Monday, 1 April 2019

Sand between the toes

Boots off for beach walking on the final stretch to Bournemouth.

Day 5.

Swanage to Bournemouth

The day started with a steady climb out of Swanage, up the cliff and towards Old Harry Rocks. This point marks the end of the Jurassic Coast. For our walk it marked the end of the cliff top walking because from there we dropped down through woodland to the beach to continue around Studland.

After a while on the beach and a small bit of rockpool navigation we moved slightly inland to walk through heath and towards South Haven Point, aka Shell Bay. This marked the official eastern end of the South West Coast Path. It is also the place where the chain link ferry crosses Poole Harbour to Sandbanks.

After the crossing on the ferry (which is free for foot passengers in that direction) we soon found our way back to the sandy beaches of Poole.

It felt like the right time to release our feet from our boots and go for a little paddle in the sea to cool down, plus feel the therapeutic massage of the soft beach sand between the toes.

The weather continued to be stunning (as it has been throughout) and despite the forecast on our phones saying some rain was likely every day, we barely had a cloud in the sky the whole time. It has been super-warm for late March and the first day of April.

After quite a while on the beach it felt like the time had come to boot up for the final time and push on for the last mile or so and to our hotel for the night. We went to dinner via where we had parked the car on Thursday and picked up the spare clothes which we didn't carry with us. It feels strange wearing normal trousers again - made all the more noticeable because of the calf muscle sunburn from having been wearing shorts the whole time and accidentally neglecting that patch with the sun lotion.

Now here in Bournemouth we are already planning some more walking over Easter in Somerset. We have hit the 21% mark on our "walk 500 miles in 2019" challenge we decided to do this year. This Bridport-to-Bournemouth walk has been a significant chunk of that total. We had done a few day walks in London in January, but this was the first serious dent in the 500 mile target.

Only 392.5 miles left to walk by the end of the year!

Sunday, 31 March 2019

The ghost village and a steam train

A day of rollercoaster cliffs, an abandoned village, a panoramic ridgeway and a trip on a steam railway.

Day 4.

Lulworth Cove to Corfe Castle (and Swanage)

Heading up to the top of Bindon Hill from Lulworth Cove, it wasn't long before we entered the Lulworth Ranges. Being an active military firing range it is only possible to walk this section of the South West Coast Path when the red flags are not flying. Luckily for us, this was one of the days the range walks were open to the public.

After a short stretch along the top of the hill, there were a few seriously steep downs and back ups once we rejoined the cliff edge path. A couple of miles short of Kimmeridge Bay we took the path inland to the abandoned village of Tyneham.

Tyneham is within the firing range land so it is also only possible to visit when the ranges are open. The village was requisitioned by the army in 1943 to help with the war and was never returned to the people that used to live there. Consequently, the church, school, farm buildings, cottages, post office, laundry and all the other buildings you'd expect to find in a 1940s Dorset village were left frozen in time and for nature to reclaim. It is a fascinating ghost village and with the aid of plenty of old photographs it brings alive the history of the place.

From Tyneham we climbed back up to the ridgeway and made faster progress on easier terrain. The views up on the ridge were amazing on all sides. Although we were no longer actually on the South West Coast Path, this detour significantly aided our progress to make it in time to the end of today's walk.

The reason the end of the walk was somewhat time-critical was because we had decided to get to Corfe Castle and catch the last steam train down to Swanage, our final destination and the stop for the night.

We've slightly cheated a little bit here by having a gap in the walk and having missed out some of the coast path, but it just means there will be a reason to come back and complete the bits that we didn't do this time. Not that there needs to be much incentive to come back!

Tomorrow is the final day and we return to the South West Coast Path to take us to its eastern end point.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Extreme undulations

Today's walk was shorter than yesterday's, but there were a lot more ups and downs!

Day 3.

Weymouth to Lulworth Cove

The morning began with a pre-breakfast trip to the launderette to refresh our walking clothes. We are carrying only enough clothes for 2 days at a time. We learned the trick of finding a launderette en route when doing our Totnes to Lands End trek in 2014. 

Today's walk began with a reasonably steady climb out of Weymouth Bay. Impressive scenes of recent and not-so-recent cliff falls were a recurring theme of the day, reminding us of how the relentless process of erosion is constantly dynamically changing the coastline. This made quite a stark change from yesterday where the offshore Chesil Bank had protected most of the shoreline we had been walking along.

