As the sun made its first appearance of the summer yesterday, Wings over Scotland wasn’t slow off the mark. On the “B” of the “BANG!”, we leapt onto a train for a two-hour journey to the seaside, specifically the lovely and historic south-coast town of Weymouth. It’s a remarkable place, changing character every time you turn a corner.
The front is a traditional resort promenade, with beaches and ice-cream stands and arcades. Just behind it is a picturesque working harbour town, tatty fishing boats mingling with some extremely fancy millionaires’ yachts. (Don’t miss the tasty and gigantic battered faggots at Bennett’s On The Waterfront fish and chip shop, by the way, the closest thing you’ll find to haggis in an English chippy and heavenly with a splash of onion vinegar.) Adjacent to both is a scruffy but bustling town centre, almost entirely free of the empty shops littering every other urban conurbation in Britain.
And if you embark on about five minutes’ leisurely stroll from the western end of the prom or the busy, noisy harbour and marina, you’ll find the town’s only sizeable area of public green space, in the form of the beautiful and peaceful oasis that is The Nothe.
Pronounced “know-th”, The Nothe is a stunning wee pocket of natural beauty that would look at home on the west coast of Scotland. It comprises a great swathe of open public parkland (known as Nothe Gardens) on a hill overlooking a rocky seaweed beach and a tremendous old World War 2 fort that we highly recommend forking out the six quid for a visit to, with glorious views out to sea and the Isle of Portland.
If you’re ever in the Weymouth area, we urge you to visit it. It’s beautiful, tranquil and practically deserted, despite its closeness to a major resort. (See also the second bay at Barry Island in south Wales, incidentally.) Just don’t try it for the next month or so, because the entire place is about to be fenced off.
Dotted around The Nothe currently are numerous cheerful and brightly-coloured notices indicating which parts of Weymouth are about to become off-limits to the town’s residents, and in the case of The Nothe that’s pretty much all of it.
The entirety of this huge public space will shortly become an exclusion zone (officially “The Nothe Ticketed Venue”) reserved for the sole use of paying Olympic spectators, from which they can watch the sailing events being hosted off the headland, while ordinary citizens are deprived of the use of a great chunk of their town for weeks. (Normal access is scheduled to be restored on August 17th.)
We don’t remember there being a referendum on whether Britain wished to spend billions of pounds on hosting the Olympics. We’re not aware of the inhabitants of Weymouth being given the chance to accept or refuse the annexation of their only green space by LOCOG for a month. We’re just glad we managed to get there when the sun was shining and ordinary scum like us were still generously permitted to walk the public streets and lands of our country.