The third weekend in October saw over 100 Countrylinkers heading towards Weymouth for our autumn weekend 2019.
The whole of the UK had experienced the wettest October that anyone could remember and farm cultivations had got delayed - barely even started.
We set off from Essex early on Friday morning to an unexpectedly warm, bright sunny day for the 200 mile journey. Even through the chalky lands of Hampshire there was no sign of any drilling done and no tractors out. We drove through the beautiful areas of Winchester and Stockbridge, renowned for fly fishing along the River Test, famous for Its Trout. We also drove round Sparsholt Agricultural college where I worked for a short time many moons ago.
At last, we spotted one solitary tractor bravely making a dent In his autumn workload. On past Salisbury and we were trying to hurry now as it was 4 pm and still some distance to Weymouth. The Hotel was on the seafront overlooking the beach and the English Channel.
Mad dash to unpack and be ready for meeting everybody ready for our evening meal and Disco, with the Fancy Dress theme of Black and White. It's always great to catch up and see everyone again.
The wonderfully friendly hotel Staff had got feeding of the multitudes down to a fine art and we were asked to sit in the same seat and same table which was a godsend if you didn't want to have the usual scramble of diving for a table each mealtime.
In the morning over 50 of us chose to take the farm trip to see The Open Air Dairy. They milk some 800 cows in the field every day, moving fields every milking time. I'd seen the owners on TV and in the agricultural press. They certainly have created a business to be proud of, embracing media to help finance their fledgling business. It was a fascinating talk and the cows looked so healthy. The grass was managed really well. Tom Knox is preparing a full Report.
In the afternoon most of this group went to Dorchester to discover the sites of the town. Four of us instead headed down to Portland and lunched in Chesil Beach Cafe overlooking the bay where the Olympics of 2012 dingy sailing took place as this is the home of the National Sailing Acadamy and which I had been lucky enough to obtain tickets to watch back in 2012.
We drove round Portland, passing the Hotel where Countrylink held its 2006 Spring Weekend. The views around the island are stunning and the tea shop served a grand cuppa. We headed back to the Hotel ready for the evening meal, raffle and disco.
Other trips on Saturday included a visit to Arne and Corfe Castle. We made this visit on our way home on Monday. The Castle Remains on the Isle of Purbeck had been built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and one of the earliest to be at least partly built of stone. Much of it remains, despite Parliament's attempts to demolish it in 1645.
Also on Saturday was an all-day walk from the Hotel.
Other Countrylinkers chose to Do their own Thing.
Sunday Trips ranged from Sea Life Centre, Walk to the Nothe Fort and a shorter Walk around Weymouth for those not wanting to walk too far. The rest Did their own Thing.
We drove east along the coast, looking at farms and fields as we went Some fields had water standing in huge pools, the ground was saturated. We spotted a hand painted sign saying Beach Cafe and after a mile of single track farm roads, we came over the brow of the hill to look down on the Jurassic Coastline, beach and the sea. It was simply stunning and completely unspoilt. The cafe sold a huge mug of coffee which woke us up. The young couple running the cafe recommended we walk along the beach and coastal path to the right and after a mile and a half, we would see the pub which served excellent Sunday Roast. This hadn't been our plan but sounded too good to resist. Our picnic Sainsburys Meal Deal could wait for another day.
This was clearly a locals walk. Several small families and their dogs made their way along the single track path looking down over the sea and the sunshine glinting on the rippling waves.
The Pub was heaving with people! Truly a great sign of good food and the beef was excellent. Yum. Then time to head back. Colin wanted to take a different route across the fields but there was no footpath signed up. A local was coming up with his dog. We waited til this limping gent caught up with us and we got chatting. He offered to show us the way as he was heading in the same direction. He told us about the War and the concrete air raid shelters that we passed. This was part of the Southern War Defence GHQ Line that ran from the south coast to half way up the east coast.
His name was Kevan. On the beaches we had walked he had found the head of an extremely rare prehistoric Creature which is now in Dorchester Museum and named after him a Pliosaurus Kevani. He had found the scattered pieces over many months and carried them lovingly home til the head was pieced together and complete.
So we returned to the hotel late, unfortunately, having missed the AGM but joined everyone for the hotel Sunday roast followed by a great Quiz and music from a female singer and male guitar player which was really good and had us all dancing, even a fine Quickstep display!
On Monday we bade our Farewells to all as we dispersed to all areas of the UK. Thanks to the organisers of this weekend it was very much appreciated.
There were 110 members there for the weekend and 24 stayed Thursday night too and some stayed on after the weekend also.
Thanks also go to our event sponsors namely Robert's Bakery for the biscuits and G H Lea for the porridge which were part of our welcome pack, also Meadow foods for the hamper and massey feeds and NatWest bank also.
During the weekend we raised almost £1000 for our two chosen charities being the Christies Hospital Manchester and Cancer Research Sandbach branch so thank you to everyone who donated raffle prizes and supported us.
The hotel was excellent the food, rooms, staff, facilities and views were all good.
We all enjoyed the events and trips and meeting up with old friends and new faces too.
The walk on the sandstone trail went exceptionally well although it apparently drifted off piste, under/over gate and up a massive hill to the top to admire the views.
The Cheshire team were very satisfied and happy how the weekend had gone. Many thanks for the lovely feedback too we have received and we are all now looking forward to Weymouth.