Vintage in Dorset
"Where do you go on holiday, the 1950s?"
That's what my friend Kai asked the first time I went to West Bay and said how nice it had been to see so many children with their lines and buckets catching shellfish around the harbour. It's true that there is something of the past on the stretch of the Dorset coast from just east of Lulworth westwards to Lyme Regis. There are dramatic cliffs for walking along, lovely beaches (some of which are tops for fossil hunting), and all the fish and chips you could want, but nothing brash, no bingo parlours, no tacky pier shows and next to no 'amusement' arcades.
The area round West Bay and Bridport makes a lovely holiday destination for the vintage enthusiast. I felt very much like Harriet Vane in Have His Carcase as we rambled along the cliffs, although without finding any bodies on the beach, and Harriet Vane would not have been wearing a bright red nylon waterproof (needless to say, you're not getting any outfit posts from my holiday!).
One strange way to get in touch with the mid 20th century is to go fossil hunting at Lyme Regis. As you get further from the town towards Charmouth, there's what must have been a landfill site collapsing into the sea, and as well as ammonites and belemnites among the rocks, there is glass of all colours and bits of broken pottery. I even found an old manual mincing machine, rusted and squashed flat, but clearly recognisable. At first I thought a house must've gone into the sea, there are so many bricks, but then looking at the site it looked more like landfill. I stayed as well away from that as I did from the Jurassic cliffs; I'd be just as squashed under broken 1950s pottery as I would under a tonne of plesiosaur.
There are also lots of nice places to buy vintage things in that area. Bridport is especially good as they have a monthly vintage market (not in the winter; 2011 dates here) plus some nice shops for poking around in. My favourite was Vintage at Cornucopia, and right now I'm kicking myself for not buying a nice bag I saw, because it was half the price I'd pay in Bath. They had a fantastic 1950s black velvet suit for sale – I have no idea what it cost, but if I'd been thin enough to wear it I'd have snapped it up. They had a decent selection of items for chaps too.
If you're used to shopping for vintage in a big city, Bridport might not be very exciting, but I was pleased to find so much. The only thing I bought was more magazines – forget clothes, I'm a paper nut at heart, and pounced on some old issues of Picturegoer. There were also a few vintage shops in Lyme Regis, and when we visited Beaminster there was a café that also sold art deco teaware. That was closed the day we went, saving me no small expense.
If you're looking for a quiet, vintage-friendly getaway in the UK, I can't recommend the Bridport area highly enough. I had a fab time!