Stage 4 23rd Feb: Worth Matravers to Durdle Door 13.8m
As Winnie the Pooh might say – a blustery day! As I climbed back on to the cliffs the wind really picked up and tried its very best to deposit me inland. On one occasion I had to use the field fencing as a handrail just to stay upright, so progress wasn’t very fast.
I’d planned my schedule to make sure that I reached the army ranges on a Sunday and thus avoid a large detour. It proved a wise choice as they were open to cross but entering the big iron gate alongside a heavily fenced Wytch Farm oil well complete with Nodding Donkey pump didn’t really bode well for a pretty walk. Fortunately the foreboding proved to be very wrong and it was a cracking walk across to Lulworth Cove.
A fair few hefty climbs meant that I totalled over 3,000ft of ascent today, but just as I was feeling proud for hauling myself up a nice steep one my driver for the week, Julian, jogged back towards me. I suggested he might like to try running down the hill I’d just walked up (photo). So he did and what’s more he ran straight back up it! Methinks my fitness is not quite in his league.
Stage 5 24th Feb: Durdle Door to Abbotsbury Swannery 24.5m
Not my favourite day so far. Over 25 miles where the Weymouth tarmac followed by Fleet and Moonfleet mud seriously sapped my energy and turned my niggling toe into a pain in the….errr….toe.
The day started with four steep climbs and corresponding falls, but dropping down into Ringstead Bay brought conversation as I met Keith and Carol out walking their dogs and we chatted happily through the drizzle for a good 20 mins.
Weymouth brought hard tarmac and unfriendly faces. It is one thing to greet every passer-by when walking out in the wilderness, but it is becoming a sport of mine to see how people respond, or rather don’t, when I near a town centre. Very simply, I suspect it is a straight line scale with increasing fear in the eye of the recipient to my “hello” on the Y Axis and distance from centre of town on the X Axis. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that I look a right numpty walking through town in big walking boots, wearing a rucksack and covered in mud.
After Weymouth the path took me around the Fleet. Home of many smugglers tales, today it was home to mud filled paths and a vast number of plastic bottles deposited – usually on the path – by the high tide (photo).
It was a hell of a hack up to Abbotsbury Swannery and took much longer than I thought it would. Julian my mad ultramarathon running driver, ran back 8 miles to meet me and then kept telling me it wasn’t far. My mood darkened more than a little till I realised that the campsite he’d booked us on (Bagwell Farm) had a bath!!!
Stage 6 25th Feb: Abbotsbury Swannery to Seatown 12.3m
After probably overdoing it a tad yesterday I eased down the miles today but exercised the gluteals pretty hard by walking along Chesil Beach. After getting a good rhythm going in the shingle I was toddling along at a comfortable if slow heel to toe pace and was quite happy. But no….Mr Coast Path sign said I should divert inland for a little mile of ankle-deep mud. Oh – deep joy!
Nevertheless, the mud eventually returned me to the beach and before long I was in Burton Bradstock and clambering up the odd cliff or two which hadn’t collapsed. One thing I am very impressed at is how quickly repairs or diversions are made to the SW Coast Path. I just wish they would signpost closed sections at both ends as I have walked through three so far, but only found out when I reached the other end. I was about to report a big cliff fall which I had to clamber up over, but decided against it once I’d found the path was actually closed. Maybe they don’t like people walking their path from the East.
Onwards to West Bay, Bridport which made me feel very young if only because the average age of the population seemed to be about 80. My single walking pole seemed to be at home among the throng of walking sticks.
So then a quick climb over Thorncombe Down and a drop into Seatown where further storm damage was evident with the seafront, car park and pub severely damaged.
A free overnight park at Othona, a Chistian retreat back near Burton Bradstock, brought back many childhood memories for both Julian and I. It’s only a shame that we are probably a bit rough around the edges these days to be considered for residency but a park-up in the driveway with free use of a shower and loo was very welcome and brought a few giggles of our last visit 35 years ago when we slept in their shed as part of a teenage youth group. With Sea Bass on the menu in the van, not a bad night at all.