On Charmouth beach, looking west towards Golden Cap.
It’s funny how we retain fondness for places where we spent happy times as children. It doesn’t seem to matter if, in reality, we only went to those places a handful of times. They are indelibly imprinted on our memory with a sort of rosy glow.
My childhood was punctuated by lots of house moves – on average it must have been every 2 years. Two years was enough time to get my O Levels done in Berkshire before we were off to Wiltshire for Sixth Form and A Levels. Prior to Berkshire we were in Somerset (that was for a longer spell) and before that we were in Dorset.
I was born in Dorchester, the county town of Dorset. We left Dorset when my Mum re-married. I might have been about 6 years old. My grandparents always lived in Bridport though, and my earliest memories are from our flat at 1 Barrack Street, almost on the corner with West Street.
West Street, Bridport, looking west towards the iconic clock tower.
On the opposite side of West Street was my Grannie’s wool shop, which is now a Chinese takeaway. I remember being in there with her, helping her serve the customers, and writing down the purchases in a little notebook. It was a small shop, made smaller by the floor-to-ceiling dark wood shelving filled to the brim with soft balls in a myriad of colours.
Woolcraft in West Street, Bridport. Now a Chinese takeaway.
I wouldn’t say my childhood felt particularly fractured at the time, but looking back I can see that the upheavals of each house move accounted for a certain lack of belonging, especially as I chose to study Modern Foreign Languages at university and lived abroad for a year in the Black Forest in southern Germany. I have always thought of Dorset as “my roots”. I think this is because I returned to Dorset to visit my grandparents long after I had moved away. My grandparents were a fixed point in my life, during my formative years at least.
From my current rural location in a Dorset village to the west of Blandford Forum, I can now get in the car and be back on Charmouth beach in about 40 minutes.
Charmouth beach is my “place of fondness”, the place with the rosy glow in my memory. It’s perfect when the tide is out, because all the rock pools are uncovered. My sister and I happily explored those rock pools for hours and hours. Picnic lunch of course. Framed by Golden Cap to the east and Lyme Regis to the west, Charmouth was my favourite beach of all.
On the beach with my sister, me in blue.
In my memory, it seemed like we were on that beach every day during the summer holidays. It was always sunny when I was a child too!
July 2021: I am sitting on Charmouth beach now, as I write the notes that will eventually become this blog. I have my small rucksack with my camera and a sketchbook in it, a flask of tea and a snack. I checked the tide times, and left home before 08:00 this morning to avoid the crowds and I arrived when all the rock pools were on display. The sky is clear blue.
Until now I have been somewhat lured by oriental art and culture, the thrill of learning a new language and travelling to absorb it first-hand. These travels provided strong themes for my printmaking. It took a global pandemic to help me stand still and view Dorset afresh with new eyes.
By sketching the Charmouth rock pools first-hand several times over, and even taking some seaweed home to draw round for paper cut-outs, a series of large monoprints emerged during a particularly creative day in the studio in October 2020.