It had been 4 months since I had last walked along the SWCP, primary due to the stormy weather battering the South West over the Winter months. I had not been idle though and continued walking along the Icknield Way through Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.
Today was going to be a tough days walk, with a hot sun and terrain that rose and fell over almost 20 miles. I had parked in Torquay and then caught a National Express coach to Starcross, on the banks of the River Exe, opposite Exmouth. The Exe Valley Way ends where the SWCP continues at the Starcross Ferry jetty. I continue down the A379 for a short distance before turning off at a much quieter road at the village of Cockwood. The minor road runs along the main South West railway line. However, no trains have run along this section for months following the devastating effect of recent storms. I pass through Dawlish Warren and there I could have normally walked along the top of the breakwater, however, because of the construction work the Path stays on the road and away from the railway line right to the other side of Dawlish.
As I enter Dawlish I can see an extraordinary amount of construction activity repairing the railway line. I can see that the work is not far completion and is quite amazing the progress that has been made since the devastation seen in the news footage which showed part of the line washed away. I walked under cliffs of Permian red sandstone and Breccia and onwards to Teignmouth. Looking back long the Devon coast I can see an extraordinary distance back towards Budleigh Salteron and Sidmouth.
I enter Teignmouth and use a short ferry service across the River Teign. I land at Shaldon Beach and follow the path around to The Ness. The next 3.5 miles is along a demanding switch back section of the path, hugging the steep cliff edge into Babbacombe Bay. At St Marychurch, the path cuts inland a short distance before returning to the cliff edge. I have now entered into the outskirts of Torquay. At Oddicombe I pass under the cliff railway, which is doing a brisk trade as passengers are whisked up and down to the beach. Soon after I ascend the steep hill above the Cary Arms. I lose the path as from this point into the centre of Torquay the signage becomes almost non-existent and I am frustrated by many ‘blind-alleyways’ that result in numerous back tracking. It’s the last thing I need after such a strenuous walk. Eventually I emerge into Torbay and can now see Brixham across the Bay. Torquay on this bright sunny spring day is very busy and I continue across the marina bridge and along the sea front to my hotel.
Distance today = 19 miles
Total distance = 375 miles
My last walk of 2013 as I fitted in this short walk between Christmas and New Years Day. It also meant completing the first book (Exmouth to Poole) of the 4 volume National Trail Book series for the South West Coastal Path. Because of the constraints around transport I opted to park at Sowton Park and Ride on the outskirts of Exeter. From there I caught the Stagecoach bus to Sidmouth, quite expensive at £6.20!
It was a beautiful, warm, sunny Winters day as I set off from Sidmouth. Quite a contrast from the last time I was here some two weeks ago, when I battled through pouring rain and gales. I headed for the red cliffs of High Peak and Ladram in the distance. The sea wall contained a path that hugged the red sandstone cliff face at Jacobs ladder from there it climbed slowly out of the town. The view back along the coast towards Lyme Regis was beautiful. I passed along the slopes of the Iron Age fort at High Peak and was rewarded with magnificent views across Devon. The path hugged the cliff top for most of the way. I dropped down to a holiday park at Ladram Bay, which contained a number of isolated sea stacks composed of red Otter Sandstone from the Triassic period. The next couple of miles along the cliff tops was quite easy-going as there was little rise and fall in the Path as I headed out to the ominously named Danger Point.
As I approached the small seaside resort of Budleigh Salterton I was forced inland slightly to cross the River Otter at White Bridge. I passed by a few fields the market garden crops of cabbage and kale. As I walked through the car park at Budleigh Salterton it suddenly became very busy with dog-walkers and others out for an afternoon stroll. I made quick progress along the trail and was soon approaching Orcombe Cliffs. The path descended a series of steep steps down to an esplanade which is very busy, with people enjoying the late Sunday afternoon Winter sunshine. I continued along the sea front as it merged slowly into the coastal town of Exmouth. I turned inland slightly along the River Exe towards the train station where I caught the train back to Sowton.
