Cum­ber­lidge on cruis­ing

PETER CUM­BER­LIDGE: Why not stay at home in good old Eng­land for some re­laxed sum­mer cruis­ing? Lyme Bay and Dorset’s Juras­sic Coast are blessed with many en­tic­ing small har­bours and an­chor­ages

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Boats based in south Devon tend to head ei­ther fur­ther west for their sum­mer cruis­ing or cross to the Chan­nel Is­lands and Brit­tany. We rarely think about turn­ing east, which is a pity. I plan to rec­tify this, and have been study­ing our charts of Lyme Bay and the Dorset coast be­yond Portland.

To many, Lyme Bay feels like a hur­dle you cross to get some­where else, yet its in­ner shores have some charm­ing hide­aways. From Dart­mouth, it’s less than 30 miles to a pic­turesque an­chor­age be­hind Beer Head, the most west­erly of the Juras­sic Coast’s chalk bluffs. Beer is still a tra­di­tional fish­ing vil­lage, with crab­bing and mack­erel boats winched up the beach. We once lay here sev­eral days in a hard north-west­erly, to­tally snug with the An­chor Inn handy ashore.

Lyme Regis is a Dorset clas­sic, the jum­bled lay­ers of its colour­ful town wind­ing up the hill­side. Lyme’s old har­bour is pop­u­lar with film di­rec­tors, es­pe­cially the me­dieval quay known as the Cobb. Although the har­bour it­self mostly dries, there are buoys and an an­chor­age out­side the pier­heads, per­fectly shel­tered in norther­lies and north-west­er­lies. Lyme is awash with bistros and pubs, so in the right weather you can spend a pleas­ant week­end here, nicely off piste.

Half a dozen miles east, mod­er­ate draught boats can stay afloat around neaps in West Bay’s outer har­bour, where the vis­i­tor pon­toon is near Rachel’s café for scrump­tious fish and chips.

For us down west, round­ing Portland is an ex­cit­ing, even ex­otic ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially the in­ner pas­sage where you can gaze up at tourists clus­tered round the light­house. We find it more dra­matic than ar­riv­ing off Lézardrieux, say, or Les Hanois on Guernsey. This is one of the Chan­nel’s great head­lands, a cru­cial tidal gate for nav­i­ga­tors in the days of sail.

On the ‘for­eign’ side of the Bill, I like Portland Ma­rina with its po­lite and ge­nial staff. But call­ing at salty, un­re­con­structed Wey­mouth is al­ways nos­tal­gic. Raft­ing up in the Cove with fish­ing boats chug­ging by is one of the time­less treats of south coast cruis­ing.

Lul­worth is an­other gem, a ge­o­log­i­cal show­piece only 55 miles from Dart­mouth. Over mil­len­nia, this horse­shoe in­let has nib­bled spec­tac­u­larly into the soft lime­stone strata, its en­clos­ing cliffs pro­vid­ing not just pro­tec­tion but a pow­er­ful sense of primeval history. Lul­worth en­trance can be tricky to spot, but once you’re through the gap, the an­chor­age off the north-east side is mag­i­cal on sum­mer days.

So ‘Go East, Young Man’ is our motto of the mo­ment, to dis­cover a mag­nif­i­cent slice of Eng­land amaz­ingly close to home.

Over mil­len­nia, the horse­shoe in­let has nib­bled spec­tac­u­larly into the soft lime­stone strata, its en­clos­ing cliffs pro­vid­ing a pow­er­ful sense of primeval history

Lul­worth Cove horse­shoe – a ge­o­log­i­cal show­piece Wey­mouth Har­bour is a time­less treat

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