10 Fun activities for children in West Bay

There are plenty of fun activities for children and the whole family to enjoy in West Bay, look at our suggestions and come and discover new things to do!

1) Visit West Bay Discovery Centre

West Bay Discovery Centre

In rain or shine there is plenty for children to enjoy at West Bay Discovery Centre. We may look small but we are packed with things to do! Our simple aim is to allow you to make the most of your visit to West Bay. Come in and see what we have here.

2) Pick up one of our free Children’s trails and discover what West Bay was like for children 150 years ago.

West Bay Discovery Centre children's trail

3) Explore the Wild Side of West Bay, pick up one of our free leaflets . We even have compass, maps and binoculars for sale to help you discover more.

Discover the Wildlife around West Bay - free leaflet

4) Play pirates at West Bay children’s playground . This award-winning playground is made of ropes that reflect Bridport ‘s heritage as a rope making town and is designed for ages from 0 to 99.

West Bay Play Area

5) Go crabbing – please pick up one of our free “Careful crabbing” guides. The crabs in West Bay love eating your bacon but would like to be treated well by you too!

Careful Crabbing in West Bay

6) On the beach there are lots of opportunities for fun! Build a sandcastle, skim a stone, jump over waves, create sculptures and pictures on the beach, swim in the sea. Please take notice of safety notices regarding swimming and don’t sit right under the cliffs! Our beaches are lovely, we want them to stay that way, so follow Litter Free Dorset’s message “Take only memories and leave only footprints in the sand.”

West Bay - East Beach things to do on the beach with children

7) Have an ice-cream, we have been told that there are 30 different places to buy ice-cream in West Bay, with a choice so vast you are sure to find your favourite flavour. Just watch out for the sea-gulls they like an ice-cream too!

8) Climb a cliff the South West Coast Path takes in both East and West Cliff, which were made famous in the popular TV Series Broadchurch. Follow the footpath up either cliff and enjoy the amazing scenery from the top. Children will need close supervision and dogs should be kept on leads. If you are interested in making this a circular walk we can provide you with further details.

West Bay walks along the South West Coast path

9) Go fishing with charter fishing boat trips or go angling off the beach or Jurassic Pier. Visit West Bay Angling centre for more detailed information. You may be lucky enough to catch our local fishermen unloading the fish and shellfish they have caught in Lyme Bay

Fishing in West Bay Dorset

10) Get on the water and take a exciting trip on the Lyme Bay Rib. Alternatively hire a rowing boat and take a leisurely row up the river. Or why not try canoeing or paddle boarding?

If you are staying in the area and want to explore further along the coast pick up one of the tourist leaflets or ask one of the volunteers for suggestions. They are always willing to help you.

West Bay Discovery also has additional activities for children running during the school holidays. Please look at our What’s on page on this website , or our Facebook or Instagram for the latest information.

Summer volunteering opportunities

West Bay Discovery Centre is nearly a year old and with the holiday season upon us, we are getting busier by the week. Since opening on 1st August last year, we have welcomed nearly 17,500 visitors, which is amazing. The comments in the visitor book are brilliant and we’ve had some lovely Trip Advisor posts … so, where better to spend a couple of hours a week and meet some lovely people?

August is going to be our busiest month yet with lots of things planned for kids and grown ups. Unfortunately, our dedicated team of volunteers do like to go on holiday (strange, but true), so now is a good time to try out volunteering at the Discovery Centre for the month of August.

A shift of stewarding a week can be in the morning or the afternoon. You’ll never be alone, there’s always another volunteer to keep you company, and we’ll make sure you get the most out of your volunteer experience… plus, of course, our visitors are usually cheerful (they’re in West Bay, so it makes sense!)

You don’t have to know everything about West Bay to help us out in August … there’s lots of information that you’ll pick up as you go along, and there’s always someone to point you in the right direction. If you love West Bay like we do, that helps!
If you’re interested in giving us a test run then please contact us o 01308 427288, or message us through Facebook.

The Medical Units at Omaha

We wanted to share one more story from D-Day that came to light during our research.

The basic principles of the medical units were to find a casualty, treat him, remove him from danger and transport him to a secure rear area. At Omaha this was impossible – there was no rear area that wasn’t guarded by German troops. Private First-Class Charles Shay from F Company, who trained here at West Bay, was only 19 years old. “It was difficult for me to witness so much carnage and not be affected emotionally. I had to close my mind … in order that I was effective at doing what I had been trained for.” Shay survived, unlike many of the valiant selfless medics on that day who died, not with guns in their hands, but with bandages and syringes.

These men were in a state of perpetual crisis, dealing with an overwhelming number of casualties, many of whom were suffering from a multiplicity of terrible wounds. Danger and death were everywhere, lives hung in the balance and life-changing decisions became routine. Staff Sergeant Bernard Friedenberg recalled, “I moved on to the next casualty and the next and the next. It seemed endless.”