Distance today = 12.5 miles
Total distance = 356 miles
This was another thoroughly wet walking day with gales, wind and rough seas. I opted to get the bus from Sidmouth to West Bay for this particular section. I arrived at West Bay in the dark and it was a case of getting my head torch out for the first half hour of walking.
I followed the path up and down for a few miles before I dropped down to the small village of Seatown. I passed the Anchor pub in the village and remember reading how the landlords of the pub had made quite a few ascents on nearby Golden Cap for charity in the past.
I climbed slowly up the slopes of Golden Cap knowing the top was shrouded in mist. It was still raining as I descended towards Charmouth. One of the problems with walking in miserable and rough weather is that you tend to withdraw into yourself and not pay much attention to what is around you. After passing through Charmouth I was diverted inland due to a recent cliff on the SWCP. I took the Axminster road as far as the hotel near Fern Hill. The path then cut across the golf course bringing me out on the A3052. The road dropped down a steep hill and continued on through the narrow streets of Lyme Regis to finish at the Cob.
A throughly wet and miserable day.
Distance today = 10 miles
Total distance = 343.5 miles
The start of a thoroughly miserable two days of walking along the SWCP, which would see me leaving Dorset and entering Devon. Cannot believe why I did not check the forecast, or if I did why I should want to walk through heavy rain, strong winds and clag!
I parked my car at Sidmouth and drove my moped through the rain to Lyme Regis. I paid to park my moped, even though in retrospect I did not need to pay (or it was not clear whether I had to or not).
The next 4 miles would be spent walking along a series of cliffs which had slumped and slid overtime and were now covered in dense vegetation, woodland and scrub. The path turned and twisted, rose and fall for virtually the whole of the section. Occasional glimpses out towards the sea revealed little as the mist, clag and rain enabled only the white horse wave rollers to be seen and heard. I passed through Ware Cliffs first seeing the ruins of an old water pumping station as I approached Pinhay Cliffs. The path morphed from one cliff to the next, as I moved onto Whitlands Cliff and Dowlands Cliff. Only the presence of information boards told me what cliff I was now walking through. The final set of cliffs were Bindown Cliffs, which saw a huge landslide in 1839. I was glad to see the back of the scrub woodland, which had offered some protection from the elements, but sorry to now face the full force of rain and wind.
I dropped steeply down to a bridge which crossed the River Axe and entered the seaside resort of Seaton. I popped into a Tesco’s to buy a sandwich and get some relief from the rain. I still had some distance to go so I could not afford to linger and did not fancy finishing my walk in the dark. A mile further on I entered the brilliantly named village of Beer. I vaguely remember coming here in 1973 on a University field trip. After passing Beer Head, the path meandered through another set of Cliffs before unleashing the final sting in the tail of a three-mile section of switchback, which rose and fell quite steeply. It was just getting dark when I dropped down the final descent into Sidmouth. It had a been an exhausting 7 hours of walking, made especially tough by the weather and the terrain.
Distance today = 17.5 miles
Total distance = 333.5 miles
An overcast dry day with occasional sunny spells. I parked at West Bay, just south of Bridport and caught the #53 bus to Weymouth. The bus was packed full of children travelling to school in Weymouth. I then needed to catch the #1 bus to get out to Ferrybridge on the outskirts of the town, this bus was also packed full of school kids, quite a busy morning!
I set off from the Ferrybridge Hotel and soon picked up the SWCP. My eye was continually drawn to Chesil Beach, the offshore bar running for some 18 miles from Portland to west of Abbotsbury; composed of pebbles, cobbles and shingle it forms a natural lagoon between the sea and the ‘mainland’. It is possible to walk the length of the Beach, but there are restrictions re: the firing range that also affects the main SWCP path and also access is not allowed during the bird nesting season. I don’t think I could have hacked walking 16+ miles over shingle and pebbles!
The walking was flat and I made quick progress rounding the Royal Engineers Bridging camp and later skirting the Littlesea Holiday camp. My first real obstacle of the day was the small firing range at Tidmoor Point, a red flag was flying and I had to make a small diversion around the Chickerell range before rejoining the SWCP, which was no real problem. I soon passed Fleet House, now renamed Moonfleet Hotel, the setting for John Meade Falkner’s swashbuckling novel “Moonfleet”. At Rodden Hive the SWCP turned inland all the way until Abbotsbury, probably due to no permitted access to the shoreline.
