One of my favourite Greek philosophers is a little known fellow called Eubulides of Miletus. To tell the truth, the aforesaid Eubulides would be pretty much unknown to posterity were it not for the fact that he pre-occupied himself with heaps of sand (known in ancient Greek as “sorites”).
The great insight which Eubulides bestowed on the world was the so-called “sorites paradox”.
Presumably, sitting outside his home in Miletus and staring at heaps of sand, he noticed that the heap remained a heap if you took one grain of sand away, and then another, and then another – but that a single grain clearly wasn’t a heap and that two grains probably weren’t much of a heap, and that even three grains didn’t really constitute a heap. Eubulides deduced from all of this that the question of when a heap becomes a heap is a question that hasn’t really got an answer.
Much the same can be said about tourist attractions. When is a tourist attraction an attraction? There isn’t really a defining moment. But, as one adds more and more grains of interest, one gets closer and closer to the point of creating something that really attracts the world to come and see it.
It is on these grounds that I was so delighted to see the £5 million grant that has just been given to something called, rather mysteriously, “Dorset Coastal Connections”.
The projects being sponsored by Dorset Coastal Connections are small items. But each will contribute one of those grains of sand to the heap that eventually adds up to the transformation of our heritage coastline into a true tourist attraction, to the great benefit of our local economy.
A new, beautiful and useable trail from Uplyme to Lyme Town Mill, a new “Visitor Hub” at West Bay, a safe traffic-free route for cycling between West Bay and Bridport, a new route from the car park to the sea at West Bay, a whole series of improvements to the Dorset Coast Path, and equivalent small steps to improve connections with the coastline in Weymouth, Kimmeridge, Bournemouth and Christchurch will, between them, do a huge amount to make a visit to Dorset more rewarding for tourists from around the world.
We shouldn’t imagine that all of this will be of importance only to the coastal parts of West Dorset. On the contrary, when people from all over the world come to visit the heritage coastline, a fair proportion of them will inevitably come inland – and thereby begin to understand the delights of Dorset as a whole.
The weather to which we are subject in the south west of England has many disadvantages – but one advantage is that it forces many visitors on many days to seek refuge from the elements, and what could be a more attractive way of obtaining such refuge than, for example, a visit to Sherborne’s magnificent Abbey?
The Jesuit’s used, famously, to claim that if they could once get a child in their grip they would turn him or her into a good Catholic. Whether or not that was true, it is certainly true that tourists drawn to our coast will be easy to draw also into the wonders further north.