One of my favorite things about England is the double-deck buses. I love sitting in the front row of the top deck above the traffic and watching tree branches hit the front of the bus on narrow countryside roads. On the Isle of Purbeck, the best way to get around is either by taxi, or bus (unless you’re brave and/or already know how to drive on the wrong side of the road at top speed). While London has the classic red buses, Swanage had a blue bus called the Breezer which stopped at the railway station. As we’d already taken the steam railway from one end to the other, which is only about 4 stops, today we decided to do the same with the bus. We rode it from Swanage to Poole and back, getting off in Wareham and at Farmer Palmers (which was a bit of a mistake, but only added to the adventure).
Nellie Crumb Restaurant, Wareham
After missing the bus to Studland, we changed our plans and hopped on the next bus to Wareham. Luckily for us, I had been carrying a small notepad and pen with me each day which were easily accessible at all times for jotting down notes-I seriously suggest doing this next time you travel. When our Airbnb host had picked us up at the Poole station and driven us through Wareham on the way to Swanage, she had recommended a couple restaurants as we drove by. I had scribbled down the names just in case we ended up back in Wareham. The first one she pointed out was Nellie Crumb Restaurant and Tea Room, which she claimed would give us a “very British” meal. The bus dropped us off nearly right outside this very restaurant, and recognizing the name, we decided to try it. The restaurant was in a back room behind the shop front. The room had Tudor style dark beams running across a very low, whitewashed ceiling. The room was cramped with not much space between the tables. It was quaint, and the food was delicious! I ordered the omelet and potatoes, and my traveling companions had burgers. Eying the pastries in the shop front, we decided to split a cone of that delicious Dorset honey comb ice cream for dessert while we waited for the rain to let up. (Still wishing I could bring this ice cream home with me!)
Taking advantage of a break in the rain, we set out to see the rest of Wareham. The main street, which was only a few blocks long, had some nice antique shops, delis, and a sewing/knitting shop with friendly owners who didn’t mind chatting with us while we again waited for the rain to let up. Back at the other end of town where the bus had let us off, was a quay along the River Frome.
Having turned sunny and warm again, we watched a children’s kayaking class as they tried to maneuver, but mostly they hit the stone bridge over the river. Then we decided to walk the path along the river until it was time to turn around to catch the next bus out of town. We didn’t get very far as the path was narrow and completely lined with Stinging Nettle!
While waiting for the bus at the Swanage station in the morning we spent our time browsing the brochure rack for places to visit in the Dorset area. One of the brochures, that we apparently didn’t read too closely, was for a petting zoo called Farmer Palmers. By the time we hopped off the bus at the farm, there was a half hour till closing, and the girl at the desk informed us that the farm was mostly geared towards young children. We had missed the animal feedings for the day and the only things left open were climbing toys for the kids. This sounded like a wonderful place to come with young children, but wasn’t worth the 9 pound entrance fee for a half hour and nothing to see. Feeling a little foolish, we spent the next hour watching the sheep grazing in the fields along the driveway until another bus arrived. Unfortunately, the roads in Dorset do not have bike lanes, and are hardly wide enough for two cars to pass, so there was no safe way to continue our journey on foot to somewhere else.
Purbeck Pizzeria, Wareham
With the sun beginning to lower in the sky, we caught the next bus towards Poole. We were uninspired to get off the bus in Poole because we decided we’d rather head back towards the cute, relaxed stonework towns for dinner than stay in the bigger city. As the bus drove us back through Wareham, we impulsively decided to get off the bus and seek dinner. Assessing the menus of the restaurants at the quay, we settled on the Purbeck Pizzeria. Our general travel rule, is forget the restaurants with nobody inside. This time however, we were hungry, the menu looked satisfactory, and we went in despite being the only people there. And you know what? We were delighted with the place! We all enjoyed our various pasta dishes. I would definitely recommend this place, which is saying something, because it was the first good Italian food I had had during the trip! (British Italian food tends to be very bland.)
Upon consulting the bus schedule as we finished our meal, we were surprised to learn that there was a break in the schedule and we now had an hour and a half to kill in Wareham. Being too full for dessert, we decided to walk off our meal. Unfortunately, the posted signs for the official Wareham walks were not at all clear. We ended up on a back, dirt road, with some pretty sketchy looking houses, and no obvious walking path other than the middle of the road. I’m not at all sure we were in the right place. We turned around and instead spent our remaining time fascinated by the architecture of Wareham’s buildings. This little town had a very patched together look. Outsides of buildings were made of remnants of stone walls that had been supplemented by bricks to complete the walls. Areas that had clear signs of once holding a door or a window were filled with brick. These walls had been re-purposed. We walked around buildings and tried to imagine what they may have once been used for or how they originally looked before the addition of the brick. Wareham once had a fort, and I bet some of these walls were once part of Wareham’s less peaceful history.
By the time the bus finally did arrive, I had decided that traveling Dorset by car might have allowed us to see more than we did this day. On the other hand, having accidental time to spare gave us the opportunity to take a closer look at the place than we otherwise might have. So if you’re ever in Wareham, take a little time to admire the architecture, and sit by the quay and watch the activity.