Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Peculiar White Cliffs: Adventures at Old Harry Rocks

Hello! Welcome back to something a bit more in the usual spirit of the Salty Sea Blog. I can't keep dragging this space down with lamentations of sad break up feels so it's time to revert back to some sort of normality here and share a recent exploration. Today we are venturing to a spot of different coastline, one quite different to my own dearest playground of pirate coves and crumbling scrubby cliffs that are to be found in South Cornwall. The White Chalk Cliffs are a sight that has fascinated me somewhat over the last few years and one of my favourite features of quintessentially English countryside. You won't find this sort of coastline where I'm from and there is something so compelling and attractive about it; the colour pallets of white on aquamarine with the little caps of bright green grass, it's just something I've always found charming since the first time I saw them. I've looked for excuses time and time again to photograph the chalk cliffs and got my first chance last summer when I went to Beachy Head near Eastbourne further up the south coast in the East. This weekend, I got my second chance when I visited Dorset and spent the Sunday doing exactly what perfect Sunday's are for in my world: sunny afternoon explores & frolicking by the sea. 

We set off nice and early and being a bright sunny day, the lighting conditions made it extremely difficult to take pictures. This sort of setting benefits more from a hazy day with a thin layer of mist to diffuse the harsh sunlight. But I'm not complaining! I'll take a hot sunny noon and difficult photography conditions ANY DAY over dreary overcast clouds and in the spirit of the beginning of what I hope to be a beautiful summer, I grabbed my favourite straw hat, a very stripy summer dress and sandals and headed out to rediscover the place where I spent my holidays as a child. 

You might wonder where on earth Cornish people actually spend their holidays when they already live in a place where people descend to at every sunny opportunity to enjoy the idyllic beaches & quaint seaside towns. You'd think maybe we'd get fed up of the novelty of the beach or perhaps we'd never even leave our beloved county at all. Well, I can't speak on behalf of all my people but Dad and I were always big on holidays & travelling when I was growing up. Anything from jetting over to California or Florida or staycations visiting spots around England, I'll never tire of the coast wherever it is in the world (Weston Super Mare being the exception here) and I love how changeable and diverse it is. Even though the sea is one large body of the very same water, I never cease to be amazed at how it looks so different in other parts of the country. 

Growing up, Dad & my family holidayed in Dorset an awful lot because that's where my grandparent's lived when they were alive. I have so many fond memories of catching shrimp at Swanage, exploring places like Corfe, Weymouth and Poole, watching the deer cross the salt marsh at dusk and learning to ride horses through the woods with my Nan. I had last visited the Old Harry Rocks when I was around 10 and even then, I found it pretty cool that these cliffs were so different to the ones I was used to. They were white, I mean, actually white! Our cliffs are usually brown and covered in gorse and heather. Unlike our sloping cliffs, the chalk cliffs are sheer and stooping, standing sentinel and imposing in interesting formations against the aquamarine sea. What I'd give to kayak around them and see them from the viewpoint of the sea! That's definitely something I want to do when I come back here. 

T H E    R O C K S 

We took the ferry from Sandbanks in Poole over to Studland, marvelling at all of the Art Deco architecture and fancy yachts that were posing :) (There wasn't a breath of wind) I had done a little research beforehand and knew that to get to the Old Harry rocks, I'd need to park up at the South Beach Carpark and I was super thankful for my National Trust membership saving me having to buy a parking ticket (something I aways resent.) There is a circular walk on offer that goes via some archaeological points of interest via the rocks but I had my eye on more sandy pastures so we did the trip to the rocks and back again. It was quite an easy and popular walk and my goodness, it was filled with people! But what can you expect on the hottest Sunday of the year so far? I definitely envied the kayakers their personal space. 

The Old Harry Rocks are a more refined adventure destination in that there are plenty of 'facilities' within easy reach. There's a wonderful looking pub at South Beach Carpark, a public toilets and little beach cafe so it's the sort of place you can bring your family without worrying about being caught out. There was this really dodgy bit of rock and I oh so wanted to climb out to the furthest reaches but on closer inspection at the sheer drop, not even I was brave enough to risk my dyspraxic neck trying to cross that sketchy piece of chalk cliff. Behold. 

The temptation was so very real but that's about as far as you can go before possible death. By the looks of it, a path has been trodden which means that there's some crazy people out there who didn't resist the pull of the challenge. Hats off to you absolute bananas people. 

It would probably be polite to introduce Jon too! He is a relatively new friend who works for a photography company in Penzance and helped me with the job I was booked to do in Dorset on Saturday. Now that I've found myself without my usual second shooter, I've had to reign in my skilled friends to help me which is actually pretty great because I get to work with a variety of wonderful people who I get on pretty well with and get to share more road trips and adventures with. Luckily for me, Jon is also a fan of rocks and exploring and was more than willing to join me on this adventure and like a true gentleman, endure my endless hipster indie playlists in the car. Round of applause for Jon please. 

