Lulworth Cove writing weekend is an idea for a writing weekend to explore and respond creatively.
We will explore Lulworth Cove, where John Keats spent his last hours on British soil, where Rupert Brooke lost his love and wrote many poems, where Lytton Strachey could not find love, and where Bertrand Russell caused a stir skinny-dipping with a parade of lovers. Sir Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Leigh also briefly stayed here.
It is from Lulworth Cove that Sergeant Troy, the fascinating and faithless soldier in Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd (1874) swims and disappears:
Troy came to a small basin of sea enclosed by the cliffs. He undressed and plunged in. Inside the cove the water was uninteresting to a swimmer, being smooth as a pond, and to get a little of the ocean swell, Troy presently swam between the two projecting spurs of rock which formed the pillars of Hercules to this miniature Mediterranean.
Hardy also commemorated Keats’ visit in the 1920 poem ‘At Lulworth Cove A Century Later’.
Between Lulworth Cove and Ringstead we will be following in the footsteps of such writers as T.F. Powys, Sylvia Townsend Warner and David Garnett, by walking eastwards towards Durdle Door, Bat’s Head and West Bottom and in a circular walk return to Lulworth by Newlands Farm, where Bertrand Russell and his lovers stayed.
We can also walk westwards to the Iron Age hillfort, Bindon Hill, above the Cove, where a legion of invading Roman soldiers fell over the cliffs, to the Fossil Forest and the old chapel where a community of French Trappist monks lived until the fourteenth century.
Churchfields, now a private house, previously the Red Lion pub, was where Irish playwright and composer John O’Keefe (1747-1833) stayed in 1791. O’Keefe used the pub as a setting in his farce and based characters on the landlord and his family in The London Hermit, or Rambles in Dorsetshire (1793).
John Keats (1795-1821) landed at Lulworth Cove in September 1820 whilst a passenger on board the Maria Crowther bound for Italy. His last night on English soil was spent at Lulworth Cove on 30 September 1820.
Here he carried with him one of the last poems that he wrote, the sonnet ‘Bright Star, would that I were steadfast as thou art’, and could not stop thinking of his lover, Fanny Brawne.
West Lulworth, with Studland, was where the Neo-Pagan movement met with the Bloomsbury Group in the early 1900’s and explored their conflicting notions of sexuality.
The poet Rupert Brooke (1887-1917) and his Neo-Pagan friends stayed at the village post office and the guesthouse, Churchfields, in a series of visits between 1908 and 1912. Writer and biographer, Lytton Strachey, as infatuated by Brooke’s beauty as Virginia Woolf and a host of other men and women, followed him to Lulworth in the hope of securing his affections.
Between 1916 and 1935 West Lulworth also became the holiday haunt of the philosopher (and member of the Bloomsbury Group) Bertrand Russell (1872-1970). Russell and his lovers, including socialite Lady Ottoline Morrell, actress and pacifist Lady Constance Malleson (Colette O’Neil), Dora Black, writer and novelist Katherine Mansfield, Vivien Eliot (the wife of T S Eliot), Dorothy Winch and Patricia Spence, swam naked in Lulworth Cove. Their activities scandalised the village and were hinted at in Colette O’Neil’s novel The Coming Back (1933).
David Garnett (1892-1981), writer, critic and associate of The Bloomsbury Group, also holidayed at Lulworth and lived at East Chaldon, where he is buried. His novel, The Sailor’s Return (1928), named after the village pub, describes the conflict between a sailor and his black African wife and the Dorset villagers amongst whom they settle.
Lulworth is easily accessible by train or car.
By train: Frequent trains run to Wool station (5 miles from Lulworth) on the London Waterloo to Weymouth Line. There is a taxi rank at the station for transport to Lulworth.
By car: From London, take the M3 and M27. To avoid Bournemouth and Poole take the A31 at Trickets Cross near Ferndown to Bere Regis. At Bere Regis, turn south following signpost to Wool, then from Wool take the B3071 to Lulworth Cove