21. Lyme Regis to Sidmouth

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.

Pumping house ruins at Pinhay Cliff
Scrub and woodland at Bindown Cliff

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.

Looking back at a deserted Seaton
Approaching the village of Beer
The anchor from the wreck of the container ship MSC Napoli, beached at Branscombe in 2007. Later broken up.
Descending down to Western Combe
Rough seas at Sidmouth with early evening approaching

Distance today = 17.5 miles
Total distance =   333.5 miles

 

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20. Weymouth to West Bay

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.

Looking back at Portland from Ferrybridge
Royal Engineers Bridging Camp with Chesil Beach left

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.

Easy walking near West Fleet
Looking down on Chesil Beach from near Abbotsbury
Looking SE down Chesil Beach near West Bexington
Burton Beach
Landscaped beach at Burton Freshwater
East Cliff at West Bay

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance =   316 miles

 

19. Lulworth Cove to Weymouth

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.

Heading towards Hambury Tout on the well made path
Looking back at Lulworth Cove
Weymouth in the far distance
Durdle Door
Looking back
Time for a pint at The Smugglers Inn
Landslip near Osmington
Heading into Weymouth
Weymouth
Channel Islands Ferry berthed in Weymouth

Distance today = 14 miles
Total distance =   296 miles

 

18. Kimmeridge to Lulworth Cove

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.

Looking back to Clavell’s Tower at Kimmeridge Bay
“Nodding Donkey” at Kimmeridge Oil Well
The Post Office at Tyneham
The School House at Tyneham
Worbarrow Bay
Looking across Rings Hill on the Firing Range
Rails for carrying heavyweight targets
Looking across the range at targets
Heading towards Bindon Hill
Lulworth Cove

Distance today = 7 miles
Total distance =   282 miles

 

17. Portland

I had been looking forward to doing a circuit of the “isle” of Portland for some time, although I had previously visited Portland on a University field trip back in 1973. I parked close to the Ferrybridge Hotel and set off on the footpath along the A354, the only road linking Portland. The road was very busy with early morning traffic going in both directions.

The footpath soon merged with the fabulous Chesil Beach or Chesil Bank, a tombolo of shingle running for 18 miles, parallel with the coastline. I climbed up onto the bank, but walking over the shingle was very hard work and so I reverted to the footpath. The bank eventually joined Portland at Chiswell, where houses first appeared. The path climbed up a steep path behind the houses and eventually emerged at the old Tout Limestone Quarry, now a sculpture park. I was fascinated by the animal sculptures strewn about the quarry. I could see work already in progress – a fantastic use of the quarry. The view back down and along Chesil Beach was amazing.

I continued above the limestone cliffs of the west coast, passing through old quarries and gradually descending towards the southern tip of Portland Bill. I passed above rock-climbers honing their skills on West Cliff. I passed the  first of three lighthouses on this part of the island and rounded Portland Bill.

Looking back down towards Chesil Beach from near The Tout Quarry
Sculpture in Tout Quarry
Heading along West Cliff
At Portland Bill

The path continued north hugging the shore. The east side of Portland is low-lying and was extensively quarried for its valuable stone. There were many industrial remnants of the previous quarrying, including large wooden winches for moving the stone. After passing through the Southwell landslip, the land rose to form steeper cliffs. Most of the NE part of Portland is still given over to MOD and I missed a SWCP sign instructing me to go uphill. When I did find my way up the steep side of the hill I emerged close to one of a small number of quarries still operating on Portland. The path continued onto HMP The Verne, where I walked around the high perimeter security fencing. I walked on towards Portland Castle and followed the road back to Chiswell to rejoin my earlier route. As I had already walked out to Portland I caught a bus back to my car at Ferrybridge.

Lifting gear at old Quarry workings
At HMP Prison The Verne
Working quarry near Fortuneswell
Looking towards The Citadil High-Angle Battery

Distance today = 13 miles
Total distance =   275 miles

 

16. Poole to Kimmeridge

It is almost 5 years ago when I decided to begin walking the South West Coast Path and was quite apprehensive at the time whether I could complete the 630 mile route. Little did I envisage that two years later having just completed the SWCP and already walking around the Wales Coast Path, I would decide to go the ‘whole hog’ and walk the entire coast of Great Britain.

Ok so back to 2013 and an overcast, but dry and muggy day. I drove to and parked in a quarry just above the village of Kimmeridge in Dorset. I had arranged for a lift from my sister’s husband who live close by in Swanage. Dave had kindly agreed to drop me off at South Haven Point opposite Sandbanks where the ferry comes across over Poole Harbour.

