I hope you enjoy this look back to the 1960s in this short blog which is also available as this podcast on YouTube:
Weymouth to me, back in the 1960s when I was a teenager was a magical place. I was in love with it and the people and especially everything about the Wyke House Hotel! My elder brother George met June, his wife to be, in the September of 1960 in Aldershot which was our family home whilst he was convalescing following a vehicle accident whilst in the Army. Even though George was not to leave the Army until December 1961 Wyke House Hotel became the centre of June and George’s world from 1961 onward. They were were married in February 1962 at Wyke parish church which was next to the hotel. Very soon after George’s move to Weymouth I began my visits there meeting June’s family and getting to know them and their friends at this wonderful place!
One day George said come down and help with at the hotel. I decided to hitch hike. Dad insisted on taking me to the A30. I think it was Hartley Wintney. In those days, the A30 ran straight through the village. There were no motorways, and I don’t remember any bypasses or dual carriageways. The A30 would take me to Salisbury and then via another A road, high up across over Salisbury Plain and Cranborne Chase – offering wonderful vistas across the rolling countryside. I could then get to Dorchester with a short hop to Weymouth. I hitched a lift to just before Winchester, where the A33 used to divide off to Winchester and Southampton. I was heading westward towards Stockbridge and Salisbury. It was just a fork in the road in those times. No motorways in those days.
Sitting on a bank overlooking the fork in the road on a lovely sunny day, I hadn’t even started hitching when a car pulled up. More than a car – this was a Ford Mustang!
An open top car and the engine was throbbing way! An exceedingly rare car in those days in England. It was straight out of a Hollywood movie, red, a beautiful looking car. The guy shouted to me, “do you want a lift”? “Yes please” I yelled and scrambled down the grassy bank. As I got in, I almost stepped on a massive, great dog sitting in the footwell of the passenger seat. It was a red setter or something similar and luckily it paid no heed to me.
So off we went – and did we go! The guy took off at a rate of knots, accelerating. I watched the speedometer needle rise rapidly until we were going at over 70 mph at times. I had never been in a car at that speed before! He sped along the A30. For much of the time it was dead straight. We were on an old Roman road as I found out later.
At each crest of the hill the wheels left the ground! I had my heart in my mouth. We eventually got to Salisbury where I was dropped off. I was grateful for his lift, but also grateful to get out of the car!
I found myself by the bus station. I think part of the open area was also a cattle market. To one side was a brick built rather plain building and it served as a cafe and a pub. I went in and got myself a cup of tea and a very plain sandwich, – the only type available! very typical of cafes in those days. Just a choice of ham or cheese. I had cheese. Soon after I boarded a bus to Blandford Forum. I’d always liked trips on buses especially on those old-fashioned buses with their very comfortable seats. It was a Wilts and Dorset district bus painted red.
It seemed to match the fingerpost road signs they had in those days throughout Dorset which were painted red. They were distinctive but, sadly, there aren’t many left today. It was a relaxing and very pleasant journey looking out the window onto the gently rolling green hills of the Wiltshire and Dorset countryside. I drifted off into dreamy thoughts without a care in the world.
At Blandford Forum I thought, well, I’ll have another go at hitching. And literally just then a hay lorry came along, a low-backed lorry, partly loaded. As instructed, I climbed up on the back of the lorry. It was a slow, old vehicle which trudged along towards Dorchester, and I thought I was never going to get there! I felt I had gone back in time. However, it was a pleasant afternoon so no worries – the last stage of the journey was a Morris Minor. As you come into Weymouth from the Dorchester direction you get to a hilltop and a gap in the hills when you look over the whole of Weymouth and towards Portland.
I always remember the first time I saw that view, – it’s still in my mind today, you see for miles across the curving edge of Weymouth Bay and over toward the island of Portland rising out of the sea connected via a narrow ismuth to the mainland alongside Weymouth Harbour.
After being dropped off on the bustling seafront in Weymouth I walked up to the Wyke House Hotel. A white Georgian manor house set in its own grounds surrounded by a high wall next to Wyke church.
You couldn’t see the house from the road as not only was there a wall but also there were evergreen bushes like rhododendrons which gave it that secluded feeling. Entering the gateway, you are in another world away from this modern world. There were large ancient trees in the grounds. I recall a Lebanon cedar tree to the left other trees with the outbuildings to the right. In the centre was this white Georgian building comfortably standing in its own grounds. The central portico had columns to either side with the house extended on both sides. It wasn’t a large building but nevertheless an impressive two-storey with the large Georgian windows and a fine grey slate roof.
I’d arrived at one of my favourite places in the world!