Burton Hive is a little gem of a place. One of those “wouldn’t have expected to find that there” kind of places. A “glad we found that” and “must go back again” kind of a place.
On the “wouldn’t expect that” front, you could be forgiven for thinking you are just turning into a rather pleasantly located collection of bungalows to the East of Burton Bradstock. The turning from the B3157 is nothing remarkable and could easily be missed because it’s so normal. But keep on going and after a few hundred yards you’ll find yourself faced with a field, a beach and a lot of sea.
The beach is the Chesil and the field is a car park, which is owned by the National Trust, so unless you’re a Member, you’ll need to pay a small fee for the pleasure. But once you have, there’s access to the beach, access to the South West Coast Path and, most surprisingly of all, a café.
The beach, in flat calm conditions like those shown on this page, is idyllic and made up of a typical western-end-of-the-Chesil small-sized shingle. But be under no illusion, this is still the Chesil and there’s still a powerful undertow. Anyone who visits when there’s a storm or a heavy swell running -which is well-worth doing - will be left in no doubt just how powerful the sea can be along the Chesil, with massive breakers crashing onto the shore and battering and undercutting the low cliffs.
Of course these ever-changing moods of the sea and the fantastic seascapes they produce are exactly what draws people to this wonderful spot, in fair weather or foul. It’s true that there are likely to be more people here in the fairest of weather than in the foulest, but it is still a good place to come and take the sea air and wander a section of the beach or the coast path. And if in doing so you get hot, cold or hungry then there is that rarest of things, a decent Café just where you want it, but wouldn’t expect it!
The Hive Beach Café probably started life as one of those places that grew from people visiting an area they like and finding they could do with a drink, an ice-cream or a packet of crisps. No doubt an enterprising someone saw the need and supplied it. This is still the case, but there’s also something else going on at Burton Hive.
These days, people are as likely to go to Burton Hive for the Hive Beach Café as they are to go to the Hive Beach Café because it happens to be at Burton Hive.
Here’s why. The Hive Beach Café makes the most of what it is.
What it is, is a large wooden chalet with an awning, a patio and a sea view. Once that would have been a cue for instant coffee in a plastic cup and deep-fried everything. But the Hive Café not only avoids that trap it does much more. Haute cuisine and white tablecloths it’s not, but it does have a good formula.
For a start it has tapped into modern customer expectations in a post-Starbucks and Costa Brothers world for proper coffee from a real coffee machine - good coffee, well-presented. If you’d prefer, there’s tea, soft drinks and beer or wine.
Then there’s food from biscuits and biscotti to cookies and cakes. For a more nutritionally complete meal, there’s also a proper menu based around fairly straight-forward food at mostly reasonable prices. Appropriately for an eatery so close to the water, there’s a seafood selection, but there’s a lot more besides.
If you expect perfection you’ll probably be slightly disappointed. But if you expect perfection, you probably find most things in life disappointing, which is sad because you’ll miss out on a lot!
If, however, you enjoy drinking coffee and eating alfresco with the sounds and sights of the sea as an added bonus, this is a good place to be. There’s plenty of tables and seating outside and a little less inside. There’s also a neither inside nor outside area under the awning. This provides additional undercover capacity. In good weather it’s welcome shade in the open air, but in bad weather it’s not as good as a solid wall! But hey, hardy outdoor walking and camping types are used to a little breeze and flapping canvas!
So, whether you go to Burton Hive to see Burton Hive, or whether you go for the Hive Beach Café, you are likely to enjoy either. Regardless of your motivation for visiting, it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll actually end up enjoying both, whatever the season, whatever the weather.
Either way, you’ll also end up boosting the National Trust’s coffers. Depending on your point of view, that’ll either be an added bonus or confirmation that the NT, when it comes to honey-pot spots like this, is a business much like any other, with bills to pay and ways and means to pay them!
Whether you go to Burton Hive to see Burton Hive, or whether you go for the Hive Beach Café, you are likely to enjoy either. Regardless of your motivation for visiting, it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll actually end up enjoying both, whatever the season, whatever the weather .."