Responding to a young soldier with a gaping sucking chest wound, Friedenberg wrote, “It was arterial bleeding … I knew he would die if I didn’t get the bleeding under control.” He placed a large compress over the wound and applied pressure. He understood that the man’s only chance for survival depended on maintaining pressure until someone could operate on him and there were no such facilities on Omaha beach. It would take hours to get him relocated. Around him were the cries and screams of others needing attention. What should he do? If he left the man with the chest wound, he would die, if he stayed others would die. Who would live? Who had the greater value? Which parents would never see their son again?

“Who should live and who should die is not a decision a twenty-one-year-old boy should have to make”, he wrote sadly. He gave the man with the chest wound a shot of morphine and moved on to help the others. “For more than fifty years I have wondered if I made the right decision and I know I shall never stop feeling guilty.” In fact, like so many of his combat medic colleagues, Friedenberg suffered from PTSD for decades.

Photo: Bernard I Friedenberg

One thing to remember: Medics carried no weapons. Theoretically, they were protected by the Geneva Convention, but on Omaha beach a German soldier was unlikely to see or register the red cross on the armband and helmet of an enemy soldier from a distance in the confusion of battle. They may have had no weapons, but a medic possessed something far more useful; his ability to offer comfort and a friendly voice to a soldier dying on a French beach.

Remembering the GI’s in West Bay

We were delighted to welcome the 1st Infantry Division Living History Group and dignitaries including a representative of the US Embassy, Dorset’s High Sheriff, Lord Lieutenant and Town Mayor to the West Bay Discovery Centre on Saturday 18th May. They came to visit our exhibition “Warm Beer and Cabbages” as part of Bridport’s weekend of honouring the GIs Just as 75 years ago the arrival of men in uniform and their vehicles generated a lot of interest.

We have been so grateful to the locals who shared with us their treasured childhood memories of the GI’s who became their special friends.

Arthur Watson told us how one morning the GI’s disappeared from their lives without even a goodbye. One moment these soldiers were alive in the beauty of the Dorset countryside and then they were lying dead or injured on the French beaches. The American families did not realise the deep impact their sons and husbands had on the local community and did not inform them what had happened to them.

One of these children, Arthur Watson, told us “seventy-five years on from D-Day I still remember the wonder of the American dream in West Bay. Such a great nation that came to us in our time of need and personified by the selflessness and sacrifice of its individual soldiers.”

Our guided walk by Elizabeth Gale -75 Years on…remembering the Normandy Landings and local connections.

These anniversaries make you stop, think and remember. Without them such great and brave men could easily be forgotten.

The Exhibition “Warm Beer and Cabbages” about the GI’s In West Bay will close on Sunday 23rd June 2019, so there is still a chance to visit us and see it.

Got any gum, chum?

It is hard to imagine the impact that 200 plus fit young men with their strange accents had on the close-knit, war-weary folk of Bridport Harbour, but there are still a number of people, children during the Second World War, who remember the time the GIs were billeted in West Bay from November 1943 to June 1944.

Arthur Watson’s family moved to West Bay in 1939. ‘Got-any-gum, chum?’ on Wednesday 8th May at 7.30pm at the Salt House, is an opportunity to hear some of his childhood memories of life in war-time West Bay; including living alongside the GIs. The audience are invited to ask questions and share their own memories and stories. Tickets are just £3, available from the Discovery Centre, the Tourist Information Office or on the door.

On the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, our special exhibition, ‘Warm Beer and Cabbages’, is running until the last week of June and tells the story of the American Servicemen in the area and the first day on Omaha beach.

Tales of the Unintended

Sandy Hashimi our West Bay Discovery Centre Manager has been invited to produce some guest blog posts for Bridport Cottages . Some of which we have reproduced below.

Photographic Memories

One of the great things about working at the West Bay Discovery Centre, is the number of photographs that folk bring in to show us. Whether it’s a picture of the harbour taken 50 years ago or a cherished family snap on the beach, we encourage visitors to share their memories with us, all of which adds to the story of life in West Bay.

Unwitting Testimony

With a good number of photographs to hand, we were thinking about unwitting testimony; learning something from an object or picture that is unintended. As an example, I took this photo on my ‘phone recently when we had a very low tide. The focus was really the fishing boat and the wee rowing boat, but later I noticed three men at the far end working on the bottom of the harbour.

The Pier Terrace

pier terrace fire

The picture of Pier Terrace was taken specifically to record the fire in 1929, but we see that there was some sort of balcony around number 10. The photograph wasn’t intended to provide information about the building – other than it was on fire – but nonetheless it did. It started us on a search through old photographs of Pier Terrace to try to pinpoint when this balcony appeared, as it certainly wasn’t on those dated 1910 and earlier.

