My mum decided that she didn’t want a big party for her 60th birthday. So we decided to hire a beach hut in Charmouth in east Dorset for the day on the Whitsun bank holiday Monday.
Tiff and I had been to the Common People festival in Southampton on the Saturday, so we decided to get up relatively early to drive down to Charmouth on Monday morning, rather than stay at my parent’s house in Sherborne and go from there.
The weather forecast wasn’t looking too promising but there was little chance of rain. So I decided on shorts and t-shirt (with a warm jumper and jeans in reserve). We drove down via Wimborne and Dorchester, picking up a pretty disgusting “Costa Express” coffee from a petrol station en route. Traffic was light and we arrived about 10.15 paying the bargain price of £2 for a full day of parking.
Mum and dad were already there, unloading some supplies from their camper van. They’d hired a beach hut from the parish council in a line of about 15 on a large patch of grass on the side of the hill on the eastern end of the beach.
Despite a warden telling them a few weeks earlier that they could turn up early on the day to secure a hut, it turns out that they were lucky to get the last one. Most huts were block booked in advance by holidaymakers and people from the village. They were essentially small sheds, painted light turquoise, with a small back window and wooden bench inside.
After a quick cuppa and some of mum’s homemade millionaire shortbread, dad and I took the dogs for a walk over the river and up on the cliffs on the western end of the beach. Tilly is particularly naughty at the seaside, and today was no exception as she barked at nothing in particular on the beach below. As we got higher, the sun made the odd appearance between the clouds.
The rest of the family still hadn’t arrived by the time we returned, so we another brew and sat in the intermittent sunshine while we waited for them. We also stuck a few more simple decorations up on the beach hut and had a look around the cafe building down on the beach, which also included a small second-hand shop and a fossil museum.
Around 11.30, Auntie Susie, Uncle Tim, Sophie and Grandad turned up followed by my sister Kate with Kelvin and my nephew Riley and niece Elsie. We were still in only a handful of beach huts in use that day, which was just as well as there wasn’t much room for us all on the patch of grass directly in front of the one we’d hired.
After the early start I was getting hungry. Mum and Susie must have heard a collective rumble of stomachs because they started laying out the food everyone had bought for our picnic buffet. (No, Mum didn’t get much of a break on her birthday!) We had far too much for one plate – breads, cold meats, crayfish tails, pizza, pork pies, cheese and more. As usual, I ate for too much.
After lunch, Dad, Tiff and I went for a walk around Charmouth and ended up popping into a vintage fair in the village hall, which wasn’t great – maybe we missed the best stuff. When we returned, there was a large group of adults and kids gathered around a bloke in a day-glo vest on the grass outside our hut. It turns out he was offering guided fossil tours of the beach for £15.
Then it was time for mum’s birthday cake – which meant another cuppa – followed by a paddle in the sea with Riley and Elsie. By now the beach was getting quieter and car park emptier, and a couple of families had come down to their hired huts for an evening barbecue. I’d guess that no more of a third of the huts were actually occupied during the day though.
Once the sun, now mostly behind the clouds, had began its descent towards Lyme Regis, we decided to make a move, knowing that we likely get caught in the bank holiday traffic as it snaked its way along the A35 towards Dorchester. We said our good-byes and joined the queue just outside Charmouth. It didn’t take too long to get home though.
Reflecting on the day, I realised that we didn’t spend much time in the hut itself. But it was nice to have a base for the day and a place to put Tilly when she got excited at the goings on around us. And, at only £16 for a day’s hire, we’d definitely do it again. Next time though, we’ll book in advance!