DORSET: Hell and back...

Rosemary Cottage lr

Rosemary Cottage at Hell Barn Cottages, North Chideock, near Bridport

By Tim Saunders

“It’s not a place where travellers first think of staying,” smiles Shige Takezoe, who with his wife Diana, owns Hell Barn Cottages in North Chideock.

“There are various stories about how this part of Chideock got its name. Some say Greeks came here and built a temple called Hellas but this is disputed by local historians who say the Greeks only got as far as Devon. Others believe that Christians visited on a pilgrimage and made their home here. Then of course there was the Black Death where corpses were buried in the tumuli. Basically nobody knows why it is called Hell but it’s a beautiful place,” says Shige, who purchased the holiday business with its three cottages in 1996. “It’s very much an international business with 20 per cent of holidaymakers coming from abroad as far away as India and many French and Germans regularly staying. It’s only a 12-hour drive from Munich.”

I have driven through Chideock on the way to Devon many times and never really given it a second glance. Until now. And it is a beautiful revelation. A typical village with narrow country lanes that at times are so narrow it is scary especially when driving a large Range Rover Evoque, which seems to create its own lay-bys.  

What brings a Japanese man to this remote part of Dorset?

“Diana was an English teacher in Tokyo and we moved back to the UK. I haven’t visited Japan since but my sister sends her children over every now and then.”

Shige taught Japanese at the University of London and then relocated to Newcastle where he worked for a Japanese company. “I turned their loss making office into a profitable one. It’s only at that point when you’re making money that you have the luxury to reflect on what you are doing. Realising that I wanted a better quality of life we moved to Dorset and found Hell. We’ve never looked back.”

It’s such an idyllic location where there is an almost continual happy bird song; it’s as if you’re living in an aviary. There’s no road noise and children are well catered for because not only is there a large garden to run around there is a slide and swings, which Harriett and Heidi thoroughly enjoy. There’s also an enormous games room where we visit each morning. The children love playing in the Wendy house as you can see in the video and we even manage to play poll and ping pong.

We stay in Rosemary Cottage, which has two bedrooms and a downstairs bathroom. Most importantly of all, the beds are extremely comfortable providing a good night’s sleep. But it is only on this holiday that my wife, Caroline realises that my snoring has been disturbing her sleep for the past three years. That’s a tough day for me but I resolve to visit a pharmacist and find some anti-snoring strips, which help.

Shige cooks Japanese cuisine and delivers it to the cottages. He’ll even take away the plates so there’s no washing up. This is great because it enables tired parents to enjoy the restaurant experience at home without worrying about the children disrupting fellow diners. “I also cater for diners in my home and sometimes they end up holidaying in one of my cottages,” says Shige. We try the salmon and chicken teriyaki, which comes with rice, miso soup and salad with Japanese dressing. Until now I hadn’t eaten seaweed but it was surprisingly tasty in the miso soup.

Another highlight of this holiday is our trip on the historic Seaton Tramway. We board at Colyton and enjoy a 30 minute trip to Seaton. Surprisingly we’re able to fit our tandem pushchair on board in the open part of the tram. Admittedly it’s a bit chilly at 10.30 in the morning but Harriett and Heidi are covered in blankets so they’re happy. It’s a delightful way to travel to Seaton with breathtaking views of the River Exe estuary as you can see in the video at We spot rabbits and pheasants. A thoroughly enjoyable day is spent at Seaton where we become aware that this seaside town suffers from a seagull problem. Interestingly bird control comes in the form of a 246mph peregrine falcon named Morgan, who is a television celebrity. There’s a video of him in action on The moment he is released the seagulls quickly disappear. Our return journey to Colyton is much warmer. Travelling in this way is so much more relaxing than driving a car and having to look for a parking space.   

There are so many attractions and places to visit along the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Venture down the road to Golden Cap and you will be richly rewarded with magnificent coastal views. From seaside destinations such as West Bay to Lyme Regis and Bridport and just over the borders to Sidmouth in Devon and Chard in Somerset there is never a dull moment.

At the Donkey Sanctuary at Sidmouth 15,500 donkeys and mules have been provided with a sanctuary for life since 1969 when Dr Elisabeth Svensden MBE established it. The 400-acre site is home to around 350 rescued donkeys. It is open 365 days of the year and is free to visit.

A la Ronde, the National Trust property at Exmouth is a spectacular 16-sided house. It was built by two wealthy cousins who wanted to make the most of daylight. The property enabled them to move around it with the movement of the sun. The same family had lived there from the late 1700s until the 1990s. Furniture includes a chair presented to them by their friend Lady Nelson. This chair had actually belonged to one of Lord Nelson’s ships. There’s a shell gallery and decorative feathers adorning some walls.

We finish our holiday at West Bay on a bench in the shade where we watch life pass us by.


The games room at Hell Barn Cottages

The Games Room at Hell Barn Cottages


West Bay
Arrive at Hell Barn Cottages
Golden Cap and Stonebarrow Hill. Picnic. Lovely walk along the coast.
Board Seaton Tramway at Colyton
Arrive at Seaton and explore the coastline
Return to Colyton by tram
Lyme Regis. A lovely walk down to the beach following a footpath. We visit some art galleries. A wonderful sandy beach and we enjoy watching a busker.
Donkey Sanctuary where a badger runs straight past us while we’re having our picnic
Branscombe village – an extremely picturesque and quaint village
Beer. Time for pasties and a pint.
A la Ronde, Exmouth
We visit the Regency town of Sidmouth
Japanese meal at Hell Barn Cottages
The only day it rains and so we spend most of the day in the car but do visit Church of Our Lady, the catholic church in Chideock
West Bay (formerly Bridport harbour). Children’s playground with trampoline and rope swings.

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