Unintended Evidence

Clearly, the concept of unintended evidence has fed into novels and films – the traveller taking a picture of his companion, only to find later that in the far distance a shady figure has its hands fixed around the neck of a slender form. (It goes without saying here that if you do notice anything of this nature in one of your pictures, you should perhaps let the authorities know!)

What Else Do Pictures Tell Us?

Have you ever tried to figure out what time of day a photograph was taken? The picture doesn’t exist to tell you, but quite often you can work it out by the length and direction of shadows or the people around go about their daily life. Obviously, a photo of West Bay which includes St John’s Church clock really helps!

What If …

And how brilliant are photos anyway? When you look at them, you could wonder how different the image might be if the shutter was opened a few seconds earlier or later or the picture taken from a couple of inches to the right or the left. Perhaps the sun would have gone behind a cloud, that girl might turn away, the dog lay down, the wind calm and the flag fall flat. A photograph is a recording of a split second of time, and something, somewhere in that picture will be different in the blink of an eye.

So next time you check the pictures on your ‘phone, look carefully – you never know what you might have caught on camera.

Stories from the past – Captain J.W Finke

Captain John G. W. Finke was the Commander of F Company, who were based in West Bay from November 1943 to June 1944, when they left Castletown, Portland for Omaha beach on the Normandy coast.

We were sent this picture of Captain Finke by the 16th Infantry Regiment Association in the USA – and it was great to finally put a face to the name. Whilst still in England in the marshalling area in June 1944, Finke had badly sprained his left ankle, which on the day of the landings was heavily taped. Instead of a rifle, he was clutching a cane. Heading towards the Omaha beach, his landing craft (LCVP) had gone 1,100 yards off course. The plan was that all F Company’s six LCVPs would arrive at the same time, thus providing the enemy more targets than they could deal with, but each was up to 1,100 yards off target and strung out in both position and time. They were supposed to take advantage of dead spots in the German fields of fire, but instead three of the boats were right in the kill zone between German defence nests, WN-62 and WN-61.

When he finally left the landing craft, the water was nearly over Captain Finke’s head and he struggled with his injury to shore. Exhausted, seasick from a two-hour ride and with heavy enemy fire destroying any semblance of an organised assault, the troops were trying to take cover anywhere they could, often behind the defensive obstacles which had teller mines attached to them.

As heavy as the enemy fire was, and as vulnerable as men would be on the move, Finke realised it was worse for them to stay put as stationary targets in the shadow of those teller mines. He therefore walked around whacking people until they moved. John McManus reports in his excellent book, The Dead and Those Dying, “Several times he rapped prone forms to discover they were dead. Other times, he smacked men with is cane several times, got no reaction, and assumed they were dead, only to see their petrified faces, and understand they were too frightened to move.

“Come on, get up, go on!” he yelled, without wielding his cane – then each man could pretend he was talking to someone else. But if he hit a man personally with his cane, there could be no ambiguity – get moving or else – and he was right.”

In this way, he got many of them up and running the several hundred yards to the comparative safety of the shingle bank. By the time he made it there himself he had lost 25 per cent of his command.

In the course of that awful day, Captain Finke would be badly wounded; a compound fracture of the elbow and a broken left tibia. However, with little thought for his own safety, rifle-less and limping on his sprained ankle, he saved many of his men and would, ultimately, survive the war.

Our exhibition entitled, Warm Beer and Cabbages, remembers the time the American Servicemen lived among us in the run-up to D-Day and starts on Good Friday, 19th April to Sunday 23rd June. It commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings.

Stories from the past – Sergeant Phil Streczyk

80,000 US troops stayed in Dorset, training for the D-Day landings. 75 years on, our exhibition will remember the time when American soldiers lived among us in West Bay and the day they disappeared. (Friday 19th April to Sunday 23rd June, 2019).
 Sergeant Phil Streczyk was billeted in West Bay from November 1943 to June 1944 en route to the Normandy beaches. He was 25 years old and was in the first wave to be dropped 200 yards out from Omaha beach at 6.30am on 6th June. When rifleman Stanley Dzierga slipped under the water, he pulled the man back to the surface, and when Edwin Piasecki’s 80lb backpack pulled him beneath the waves, he hung on to him and saved him from drowning. On the beach under constant fire, he was described as fearless, “I never saw a man like that in my life. He wasn’t that big of a guy. He just went, did everything and it just seems he was immune to the fire.” Said Dzierga who he had saved from the sea. He went ahead, he pulled and cajoled his men along, taking the risks on their behalf.

Captain Wozenski wrote of the courageous New Jersey native, “If he did not earn a Congressional Medal of Honor, no one did.”