S  T U D L A N D 

Jon & I had both agreed that beach needed to happen that day too and luckily, Studland beach is very near the Old Harry Rocks. It's a beach I remembered visiting when I was small and finding it incredibly magical in it's setting and the fact you can walk out quite far into the sea and it remains shallow (tricky if you're tall and want to swim!) Studland is actually a really long stretch that reaches from the chalk rocks themselves all the way town towards the ferry. It has beautiful dunes and backs onto a nature reserve which I wish we had some more time to explore and bird watch. 
There are several car parks dotted along the stretch, all National Trust owned, depending on what part of the beach you want to use. At the very far end, there's a designated Nudist area for naked sunbathing! (hell yeah for full body tans) We didn't adventure quite that far down the beach and we were after food so we parked at the incredibly busy Knoll beach where there is a NT cafe selling lots of food and ice cream with toilets. This was way too packed for us so we hiked further down the beach until we found a suitably less-peoply space and do you know what we did after a 11 hour wedding shift the day before and a 4 mile hike? We took a long old nap. on the beach. in the sun. Flipping yes. Basically that's all I want out of life. 

 There were lots of little shells on the shoreline, quite different to the sorts we get so I had quite a bit of fun collecting them. I haven't spent hours on the beach like that in the longest time, it was exactly what I needed. To be by the sand and sea in the sun with nothing required of me other than to snooze.

Sadly, the clock struck five and I turned into a pumpkin. Kidding, we had a four and a half hour drive back to Cornwall facing us so we stalled a bit, dilly dallied... and begrudgingly left. 

I wish we had a little more time. There was so much more of Studland to see and I would have LOVED to have a meal at their own 'The Pig' which we drove past, super close to the Rocks. The Pig near Bath was where I went for my graduation meal and although it's a top-end-of-my-budget sort of place the food is so good and fresh and unique it's worth every penny. The restaurant experience is pretty rad too with gorgeous table styling and a perfectly quirky environment - a mix between green house and country manor. Chances are I'll be up this way again and next time, I'll definitely be adding that to my weekend to-do list. 

With only 18 days and counting left until I move to London, I have so much to fit in and so many parts of Cornwall I want to soak up before I trade the sea and fisherman's cottages for high rises and canals. I'm really excited to go and live with my friends though and see so much more of them, as well as trying someone else's life for a little while. It'll also give me a chance to explore that part of the country a lot more and you know me... I'll find my way back to the sea! Thank you all for bearing with me while I figure out my map and twiddle my compass, I'm excited to see where it'll lead me next ^_^ 



  1. My goodness didn't you come back all guns blazing. Most definitely one of your best posts. It's gorgeous

  2. What a lovely post, I love the light and dreamy feel of the photographs. Sounds and looks like you had an incredible day by the sunny coast.

    Kate / http://www.battlewind.co.uk/

  3. These photos are something else... seriously making me want to get out and explore the parts of the South coast that I've never seen before. Also I absolutely love your swimsuit and the photo of shells in your hair; you're a beauty! Xx


  4. I love the picture with all the shells in your hair, you look like a proper mermaid! You're so lucky to have beach weather already - I definitely need a visit to the south coast soon! :)

  5. Beautiful writing, as always. Can't wait to read all about your adventures in the Big Smoke.

  6. These photos are just beautiful. The south coast is just breathtaking - I definitely need to visit sometime soon!

    Mimmi xx

  7. This part of the coastline is just beautiful! So excited to hear about all of your adventures Sarah! :) I'm so pleased that you're biting the bullet and jumping into something new and fresh and exciting! Alice xxx


  8. It was therapy reading that. I'm getting ready for some much needed beach time next week too. I love the picture of you in swimwear, you look so carefree and the one of with shells in your hair. Napping on the beach, that's a good way to spend a life I'll say. Jon looks lovely, and a nice addition to the friendship pool - a change of scenery in every sense, is just what the soul needs. Please find your way back to the sea soon.... BUT enjoy the adventures about to come in big ol' London.

  9. Hello, long time reader, first time commenter. ^_^

    What a glorious adventure! These pictures are so, so beautiful, and the narrative was just as light and lively! It's such a pleasure getting a peek at your amazing adventures, and I cannot wait to see what lovely adventures you'll have in London! :)

    ~ Katerina

  10. Shells in the hair= brilliant!!! Your photos make me long to visit places. What a glorious beach!!


© The Salty Sea Blog. All rights reserved.