Swanage and Poole Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
After struggling up a steep hill, passing some llamas, and going through Kingston, we entered Swanage. The bus kicks off at the transport interchange, which is a few bus stops next to the steam train railway station. And not only is it a train you can ride on, but there seemed to be all kinds of happenings happening: turns out for Armed Forces Day a whole bunch of stuff was going on.
Two lasses dressed in 40s uniforms were singing old tunes on the platform - Pardon Me Boy, Is That The Chattanooga Choo-Choo? and the like. We bought some water then explored, discovering some ace old railway poster advertisements and some engines parked up which, hang on, you're allowed in! Exciting. But first we went in the Scenery Van, a working van still used by the royal signals who were celebrating their 30 year anniversary of partnership with the Swanage steam railway. with a variety of photos of soldiers plus a display of conspiratorial news reports about the death of Diana, Princess of hearts. Huh. Then we watched a train come in, and queued up to pretend we were driving a steam train. Fuck me it was hot in there, what with them actually stoking the fire with coal and stuff.
But, enough train geekery. We're by the seaside and haven't seen the sea yet, so wandered through the town being surprised by how lacking in bleak it was. And then, hang on, here's the beach. With yet more stuff happening - a boat race. The road was closed and loads of people around, though not unpleasantly crowded. We walked behind all the goings on and past the fish and chips and ice cream salesman, and the beach huts, to reach the short pier midway along the beach. We took photos of gorgeous views and men in speedos and marvelled at just how clear and clean the sea looked. Really? This is British seaside?
Back along the sea front and past the Mowlem building, a horrific 60s monstrosity and home to what seems to be the only seafront booze house plus a cinema, theatre, tea room. Eurgh. We didn't visit, going beyond it and a row of B&Bs before what looked like a cracking fish and chip shop, where lunch was purchased. The portions of fish were MASSIVE, and Helen thought it was much nicer than I did. We fed the dregs of my chips to the uppity seagulls having spent a fair while watching seemingly thousands of people walk past with dogs, a fair few mobility scooters, and some people old and large enough they may retrospectively consider their tattoos a mistake.
Continuing around the side of the bay we reached the pier from which our boat was due to leave, though we still had a fair amount of time to kill. Turns out Swanage pier is all historic and stuff, and you have to pay 80p just to walk along it. We forked out and went straight into the shop which also has a museum exhibition out back, and it's fantastic. Firstly, some old arcade amusements in working order.
Then a room full of pieces relating to lifeboats and shipwrecks, including some genuine pieces of eight. Dubloons and that. Plus some odd mannequins.
... and then the most awesomely fucked up Punch and Judy kiosk ever. Not that we went in either of the two branches of Funworld back by the beach, but I'm pretty sure this arcade was better than either.
The planks of the pier are available for sponsorship, this being the primary way they keep funded. There are plaques on most of them commemorating people who have either got married or died, with one just saying that the sponsor "caught the crabs here". The pier trust invites donations based on their piles being worse than your own.
At the end of the pier it becomes double decker with fisherfolk underneath and cracking views back to the beach, and out to the Isle of Wight and Harry's Rocks up top. We were way too early, still, for the boat, and it came in at 2pm but they shouted at us that we wouldn't be allowed to board untl 2.25pm.
Eventually we got on board, bringing the average age down and mobility up. The website where I booked the tickets said the boats had a bar, and we were thirsty. It was called the Solent Bar and had lots of red sofas. Apparently the rose wine was genuinely gorgeous. We took the booze out on deck and stared at rocks and boats for a bit.
For them what like sailing, the conditions looked pretty good.
Brownsea Island loomed and had a steady stream of boats turning up. We have no idea what goes on there, but later on read there might be a local hermit.
At some point we were told that Marconi did the first ever radio broadcast from around here.
Poole Quay turned up after around 55 minutes and looked fantastic, like it was almost all pubs and might have a bunch of stuff going on.
Officially we had a ticket for the 2hr there-and-back service, but thankfully we were allowed to just disembark in Poole.
I had read there was a folk festival taking place in Poole but no more details than that; turns out the Quay was totally full of people doing all kinds of dancing and music. This was fucking great. We watched Slovak dancers who were way way way better than the terrible Morris dancers who came after them. Further along the way a band were performing in front of a pub, and back along towards the lifeboat museum we saw clog dancers, belly dancers, a bongo drum band, some Irish kids, some more Morris dancers wearing cat make up, some more clog dancers with hula hoops dancing to English Country Garden, a warbling singer, and a shitload of pubs.