Along a woodland path between Beer and Seaton

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Rather than the antiquated local museum I was expecting, from the moment you step inside Seaton Jurassic it is clear that time, money, and passion have gone into creating an engaging and educational experience for visitors of all ages. You start off by exploring a Victorian study to learn about the quirks of the local landscape, such as the landslip of 1839 that sent 20 acres of farmland crashing into the sea, forming what became known as Goat Island. In addition to becoming a 19th-century tourist attraction (even Queen Victoria herself paid a visit), this was the first landslip to be scientifically studied.

From there, a holographic projection of a 19th-century time traveller pops up to help set the scene, with infectious enthusiasm that propels the visitor onward to the “library of time”. This alone was worth the cost of admission. Starting with the origins of life some 4 billion years ago, the exhibition designers created hundreds of mock books, each with titles and subtitles that showed what was happening on the planet at the time, moving closer and closer to our own time period (humankind take up only one or two books in the grand scheme of things). Yet they did this with such a sense of humour that we couldn’t help but read each one. For example, during the time of “Snowball Earth”, one of the books was subtitled “Do you want to build a snowman?”, and later, once life had taken hold on the planet, each new evolutionary wave got its own volume.

Cliffside signs and books at Seaton Jurassic exhibition

The exhibition didn’t shy away from difficult topics either, showing the mass extinctions that have plagued the planet from the very beginning, and asking if we might be contributing to the next one. From the serious to the slightly silly (in a good way), there was a mock time machine and a pseudo rock pool to explore before heading out into a coastal garden. My expectations were well and truly exceeded, and it was a good reminder that local museums can have the power to wow.

View looking towards sea and village of Beer

After a walk back to Beer, we decided to head off in the other direction along the coast to the nearby village of Branscombe. This is when I made an unfortunate discovery: my country walks had failed to prepare me for coastal paths.

Country walks, at least the ones I do, tend to be on level, wide pathways. Coastal paths, however, go up and down over very uneven terrain that seem more suitable for a mountain goat than a former Floridian. I would prefer to enjoy the beauty of what’s around me—and the Devon coastline is truly spectacular—rather than worry about where I was putting my feet.

Views along the Devon seaside from Beer to Branscombe

Yet we eventually made it to Branscombe, where my FitBit said I had walked ten miles and the equivalent of over 100 flights of stairs over the course of the day. My body was feeling every inch of the journey, and the three miles back to Beer just didn’t seem in the cards. There had to be another way back, right? Yet dining that evening at a Branscombe pub brought us some light entertainment that bordered on farce or something out of Fawlty Towers.

We asked the waiter if there was a bus back to Beer.

“Of course, just turn right when you leave and look for the benches. That’s the bus stop. You have to wave him down or he might pass you.”

We thanked him for his information and continued to wait for our meal.

A few minutes later he came to the table again. “Are you wanting to travel to Beer today?”

We nodded in the affirmative.

“Oh, you can’t do that. The last bus leaves at ten to six.” It was now well over an hour past that time. He wandered off.

We flagged down another waiter and asked for details for a taxi. He disappeared and returned with a business card and said to give the driver a call; she would sort us out.

I picked up my mobile to do just that, but found it had no reception. MrElaineous left the pub and tried to get through on his phone without any luck. It was time to throw ourselves on their mercy again. “We tried to call the number you gave us on our mobile and couldn’t get a signal. Is it possible to borrow a phone?”

“Oh, Branscombe doesn’t get any mobile reception. You’ll have to use the phone next door.”

Which we did and returned safely to Beer. Yet it wasn’t until later that I realised why this exchange seemed so familiar. In the film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character asks the landlady at his B&B if there is any hot water. The response? “Oh no, there wouldn’t be today.” What may be obvious to a local can leave the tourist quite befuddled!

Yet on the subject of Groundhog Day, this wouldn’t have been a bad day to repeat. There aren’t many things I would do differently, except perhaps have checked the bus timetable before setting off!

[ Check back next week for Part 4, or sign up for the mailing list to have the latest blog post delivered directly to your inbox (and get a free eBook as a bonus!). You can follow these links to see Part 1 and Part 2 of the Bound for Beer series.]
Off the Beaten Track Wiltshire

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