Imagine the scene: a wooden cliff-top chapel serving cream teas in the graveyard as we look out on an Olympic sailing event in Ringstead Bay. And we went to Dorset to get away from the Games!
St Catherine-by-the-Sea is surely one of the smallest and least accessible churches in the country. It's on top of 'the Burning Cliff', a one kilometre hike from Ringstead (if you come via Holworth, there's a vehicle track of sorts). It's a tiny wooden chapel, built just a couple of years ago, replacing an even smaller church (described as 'little more than a garden hut' on one clerical website) initially built in the 1920s.
I was told that the National Trust, a major local landowner, had helped with the construction project - good for them!
The church has a service every month - every week during August - but to make the most of its location on the Dorset coastal path, and of the Olympic sailing events down below off Weymouth, it is now offering daily cream teas and other very acceptable treats. All dispensed by a wonderfully cheerful group of volunteers - who are also selling jam, piccalilli, and some lovely fabric bags.
The church has a small memorial plaque for Rachel Nickell, the young woman brutally murdered on Wimbledon Common twenty years ago. Apparently her grandparents lived in west Dorset.
I would have included shots of the view from the churchyard and of the Olympic yachts - but the sea mist made the view hazy, and the boats were so far away that even with binoculars you couldn't make out much of the action.
So that's the story of how I came to be having scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam, along with a cup of instant coffee, in a cliff-top country churchyard ... while trying not to be put of by the scattering of gravestones all around.
But what a wonderful discovery deep in the Dorset countryside!
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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