The 25-year-old sergeant did become one of the most decorated NCOs of World War II and it is safe to say that no single individual contributed more to the 1st Division’s success on D-Day that Streczyk did. He continued to fight after D-Day, through Normandy, through the Mons pocket, Aachen and then into the brutal Hurtgen Forest, leading by example every step of the way. In all, he logged 440 days of frontline combat duty and survived many wounds. In one instance a pistol bullet hit him in the base of the neck, yet he refused medical evacuation. Somehow the wound healed, but it left a deep scar. Montgomery pinned the UK Military Medal on his chest on the 7th July 1944 (see picture).

He was evacuated from the front lines with combat fatigue – a grim reminder that even the bravest souls have their limits. He became a builder in Florida, married and had four children, but he missed his men and could not leave the war and D-Day behind. Streczyk was in persistent pain from his physical wounds and at night he was tormented with traumatic battle dreams. 
In 1957, after years of emotional and physical pain, he took his own life. 

Looking back twelve months

As we reach almost twelve months since work started on the Chapel its a good time to look back and see what has been achieved. It’s difficult to remember that the Methodist Chapel looked like this time last year – abandoned and in need of a restoration.

The builders started work in mid-February and the interior looked even worse for a while as the early work stripped back existing wall and ceiling coverings.

The floor boards were removed so that repairs could be carried out to the timber joists underneath and then relaid. The ceiling panels were also removed , the roof insulated and new panels were fitted.

In April the  walls were re-plastered and the windows refurbished and the ceiling was refitted.

 In May a new mezzanine level was completed using oak and pine.

The completed building prior to fitting out. Our builders, R & C Building Conservation, led by Cristian Nicoara, did a great job !  The basis for this was the design work of Angel Architecture’s Kim Sankey, who has had a long association with the building. Daryl Chamber’s tenacious project management skills meant that everything was delivered to plan.

The outside was repainted creating a very different look to its appearance in January 2018. Although the seagulls didn’t take long to christen it!

The fitting of interpretation and displays by our designers Smith & Jones begins – it takes three days – it was strange to see everything in reality after having worked on the concept and content for so many months beforehand.

Our Discovery manager Sandy Hashimi welcomes our volunteers and gives them a final briefing.

West Bay Discovery Centre is officially opened by the Deputy Mayor of Bridport, Martin Ray. The Trustees of Bridport Area Development Trust and the Management Group of West Bay Discovery Centre join him to mark this important milestone.

Washed Ashore– our first exhibition highlighted the issue of plastics being washed  up on the beach.

Washed Ashore– our first exhibition highlighted the issue of plastics being washed  up on the beach.

Our collection of nurdles/biobeads collected from West Bay Beach Clean sessions by the public.

World War 1 Exhibition  – most of the artifacts were lent by local people.  We  discovered the life stories of the six men who never returned to West Bay and are recorded on the memorial. in St John’s Church. 

World War 1 Exhibition  – most of the artifacts were lent by local people.  We  discovered the life stories of the six men who never returned to West Bay and are recorded on the memorial in St John’s Church. 

Model Boat exhibition – a wonderful selection of model boats produced by members of the local  model group.

Model Boat exhibition – a wonderful selection of model boats produced by members of the local  model group

It has been wonderful to have welcomed over 9,000 visitors into the building since August. The numbers having well exceeded our expectations. We still have many exciting plans and ideas to fulfill in 2019. So do please follow our progress and come in and see us when we reopen in mid-February for the 2019 season.

August 2018 -our first month open

What an amazing month we have had since we opened! We welcomed 3,880 visitors through the doors which exceeded our expectations. We have also received some very positive feedback verbally and in our visitors book!

We thought we would share some of these comments with you.

“Fabulous exhibition , fun, informative. Great stuff brilliant, great for young and old.”

” Brilliant use if this space very interesting and informative.”

“Fantastic display , wonderful idea loved that there is lots to play with.”

“Wonderful to see the old building put to such good use. Imaginative and informative. Loved the historic pictures of West Bay and the videos.”

“Very interesting history of West Bay and West Dorset. They have done a good job. well done!”

“What an amazing place to enjoy as children and adults. Well thought out, thank you.”

“Very interesting and great ‘hands on’ for children. Amazing stories from residents of the area too,very enjoyable.”

“Good interactive display for children. Really interesting and informative, brilliantly laid out.”

“Lovely centre of local interest and good to see chapel put to such good use.”

“Amazing look at the past, staff very welcoming and friendly.”

“This all wouldn’t have been made possible without our excellent part time manager and the volunteers who have so generously given up their time to help us.”

If you haven’t had a chance to visit us yet do come and see us!

We are now in the process of planning future exhibitions and content more details soon…