Posted by: kathandroger | March 28, 2016

The French visit Dorset.

Kath has been teaching English to about thirty of the locals for over two years now. Last year we took them to London, to see the joys of that fine city, and so this year we thought the complete opposite would be appropriate. We lived in Dorset and I worked there for 30 years, and so the area is well known to us. Accordingly, having hired a couple of minibuses from the local Super U store we set off for our great rural adventure. The French are a funny lot. Scared stiff of the ferry trip, believing that the Channel is always a raging storm laden waterway, they were reassured to find calm weather and the huge ship. We went overnight and all had cabins, and once the transport was found in the morning all was well; the calming alcoholic beverages taken the night before were obviously effective. I drove our car and Kath one bus and Dominique, a pupil, took the other after making sure he had all the coordinates of the various destinations-he was terrified of being lost in a foreign country. Driving on the left of the road really is no problem in the UK, the traffic is so heavy that to do otherwise is impossible, and our early start meant we were in the New Forest for breakfast by 8am. The confidence in the class has grown enormously since last year and the invasion of the little Costa coffee house by hoards of French people was more disturbing for the staff than for the visitors, but they were pleased to find they could order croissants and coffee, and admired my porridge from afar. All French people think it rains all day, every day, in England. It didn’t. In fact we had the best day of the Spring whilst walking across the hills above Poole Harbour and Swanage, and  even pondered having our lunch outside whilst at the Bankes Arms pub in Studland. Here the beer education began, and the wading through the menus to find something to Gallic tastes. The staff were all East European, so language was strained at times, but everyone fed themselves eventually, and after a visit to Corfe Castle we made our way to the accommodation in a remote farm in the middle of the county. The evening was spent playing skittles in one of my favourite pubs and we had invited some old friends to come along and join us for an international tournament, with sides of mixed nationality. The French won! But it was lovely seeing the efforts at communication being made, as I know only too well the difficulties of the initial learning of a language, and the food was wonderful.

The Blacksmith was in the farmyard the next morning and the father of one pupil had the same job in France, so we introduced ourselves and found he was an old acquaintance of mine from many years ago. The years have taken their toll on both of us, and it took some minutes before we recognised each other! This day was dedicated to alcohol, a vineyard visit in the morning and a brewery in the afternoon. The French really cannot believe that we can make wine in the UK, and the looks on their faces when the taste was excellent cannot be described! They bought lots, despite the relatively high cost of a bottle. Another local pub for the evening meal, then preparation for the History day.

We eventually found the correct entrance to Stonehenge, it all having been changed since we were last there, and everyone was hugely impressed. Kath even had free entry as the teacher in charge, and when asked how old her children were, she had to reply that the youngest was 64! Never mind, they were all well behaved, even when we visited Salisbury in the afternoon. The Cathedral and the Magna Carta were a magnet for the visitors, and as it happened, the choir were rehearsing for the evening concert-is there any better sound than good singing in a cathedral?

Supper was another education. Take away meals are seemingly unknown to our French friends, and we left them in the farm to have their aperitifs, while we collected huge amounts of fish and chips and varied curries. Our return was greeting by a hugely merry group and the food celebrated by even more drinks; I can even recall my telling jokes in French-everyone laughed, but I am not sure if it was at the stories.

Three days of a well organised and busy visit passed too quickly, and our return on the daytime ferry was punctuated by an announcement for all the children of the St Remy School of English to attend deck 8 for marking of their quiz papers. They all arrived and all had gained a gold star. Well done wife for the superb organisation and well done the French!



  1. Oh, what fun!! And you visited one of my favourite areas… Studland and Swanage… the Bankes Arms sounds to have become quite commercial…shame if it has. If I’d been with you, you would have been subjected to a discourse on the dune slacks of Studland… too early for the orchids… most likely wouldn’t have found a Smooth Snake… but the Natterjacks would have been up and about.
    Strangely, tho’… we have the same orchids around here, and the Natterjacks…both in good numbers. What we don’t have is the Smooth Snake. And then there’s all the marvellous geology of that region… especially the fact that much of the limestone that makes the “terroir” for the wines in Dorset… is the same limestone that makes Vouvray so special!!
    That is often harder for people to get their head around. The same layer of red carr stone that appears and is used for building in the Brenne… is found and used in King’s Lynn in Norfolk… it is only the stormy, dangerous Manche that divides two countries that used to speak the same language… at least the toffs did!

  2. Thanks for the comment Tim. You would have loved the walk over Ballard Down, an area we know very well, having spent so much time there. I know Studland well, and am afraid the rest of the UK seems to have discovered it -much too crowded in the summer. The Bankes Arms was also full on a March midweek day!

  3. There is a wood at the side of Ballard Down…
    stinks in May… full of wild garlic!!
    Great shame about Studland!

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