Swanage and Poole Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

The problem with watching documentaries about the brain is that my brain starts to do odd stuff. Hence after watchng some Moseley on iPlayer a couple of days ago, I woke up with a Pavlovian classically conditioned response at 4am on Saturday because Helen was staying over, and I obviously associated this with being woken up by her cat demandng food. Pah. Failed to get back to sleep so stayed up reading wikipedia pages about unethical human experimentation in the United States. Come 6am I did fall asleep, to experience around an hour of vivid dreams each of which only lasted about 5 seconds. This is an all kinds of fucked up way to spend the last day of my 41st year.

I had us arranged to get the 0830 train from Surbiton to Woking. Helen hates getting up early on a weekend (I love being out and about on my own time, more than on company time) but also hates being late so we left the flat with 20 minutes to do the 4 minute walk to the station. This gave us enough time to buy a vast cache of sugary breakfast solids and liquids for our journey.

Woking was not our real destination; we were heading to Wareham, because I'd bought tickets for the wrong boat which ended up being the right boat. This meant getting a bus from Wareham to Swanage, hopefully via somewhere nice en route. The train journey was mostly nondescript aside from discovering that Bournemouth University is in Poole. Huh?

Wareham looked shit by the station. The buses depart from a roundabout next to a VW camper van rental place and an industrial estate. There's a non-motor-vehicles level crossing and while waiting for the bus we watched some DISMOUNT YOUR CYCLE rage take place.

The bus was late, and already rammed. We just about got a seat and a rover ticket, and soon someone got off enabling us to sit together. Turns out 5 minutes or so from Wareham station is Wareham, whch looks like a really nice town. Sunny and busy and very very old with award winning pubs, we bookmarked it mentally for later. Our itinerary didn't give us time to explore just yet, because we only had about 3 hours to kill before a boat ride from Swanage. I thought we'd get off at either Corfe Castle or one of the other villages and do a bit of walking before getting back on, but the bus was so packed we thought we'd just stay on, in case we couldn't fit on the next one. Also Corfe Castle costs money to get in, so fuck that. No civil war falconry display for us!

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.

Trains 'n that

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.

Time flies by

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.

The only way to win is not to play.

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.

Even creepier with my reflections

On the way out I thought about buying a toy nuclear missile launching submarine but didn't, and then we each posed in one of those "poke your head through the hole" thngs.

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.

Excuse the narcissism but this pic is great.

There was a commentary on the boat, telling us stuff like how we could see the Isle of Wight and that the rocks on the left looked cool. Some small aircraft flew overhead and small boats sailed around us, including a Laser/RS200 race near the Sandbanks golden mile.

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.

Also a cruising barge.

I needed the loo but declined to use the public ones which were either full to almost overflowing, or seatless. Cleverly, Helen had scoped out the emptiest boozer which was upstairs and had a fiercely regimented seating policy. We got a balcony seat and surveyed the quay while quaffing better beer but worse wine than the boat had sold. We were above a marina and watching many many boats come and go, to the background music of a band veering from kinda bluesy rock to ska punk to Backstreet Boys covers to godawful cat-strangling nonsense which got everyone at the pub talking - including the waitress who welcomed us back because she recognised us from our prevous visits. Neither of us had been to Poole Quay before (actually I think maybe I have on a pub crawl, but didn't really recognise it).

Back downstairs and we bought beer in plastics from the Lord Nelson, next to the stage where a band was playing while having their performance area invaded by drunk girls attempting to dance in time to songs they didn't know. It was the same lot we'd seen up at the end before, including an excellently attired pork pie hat wearing drummer.

The fancy schmancy cruise liner disappeared, and a hefty Condor ferry arrived. We were a long way from home and a bit drunk and hungry so decided to head back to Surbiton. Our walk back to the station was unpleasantly punctuated by the two blokes we saw nastily beatng shades of shit out of each other. Nice. Central Poole did not seem qute as nice as the quayside. Still, all in all, a stunning victory and vindcation for weekend day-seizing. By contrast, as I type this the time is almost 3pm on Sunday and I've not got out of bed yet. I do have a new gin cup and saucer though.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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