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ALL SET FOR DORSET; SEASIDE SPECIAL Take a trip to Britain's Jurassic Coast and enjoy perfect beaches, ride on a steam railway, go on a fishing boat and hunt for fossils..and we don't mean looking for Dad.

Byline: By ANDY GARDNER

I KNOW global warming is a Bad Thing and I am trying to do my bit to cut down on carbon emissions to protect the Earth.

I've cut down on short-haul flights to Europe (I tend to take the train) and I also look closer to home for my holidays.

But let's be honest, there's a flipside to climate change - and it's better, warmer weather for those taking a break in Britain.

In the last year I've spent a week in North Devon, followed by time in Cornwall and now a week in Dorset.

If spending so much time in the UK has done anything, it has rekindled my love affair with the great British seaside.

Of course, we all have magical memories of childhood holidays filled with sand, penny amusement arcades and fish and chips on a windswept pier. But I also shudder when I recall the terrible facilities, bad food and never-ending traffic jams.

Driving from London to Dorset, I wondered what the Jurassic Coast would add to the mix.

Now, if you're like me, Dorset means the Famous Five - the adventures of Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog in Enid Blyton's children's classics. But there's often a massive gap between fact and fiction and I was prepared to be disappointed.

I needn't have worried. As we turned into Folke Manor Farm the sun was just setting, bathing the fields, the nearby 16th Century church and the old manor house with a golden glow.

I was smitten and, despite the fact there wasn't a rollercoaster within 60 miles - we were in the hamlet of Folke just outside Sherborne - the kids were just as excited. They bounded off with the owners' two dogs, Libby and Buster, and I settled into our two-bedroom apartment.

Farmers Carol and John Perrett have lovingly converted the old milking parlour in the middle of the 40-acre farm into four units. We stayed in the Woodpecker, which offers a double and two single beds self-catering. What with the exposed beams, five-star luxury and all mod cons, it was hard to believe cows were once milked here.

The next day I awoke early, watched the sun rise and took in the smells of the countryside. Nothing like cow manure to blow away the cobwebs!

When I visited Dorset as a youth, one of the greatest and simplest pleasures was a mackerel fishing trip on a tiny boat out of Lyme Regis.

The port is famous for its long harbour wall, known as The Cobb. You may have seen it in the movie The French Lieutenant's Woman.

We took a one-hour trip with Harry May on his locally-built Marie F, which cost pounds 8 for adults and a fiver each for the kids.

The day was stunning and the sea calm as we chugged around Lyme Bay with Harry providing a non-stop commentary. Amazingly, the boat caught 14 mackerel, with the girls hauling in two silver-streaked fish. Harry also does deep sea trips to the wrecks that litter the area. Ring 07974 753287.

Later I sat on The Cobb and chilled while Katie and Beth, 8 and 9, played in the nearby sand. Looking inland, it became clear Lyme Regis has a real unspoilt beauty.

Known as the Pearl of Dorset, this town on the Dorset-Devon border has a mosaic of narrow, windy streets rising steeply from the sea.

The town sits at the western end of 94 miles of coastline which has been given World Heritage Site status because of its unique geological history.

The whole area is a magnet for fossil hunters, who scour the cliffs for mementoes from the distant past.

A great place to go is the Philpot Museum, which tells the story of Mary Anning, one of the world's first fossil collectors whose work was pivotal in developing the science of geology.

One of Dorset's greatest strengths is the eclectic mix of attractions it offers.

ON day two, we went to the Tank Museum at Bovington Army Camp. Large parts of the Jurassic Coast were taken over by the Army as training areas in World War Two and, while most of the land has been returned to civilian use, Bovington remains a military area.

The base is home to Prince William and his Blues and Royals regiment, although there was no sign of the second-in-line to the throne when we visited.

The museum has been modernised in recent years and now has the world's finest collection of armoured vehicles.

There are more than 300 exhibits, from unique World War One tanks to the Challenger - the Army's latest battle tank. The girls were absorbed by the collection of medals and the computer details on the honoured heroes. We looked up a Gardner and found he had won the VC. No relation though.

The girls also peered inside a Chieftain tank... it was cramped and smelly and they reckon William is welcome to it!

