine monks of St Peter decided to corral them. The Fleet is the perfect spot for swans, apparently and the monks had to do little work to maintain the habitat. Interestingly Benedictine monks are strict vegetarians. They do eat fish, however. They ate swan as well which they justified by saying it tasted very strongly of fish. When the church decided to eat only fish on Friday I’m pretty sure the scriptures didn’t read “…fish and anything that tastes strongly of fish…”.

Feeding time is the best time to be at the swannery and, as unlikely as it sounds, we managed to get there with plenty of time to watch. My recommendation would be to arrive a good hour before feeding time (12 and 4 daily) so you can have a slow wander down to the feeding area.

The swans ready for lunch at the Swannery, Abbotsbury

A lot of people did the same as us and there soon gathered a sizeable crowd. The swans were gathering and with a bare five minutes to go, a mass movement of white feathered big birds started heading shoreward. When the two guys with the food arrived, the swans started going mad.

A warder gave us a chat about the swans and roughly how many there are (600) and what they eat (eel grass) and why the Canadian Geese are ostracised by the swans (they really hate them) while his mate took buckets of seed from a barrow and started throwing it at the swans.

They then invited any kids in who wanted to feed the swans. A Schumanian next to me said to the guy “My daughter, she doesn’t speak English, is ok” and the guy said “Doesn’t matter”. I assume the swans don’t understand any language but the free meals each day.

Fortunately the swans didn’t carry off any of the kids so it was then deemed safe for any adults to have a go. I was surprised that Mirinda didn’t as she has a thing for feeding birdies. Mind you, you wouldn’t want one of these landing on your hand to peck at a bit of cake!

Apart from the swannery, there is also this big pond which is a duck decoy. It is roughly square with these netted tunnels in each corner. The idea is for the ducks to see the pond, land on it then gradually (with the aid of tempting morsels of food) make their way along the tunnels until they reach a trap at the other end. Apparently it works quite well. They tried tempting the ducks with these specially trained dogs called pipers but it was just easier and cheaper to tempt them with bits of mouldy old bread. Sadly this effectively killed off the piper breeding trade.

I think it terribly important to report the existence of Bum Point Hide. Unfortunately you can’t just go there. You have to ask. I didn’t.

The Fleet, itself, is a shallow lagoon between Chesil Beach and the mainland and is a nature reserve. It’s an odd and narrow strip of water stretching the length of Chesil and reaching only 900 yards at it’s widest spot. The water is never very deep either. Although shallow, narrow and brackish, the lagoon supports an awful lot of animal and plant life. There’s over a hundred species of plants alone! And, of course, heaps of eel grass.

In the heart of Abbotsbury there’s a couple of duelling tea shops and a pub. All three promise Sunday roasts. The one we went into (the School House Tea Shop) had run out by 1pm – roasts started at 12. The tearoom was very full but we were shown into the completely empty overflow room, which had about six tables ready for use.

Abbotsbury High Street - the school house tea rooms

A couple walked in after us and were quite dismayed at the absence of a roast. She suggested jacket potatoes and he said, quite mysteriously, “Baked potato’s no good for you!” She mumbled something about the ploughman’s lunch but eventually they just sort of drifted out and back to the street, wishing us luck as they went. When the waitress returned, she didn’t seem too bothered that they had left.

Another couple came in and were roundly told off for sitting at a table in the overflow room when there were three free tables next door! They decided to head for the garden, though I think he wanted to go somewhere else. He also wished us luck.

We weren’t that bothered and had sandwiches. The staff were a bit rude, though not to us. Overall, the place had an air of exasperation about it. I do not recommend it!

By the way, the School house Tea Shop was NEVER a school house. It was actually the head teacher’s house from 1863. The school is next door and was built about a hundred years earlier.

People fly kites from the top of the barrow across from the window of our apartment. Very cute. We went for a stroll along the cliff path down to the shingle beach to watch the mad beach fisherfolk about their jolly fun. We even saw one catch a fish. I think it was the first fish he’d ever caught as he whooped and whistled like a loon, yelling out to everyone and pointing to the small silver thing on the end of his line.

I commented on the lovely geological stratigraphy at the rock face but Mirinda had turned off and walked away before the end of the first sentence.

Mirinda above the beach at Burton Bradstock at sunset

In Burton Bradstock there is a pub with a recommended restaurant. Deciding to give it a try, we popped down to find that it had run out of beer – that’s real beer not that fizzy rubbish – which seems to be something that’s following me around this year. All was not lost as the barmaid sold me a bottle of Old Peculiar which she was keeping for her dad. Sadly, I do not recommend the restaurant. In saying that, the crème brulee was excellent and made on the premises. On the whole, the food is fine for a Sunday pub lunch kind of place but hardly warrants either the recommendation or the big sign proclaiming itself a brilliant place for a meal!

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