Day 2 20th Feb: Lymington to Southbourne. 20.4
Eeeee it’s grim dahn Souff! I stepped out of Snickers into driving rain and a 40 mph head wind. They kept me company for a good few hours as I rounded the storm damaged sea wall protecting the marshes clearly devoid of an expected hoard of twitchers. As I approached Keyhaven it resembled a desolate outpost from a Dickensian novel and not a twee sailing village. Mercifully the rain abated as the marshes passed and what was left of Milford on Sea approached. Huge tipper trucks usually seen frequenting quarries greeted me as they inched their way along to Hurst Castle dumping shingle to repair the spit which had been breached in many places (photo).
Milford itself was full of people in hi-visibility suits performing various clean up tasks. The seafront cafe which had made the national news only a week ago, as the scene of a rescue during a pebble spitting storm, was boarded up, yet damage seemed arbitrarily local with properties nearby showing little or no sign of damage. I felt guilty taking quick snaps of the destruction as the locals amassed to pick debris up from the nature reserve. The beach huts were, to be blunt, not pretty. I’m sure it can’t be pleasant seeing your personal belongings scattered widely across an entire town. I left Milford wishing I could have lingered to at least offer some help and not pass through as a disaster tourist.
Onwards via a few notably cordoned cliff falls to a rather anonymous Barton on Sea and seamlessly forward to Highcliffe and Christchurch, none of which left me with a glow of delight as I dodged my way through the hoards who had miraculously appeared to stroll in the afternoon sun. With a diversion inland to skirt Christchurch Harbour I ended the day muddying my boots down to Hengistbury Head and Southbourne. Rich had found a freebie pub car park inland to hide away and try the van off-grid properly. We survived.
Day 3 21st Feb: Southbourne to Worth Matravers. 23.0m
After a cold early night I was dropped off back at Southbourne to enjoy the pleasures of the ablutions facility before departure. Having departed, I then returned having forgotten to carry some cash for the Sandbanks / Studland ferry and so I started again…..grrrr. Nearly ten miles along the Bournemouth promenade isn’t overly thrilling but the weather did try to help by being sunny and brisk. I was hoping to make good pace but much of the prom seemed to be more of a sand dune than nice flat tarmac and once again beach huts dominated the vista with some looking decidedly worse for wear (storm damage). I really don’t think I will buy one of those. I’ll just stick to my garden shed thanks.
Eventually the ostentatious wealth of Sandbanks approached. I’m not impressed by open displays of cash and was looking forward to Studland bay and the start of the South West Coastal Path (photo) which didn’t disappoint. Walking along a proper sandy bay backed with dunes and shells on the tide line was bliss. I picked a pretty one up (pecten sp. I think). Doh – a major oil company logo sat mockingly in my hand.
Studland gave way to Old Harry and a decent climb over Ballard Down where my lickle toe decided to have enough of a whinge for me to have to stop and adjust my socks and boots a few times to avoid a minor niggle becoming a problem. Swanage is refreshingly unspoilt by tourism or the trappings of wealth. My favourite town so far.
For the first time the real South West Coast Path beckoned. The path became rugged and skirted my first proper cliffs with a nagging wind pushing me back towards Swanage. If it wasn’t for the thick mud in places this would have been the highlight of my day, but the mud sucked the life out of my feet for my last few miles and the climb up from the seafront at Seacombe was steep AND mud laden. The climb was rewarded by Rich with a full pint glass at the quaint olde world Square and Compass in Worth Matravers, a pub strangely but not unpleasantly frequented by hippies with money and checked shirts. A top pub that I could happily have stopped at all evening instead of heading off to find a dry stopover inland.
Big thanks to Rich and Jake the dog for looking after me and seeing me through my first few days. Lest I dare forget further thanks are very much due to the Land’s End John O’Groats Association and the staff of JJ Catering of Thrapston for one pair of boots. Thanks too for a second pair, provided by the staff of Health & Safety Executive…..I know there’s a joke in there somewhere, but I will resist!