We spent the British summer (grim, grey and shower after shower) in Weymouth, looking after the gorgeous Harley and Tully, and Batman the cat. (I cannot think of Batman without that soundtrack running through my head).
The dogs were gorgeous cocker spaniels; so pretty with ruffled ears like flowing locks.
Tully, small and nimble, golden like soft brown sugar. Harley, always with a lopsided cheeky grin – especially when he was doing something he shouldn’t. Yet again we’d been landed with a runner. During the first walk with the owners, stories flooded out. ‘Sometimes, there’s a free camper here. Harley got into his tent and dragged out his frying pan… Put Harley on the lead here, or he’ll run off into the campsite. Once he came back with a cuddly toy… Watch him here, so he doesn’t run onto the road’. Harley grinned on. Ten minutes into our first walk, he disappeared. I caught a glimpse of him, on the other side of ‘his’ barn, in the next field as he headed towards the horizon. I shouted. He looked back at me. I saw him think – ‘Nah, I don’t think so’ and off he lolloped. I shouted again and spread my arms open wide – the gesture that was supposed to get him back. He took not the blindest bit of notice, running along the top of the field – ears flying, coat rippling and flowing, chasing invisible rabbits, in doggy heaven. Tully looked at us, as if to say ‘Not again’, and sat patiently at our feet. We all waited. After thirty nerve-wracking minutes he turned up, his grin wider than ever, tail wagging. ‘What’s all the fuss about, you knew I’d come back didn’t you’, he seemed to say, as I clipped him firmly on the lead.
And so the pattern was set. Our local walk took us up into the fields behind the house. Undulating tracks through long grasses, with views of the sea and caravan parks and George III on his horse. I looked for George every morning. Some days he was barely visible, his mounts legs muted by shadow, and his own head in dark cloud. Poor George made Weymouth the world’s first seaside resort when in 1789 he came to bathe in it’s waters in the hope of curing his madness. To show their gratitude for being placed firmly on the map, the townspeople built a statue, and carved his likeness into the hillside. Touchy George took umbrage that he was depicted riding away from the town, a sign, he felt, that he wasn’t welcome. He never returned.
Harley and Tully also loved walking along the esplanade. All those foodie titbits sent them into a frenzy of quivering nose-to-the-ground delight. Weymouth is surprisingly lovely with it’s air of Georgian elegance, but like all British seaside haunts a bit old-fashioned and old hat, it’s glory days long gone. We walked past stony beaches and wooden beach huts, B&B’s with bunting flying, toddlers with buckets and spades, families walking dogs, old couples eating ice cream, dads hammering wind-breaks into the sand, mums reading paper-backs, deckchairs and donkeys and a traditional Punch-and–Judy show. There was live music in the Greenhill Gardens, festival fireworks, and bacon butties, cream teas and fish-and-chips galore. Harley and Tully strained on the leash, but Harley behaved himself. We’d kept our fingers crossed that there would be no repeat performance of him nabbing the pigeon that got too close for comfort, and walking proudly along the prom with it dangling from the corners of his mouth!
We walked around the picturesque old harbour (where the Black Death was introduced into England in 1348) watching the to-ing and fro-ing of fishing smacks and tourist vessels and the row-boat ferry from one side to the other. Harley and Tully were much more interested in the contents of the plastic buckets lining the harbour walls. A plethora of small crabs waved pincers forlornly, caught by legions of kids with plastic fishing line dangling into the black water. Ecstasy for the kids, horror for the crustaceans.
We had our own share of horrors with Harley who ran off five times on these local walks; Tully who barked at all dogs large and small and nearly nabbed an unsuspecting bloke’s burger at a pub stop; and Batman who bullied Wilson, the cat who lived next door, so that his owners begged us to keep him in at night!
He was a pussycat really – they all were, and while the delights of Weymouth were many and varied, it was taking Tully and Harley further afield along the South West Coast that put a real spring in our step.
Next time: Walking the Jurassic Coast.