For lunch we stopped on the beach just before arriving at Ringstead, and then found the only shop on the path and bought an ice cream.

The climbs and the descents got increasingly steep as we made our way closer to Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove. 

At Durdle Door we paused on the cliff top to have the rest of our lunch. Being a beautiful Saturday the honeypot site of Durdle Door was absolutely packed.

The final half an hour of walking to Lulworth Cove felt a bit like we had joined a mass--pilgrimage or large coach tour. The path was wide but it still felt crowded. 

Arriving at lulworth we found the hotel for the night and following a small problem with their hot water we got upgraded from the "attic room" to the special suite with its own private garden (and plenty of hot water). Showers were much-needed following a busy and hot walk. We also had to get aftersun lotion to treat our angry calves (the bit of our bodies we had forgotten to apply suncream to.

In total it was just over 11 miles, not including a small loop around the cove and neighbouring Star Hole.

We had a delicious dinner at Rudds and now very happily tired ready for what looks like another fairly challenging day tomorrow.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Following The Fleet

The next section of the South West Coast Path.

Day 2.

Abbotsbury to Weymouth

Starting out from the b&b after a hearty breakfast, we headed up the hill to St Catherine's Chapel which sits above Abbotsbury. From there the views were stunning to the coast and inland. The ridgeway (an alternative route) sits even higher the other side of the village.

Beyond the swannery, we could see Chesil Beach and the fleet - a special wildlife conservation area. The fleet is the name of the lagoon between Chesil Bank and the mainland. The water at the Abbotsbury end is not as salty or tidal because of the stream running into it and hence the haven for birds and its protected status.

The next part of the walk was inland through rolling fields and skirting woodland. When we rejoined the fleet it was almost time for a spot of lunch and we stopped at the conveniently-placed Moonfleet Manor for a panini and a slice of Dorset apple cake.

We continued walking towards Weymouth along the fleet, with Chesil bank permanently to the right hand side, past lots of lovely coves and bays.

Neither it us had noticed before, but gorse in flower has the distinct smell of coconut about it - a bit like a coconutty suncream. We were sstarting to wish we had some suncream to put on. The glorious day without much shade was pleasantly welcome but much unexpected.

At Ferry Bridge (the connection from Wyke Regis to the Isle of Portland) we decided to jump on a bus for the last couple of miles to Weymouth and to check in to our guest house for the night.

That leg of the walk was 12.5 miles to Ferry Bridge.

After a brief pause and dropping off our bags, we returned by bus to Ferry Bridge and took it about a mile or so further onto Portland itself. From there we saw a super sunset across the sea. We walked up on to Chesil bank, and at this end the pebbles are a lot bigger which makes it easier to walk on and get a footing. Apparently pirates landing on Chesil bank knew which part of it they had landed on by the pebble size.

Leaving Portland behind via the Ferry Bridge we picked up the Rodwell trailway (a former railway line now a cycle and footpath). By this point it had got dark so we walked for a couple of miles, accompanied by bats flying back and forth, into Weymouth town centre. We stopped for dinner before returning to our b&b, rather satisfyingly tired.

The 'bonus' second section of today's walk added another 5.5 miles, bringing today's total to 18 miles.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Continuing the South West Coast Path

We are connecting up some of the previous walks. This time it's a 5-day walk from Bridport to Bournemouth. The walk connects with our 2013 trek from London to Totnes.

Day 1

Bridport to Abbotsbury

28 March 2019

Starting with a train from Bournemouth to Dorchester, then a bus to Bridport, we joined our previous London-Totnes walk for the first couple of miles from Bridport to West Bay.

In 2013 we headed west from West Bay and on to Lyme Regis. This time we headed East.

First stop was in an interesting flea market before climbing up a steep hill out of West Bay.

We walked along some very nice cliffs which were very up-down for quite a few miles, following the stunning coastline.

We headed inland to Burton Bradstock and found The Three Horseshoes pub where we had a great tasty lunch of soup and sandwiches.

Back on to the coast path and at times had to follow the shoreline. This was hard-going underfoot because the shingle was so small and each step felt like the effort of four steps.

We arrived at Abbotsbury and found the B&b for the night, the Ilchester Arms.

After a brief rest we took a sunset stroll around the village, seeing some remains of the abbey and England's largest barn!

Monday, 29 June 2015

We made it!

We completed the London to Brighton Trek!

Here's a photo from the finish line.

That was one tough walk, physically and mentally!

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