After watching the ferry come and go I set off along Shell Bay. The beach was not very busy as I made my way around the headland and then along Studland Bay. I passed a couple of warning signs advising me that the southern section of the beach was frequented  by Naturists. Thankfully, no one was baring all today. I left the beach and passed through the small village of Studland. The path soon transferred onto a broad common area and I soon arrived at the superb Old Harry’s Rocks, a collection of chalk sea stacks with internal arches. The common land continued along Old Nicks Ground and onto Ballard Down before dropping down into Swanage. I called in at my sister’s house in Swanage to say hello and get a cuppa.

The official start/end of the South West Coast Path at South Haven Point
At Old Harry’s Rocks
Old Harry’s Rocks
Approaching Swanage

Determined to try some of the local fish and chips on offer in the town, I bought a portion and continued to eat them as I slowly make my way out to Peveril Point. I rounded the Point and continued onto Durliston Head. I desisted from exploring the folly that is Durliston Castle and continued onto Anvil Point where there is a lighthouse and the Tally Whim Caves, long since closed because of structural instability. I continued along the coast and noticed large patches of sea fog drifting ashore. The temperature dropped and I heard a tannoy sounding as though giving out information. Then out of the mist came, much to my surprise, the paddle steamer Waverley. Frequently seen in the Firth of Clyde, this last remaining sea-going paddle steamer does cruises along the Jurassic Coast during September.

I passed a number of old quarries on the cliff edge, including one called Dancing Ledge. I arrived at St Alban’s Head and had a quick chat with one of the coastguard Officers on duty. A few hundred yards away is the old Norman St Aldhelms Chapel and a row of old Coastguard Cottages. The site was used in the James Blunt music video “I’ll Carry You Home”.

With James Blunt still ringing in my ears I descended  a very steep set of steps only to have to regain the height through a another set – it was quite a punishing set of Down and Up with hundreds of steps to descend and climb and not appreciated at this stage of the walk! I approached, high above, a  tranquil Chapmans Pool and pass The Royal Marines Memorial.

After descending off West Hill the path contoured around a couple of hills before ascending Houns-tout Cliff. However, a recent cliff fall had meant a lengthy detour inland. The diversion went along a road into the village of Kingston, before turning left and following a road then farm track to a quarry above Kimmeridge. By this time the light had begun to fade on a long and tiring day. I drove to Corfe Castle where I had booked a room for the night in one of the local pubs.

Tally Whim Caves
Near Dancing Ledge
The paddle steamer Waverley
Coastguard lookout at St. Albans Head
Steep Down and Up near Chapmans Pool
Chapmans Pool

Distance today = 21 miles
Total distance =   262 miles

 

15. Abergele to Conwy

This was a short walk as I joined fellow supporters of AFC Telford United in the final stages of a charity walk to raise money for a local hospice and Club funds.

The original plan was that a small group of supporters would walk the 80+ miles from Telford in Shropshire to Conwy in Gwynedd over 3 or 4 days. The final leg from Abergele to Conwy would coincide with the first preseason friendly football game between AFC Telford and Conwy FC; this would give the opportunity for other supporters to join the  walk for the final leg.

I drove to and parked in Conwy and then caught an early train down to Abergele and Pensarn. I walked first around to the hotel where the walkers, who had done the complete distance from Telford had been staying. About 15 walkers, including The Chairman, a Director and the Manager set off on the final leg to Conwy. The route was very simple, head out to the shore road and follow the promenade all the way to Rhos-on-Sea and then cut inland towards Llandudno Junction.

It turned out to be a very hot day, with little sea breeze. We passed through Colwyn Bay, mingling with the summer tourists along the prom. It was not long before we reached a road running inland by the Rhos-on-Sea Golf Club. We then cut through a housing estate and then along minor roads without any footpaths. By the time we reached the outskirts of Llandudno Junction, some of the non-regular walkers were beginning to flag. We arrived and at the bridge over the River Conwy and the sight of the magnificent Conwy Castle spurned everyone on in knowing that the football ground was only a couple of miles away. We were met by representatives of Conwy football club who indicated the best way through the town to the football ground.

Although the walk was longer than the 7 miles indicated, the section  along the coast and  across the Conwy Bridge was only counted in my mileage. Because the walk had cut-off the main Llandudno Peninsular, I would return some three years later to fill the gap when I took on the Wales Coast Path.

Setting off from Abergele
Crossing the bridge over The River Conwy
Heading into Conwy
Conwy Castle

Distance today = 7 miles
Total distance =   241 miles