28th Oct, 2016

Favourite place: Seaside memories in Swanage

Leamington Editorial 23rd Dec, 2015 Updated: 13 hours ago

ITS about this time of year many of us start dreaming of distant shores and summer holidays.

In recent years the ‘staycation’ has become popular with many opting to forgo jetting off abroad in favour of a destination closer to home.

They say travel broadens the mind. True – but you don’t necessarily need to travel thousands of miles to find that special somewhere. All of us have been to a place which has struck a chord for one reason or another, the memory of which stays with us for a variety of reasons – as our reporting team discovered when they pondered on a place which meant something to them.

Lauren Clarke rides the rails to seaside memories.

DESCRIBED in Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Hand of Ethelberta’ as “a seaside village lying snug within two headlands as between a finger and thumb,” for me Swanage epitomises years of wonderful summertime memories.

Every summer, my grandparents would pack up the car and take my sister and me to a caravan on the outskirts of the town.

It may not have been a fancy holiday abroad like the ones my school friends were enjoying, but it was my favourite time of year.

Coming over the lip of the hill into Swanage, my sister and I would peer through the windscreen from the back seat – competing over who could see the sea first.

We’d revel in the familiarity of our surroundings – the fish and chip shop on the corner, the field filled with horses on the right, and the sign for the caravan park we called home for one week every year.

Swanage has it’s own time zone, a sort of lilt that makes your days feel infinite and the nights quietly drift away.

Memories of afternoons spent down the beach building intricate sandy palaces and dangling bacon off the jetties on a piece of string in the hopes of catching a crab or two are among those I will always cherish.

With a camera always poised, my grandparents have albums full of photos documenting my adventures in Swanage – wearing some awful 90s attire on the pier; beaming with ice cream down my chin on the beach; and swimming in the freezing English waters.

But it was the old steam train that captured my young imagination and heart.

Every year without fail, although we had made the trip numerous times before, I would ask to take the old Swanage Railway to the nearby ruins of Corfe Castle.

The train would chug leisurely past villages and fields before pulling into the ancient stony village of Corfe – the ruined battlements of the historic castle looming over the station platform.

My favourite place in the world is sat on one of the old, worn seats aboard the steam train; peering out the window as the countryside and the clouds of smoke went by.