I passed the Swannery at Abbotsbury and climbed around Chapel Hill from where I had a wonderful view down to the sea. I picked up a rough track called Burton Road. The road continues on and past the small coastal hamlet of West Bexington, where I walked along the northern part of Chesil Beach, it was tough going so I rejoined the track.
I soon approached the small village of Burton Bradstock, I skirted the village and dropped down to the beach again at Burton Freshwater. Here I needed to divert inland slightly to cross a small stream. I re entered the beach again and could see a lot of heavy plant had been moving the gravel and shingle back up the beach, it resembled a large gravel quarry! As I neared the end of my walk I passed underneath the iconic East Cliff, made famous in the opening credits of the TV series Broadchurch. I got a great view of the Jurassic Cliffs with their distinctive orange gold limestone banded layers from the firm sandy beach. I soon arrived back at West Bay.
Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 316 miles
I parked my car at Ferrybridge, close to the road that leads out towards Portland. I am using my moped again and drive the little two-wheeler back through Weymouth and along the coast road to Lulworth. Its free to park the bike and I leave it chained up in the corner of the car park – I’ll be back for it later.
Today was a sunny and dry day, except that it was very, very windy which was onshore. I set off on the really well made path that runs along the chalk cliffs towards Durdle Door. I pass over Hambury Tout and join the roller-coaster up and down of the SWCP along the chalk cliff tops. I drop down and pass the small arch that is Durdle Door and continue over Swyre Head and down to Middle Bottom. At White Nothe I descend from the chalk cliffs which begin to disappear under more recent strata. I pass the old Coastguard cottages and continue past Burning Cliff, no longer burning thankfully. I can see Weymouth quite easily now.
At Osmington Mills I stop for a pint at the quaint thatched roof in called the Smugglers Arms, one of many such named in the area. Soon after the path joins the A353 and I begin to walk along the long sweeping seawall, that leads right into Weymouth. Weymouth is very busy and is somewhat sheltered from the ferocious wind that I had been expereiencing on the higher downs. I decide to get some fish and chips, which were not bad, but I’ve tasted better. I continue past the ferry terminal and cross over the harbour bridge. I walk around Nothe Point and the Fort. Passing the Bincleaves Groyne I continue along suburban streets until I emerge at Ferry Bridge.
Distance today = 14 miles
Total distance = 296 miles
This was just a single days walk that I completed with my brother Michael. I had occasionally climbed a number of mountains in England, Scotland and Wales with Mick, but that was a few years ago and he had not done a great deal of walking since. Still, this was a short days walk, but with a number of up and downs. This was also the first time I tested out my Fiat Doblo / Moped combination.
I opted to drop Mick off close to Kimmeridge and then to drive to Lulworth Cove. I then unloaded the moped which I had carried inside of the Doblo and made my way back to Kimmeridge on the moped. I parked up and we set off down to the coastal path. It was fairly overcast, but warm and muggy.
After passing the small oil well with its “Nodding Donkey” we were faced with the steep climb up to Tyneham Cap, where we continued along Gad Cliff. However, we were soon descending down to the deserted village of Tyneham. Tyneham was handed over to the Ministry of Defence in 1943, during the Second World War. The population were moved out and a considerable part of the Purbeck Hills was taken over as a firing range. The Range is still used today and is predominantly a tank firing range. The village and whole area is closed when firing occurs. We spent some time going through the village. It was quite amazing and sad reading all the info boards which set out who lived at what particular house, using photographs of most of the village people.
We rejoined the coastal path at Worbarrow and continued onto the firing range. We passed large target vehicles which had been destroyed by the shell fire. We descended from Rings Hill and immediately climbed Bindon Hill. The walking was very steep and Mick was suffering with the steep ascents. Eventually we reached Lulworth Cove, just as it started to rain.
We then drove back to Kimmeridge to pick up the moped.
Distance today = 7 miles
Total distance = 282 miles