Entry to the Tank Museum was pounds 10 for adults and pounds 7 for under-16s. A family ticket costs pounds 28 (01929 405 096, www.tankmuseum.co.uk).

On the way home, we diverted to nearby Lulworth Cove, a natural sheltered horseshoe-shaped bay. The coast walks here are glorious and from the clif ftops you get a stunning view of the pebble beach down below.

The girls even dipped their toes in the freezing water and ran out giggling and covered in goose bumps.

Next day it was real Famous Five time, with a trip on a steam train to the seaside town of Swanage, at the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast.

The Swanage Railway puffs its way from Swanage to Norden and back on the Isle of Purbeck. We caught the train at Norden Park and Ride, a few miles from the magnificent ruins of Corfe Castle.

The sight and smell of a real steam engine captivated girls and boys alike. And campers waved as we chugged along the six-mile track. They don't do that to modern trains.

An adult return costs from pounds 7.50. A child pays pounds 5.50 (01929 425800, www.swanagerailway.co.uk).

Arriving at Swanage I felt my mum and dad would have loved this family resort. They were big fans of the seaside and enjoyed nothing better than snoozing in a deckchair on the beach. It was only Easter but the weather was stunning and the sea filled with splashing children.

We visited the refurbished pier where tourist boats tie up for a trip around the bay or to Bournemouth. Plaques on the pier commemorated donations to the repair fund. Many were poignant reminders of lost loved ones. One read simply: "US Army 1944." Then it was to the beach to eat our ice creams as the seagulls mulled above. There were even beach huts here - although it was too early in the season for the Punch and Judy show.

Driving back later I marvelled at the rolling countryside and the healing power of clean, fresh air. I felt cleansed and ready for a challenge.

So we decided to go fossil hunting...

CHARMOUTH - a mile up the coast from Lyme Regis - is the Old Trafford of fossil hunting sites.

The clay cliffs contain millions of fossils dating from 195 million years ago and new ones are unearthed daily.

We hooked up with Meirel Whaites, senior warden at the Charmouth Heritage Centre. She's the Sir Alex Ferguson of fossil hunting, passionate and committed about the study of fossils.

Soon the girls learned how to tell an ammonite, belemnite, or crinoid from a stone.

Meirel then led us on a fossil hunting walk and we were soon picking up relics from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. I have never seen Beth, who is eight and a livewire, so enthralled. Meirel reckons she will be the next Sir David Attenborough.

We spent four hours at the Heritage Centre, which looms over the beach, and could have stayed all day. The centre is open daily until October (01297 560772, www.charmouth.org).

The last full day I gave the girls the choice of where to go. Normally, I would expect an argument. However, they were united in their choice. The seaside.

I packed their new wet suits and bought pasties and newspapers from the local post office.

Mr Perrett waved us off and we took a leisurely hour to drive to Lyme Regis.

The kids spent most of a beautiful spring day in the sea or building sand castles. We ate the pasties, ice creams and even found a wonderful second-hand book shop.

There were no theme parks, iPods or computer games. And nobody cared. All you need is the British seaside and a bit of decent weather.

Now, if we could just do something about global warming...

What's the deal?

ANDY and his family stayed for a week in the Woodpecker apartment at Folke Manor Farm (pictured right). Prices for a week staying in a two-bedroom property, which sleeps four, are pounds 508 in June, rising to pounds 752 in August. There are three other apartments available, sleeping up to six. All prices are for accommodation only. Breakfast can be booked in the owner's farmhouse. For info visit www.holidaycottages.co.uk or ring 01237 479146. For info on Dorset's fossil coast look at www.jurassic coast.com

CAPTION(S):

Katie and Beth on the steam train at Swanage Railway; The coast near Lyme Regis is excellent for fossil hunting; The magnificent ruins of the 11th Century Corfe Castle; Pictures: WORLD PICTURES/ PICTURES COLOUR LIBRARY/ TRAVEL LIBRARY The British seaside doesn't come more traditional than Swanage
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 27, 2007
Words:1609
Previous Article:INSIDE GUIDE: Have a blast on fireworks trip.
Next Article:DAYS OUT IN THE UK.


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