Wednesday, 9 May 2018

On Chesil Beach: or rather on Fleet Lagoon

Day Forty Six - West Bexington to Ferry Bridge 23.5 km (14.6 miles).
Time on route 5:45hrs, walking time 5:10hrs.

Tuesday 08 May 2018
Day 46 mileage
It had been the hottest early May Bank Holiday on record so I waited until both the temperature and holiday crowds dissipated before heading back onto the path. I reversed what I usually do, parking at the beginning of my walk knowing I'd have to catch the bus back to it at the end. I figured it'd be easier to park down a lane in Swyre than in Weymouth. I headed off On Chesil Beach but fortunately didn't have to slog the ankle-turning shingle for too long as the path hops onto a track at the back of the beach.
20180508 Day 46_2 Road past Old Coastguards
I noted all the sheep's wool caught on the brambles.  Then I realised there were no sheep around - particularly as the track was fenced off - so I inspected these bundles of fluff more closely and realised they were larvae nests.
20180508 Day 46 1_Caterpillars    09.19.03
These caterpillar nests are all over the brambles.  Just waiting to pupate and fly.
20180508 Day 46 1_Caterpillars    09.17.42
The SWCP stone signage is a nice Dorset touch.
20180508 Day 46_3 SWCP Sign   09.55.12
I climbed up onto Chapel Hill.  OK, hardly a 'climb' in the SWCP sense of the word: a dizzying 40 m above MSL but enough for me to finally peer over Chesil Beach shingle spit and spot the sea.  It was a rare view for today's leg.
20180508 Day 46_4 West Fleet from Chapel Hill   10.10.49
Looking forwards east, the Fleet Lagoon stretched on for miles.  Back in 1943 it was famously used to test Barnes Wallis' bouncing bomb.  It's a strange place.  From the nature point of view it hosts the Swannery at Abbotsbury, numerous bird nesting sites (which is why the coast path often deviates away from the coast) and other conservation preservation zones.  These nestle up next to old MOD pill boxes and live firing ranges.  So still very much a mix of military and wildlife.
20180508 Day 46_5 Towards East Fleet
Talking of wildlife, my old foe appeared.  The path went pretty much directly through them.  I didn't.
20180508 Day 46_6 Cows near Wyke Wood
The mainly flat path had a few variations - fields, tracks and tree enclosed walkways with their welcome shade.
20180508 Day 46_6 Past Wyke Wood
After many kilometres in land I came back down to East Fleet.  Chesil Beach still obscured the sea from view.  Walking around the field edges here I stumbled across the annual Dorset midgey convention.   The local chapter was out in full force, and I became their edible target.  They clung to any bit of me I couldn't swipe as their new best friend.  Believe me, I wasn't.
20180508 Day 46_7 West Fleet   11.57.52
There were fewer midges on the board walk.  When I did eventually stop for lunch I brushed ~20 travelling gnats off my backpack.  They really don't give up easily.
20180508 Day 46_8 Herburyjpg
Aha, not only are the bovine beasts and monster midges out to get me, the hasty horses are on the loose.

20180508 Day 46_9 Speedy horses
West Fleet is a pleasant lagoon.  It just goes on and on for quite a bit.  It's a shame as one shouldn't tire of seeing sand, seaweed, shoreline and sea.  In fact, at 13 km, Fleet Lagoon is longer than Ullswater - for the Lake District fans amongst my reader(s).
20180508 Day 46_10 East Fleet   13.06.44
The sea defences have been here a while, this one has grown a toupee.
20180508 Day 46_10 East Fleet   13.03.15
More warning signs.  No red flag flying today so I marched around the firing range.
20180508 Day 46_11 Chickerell Range
Another sea defence - they were everywhere.  This one has the full unkempt beard look.
20180508 Day 46_12 Sea defence
Portland Bill suddenly loomed into view.  This was my first sight of it all day, as it had been too misty to spot when I left West Bexington.
20180508 Day 46_13 Towards Portland
Goodness me!  Do the warnings never end?
20180508 Day 46_14 Pirates Cove   14.34.27
Towards the end of West Fleet there are numerous sheds on the brackish shore line, no  doubt supporting the local fishing and shellfish industry.
20180508 Day 46_15 East Fleet Fishing  14.38.02
20180508 Day 46_15 East Fleet Fishing  14.42.58
I stopped at Ferry Bridge.  The next leg is a 21 km sweep around the Isle of Portland so I'll treat myself to that another fine fair day.  Under 100 km to go...

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Ruth Recovery, Refreshment and even a Ruth Rescue

Day Forty Five - Lyme Regis to West Bexington 24.8 km (15.4 miles).
Time on route 7:00hrs, walking time 6:30hrs.

Friday 04 May 2018
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 21.04.42
Wow, long time no see Coast Path!  It's been a messy winter/spring with various life challenges, most of which aren't relevant to my walk except the one about having an accident in December and subsequent shoulder operation (end of February) which entailed me having my arm in a sling for 6 weeks.  That certainly cramped my walking style and today was the first time I felt confident being out on an uneven surface with a rucksac.  Golly, I sooooooo needed the sea, sun, coast path and to be back on the trail again.

I parked at Swyre (loved the sign post) and caught the bus to Lyme Regis.
20180504_1 Swrye bus
Despite most of the southwest being bathed in sunshine and clear skies, south Dorset had a mist clinging to its coast and Lyme Regis was a little murky as I looked back at it.
20180504_2 Lyme Regis 09.19.42
And I was walking towards more misty cliffs.
20180504_2 Lyme Regis 09.20.14
The sea was calm - absolutely beautiful.  I skirted around the museum/theatre then walked up the steps to the carpark.  Annoyingly I only counted 113 but was hardly going to go back to check.
20180504_2 Lyme Regis steps
The stretch of path 5 km or so east of Lyme Regis has been very affected by cliff instability/erosion and many detours are in place.  These are sometimes sign-posted clearly, but occasionally I was to be found trying to reconcile the guide book map, its text and reality on the ground: 3 versions of the truth.  I lost time ambling to and fro and had to double back a couple of times.  My first confusion was just after the 114 steps - how could I get lost in the first 15 minutes of the walk?!  Anyway, I found my route and skipped off through the bluebells of Timber Hill.
20180504_3 Bluebells on Timber Hill
The detour then takes you directly across the Lyme Regis golf course.  Bearing in mind this was a sunny Friday I did feel I was taking my chances as it was pretty busy.  Sadly I was too well behaved not to try and bag the golf course trig TP4590 (too far off the route and too many witnesses) but I know where it is now...

I descended into Charmouth and once again lost my route. I crossed the River Way only to discover that the path ahead was closed so I double-backed and walked the road route.  My final glimpse back at Lyme Regis before it disappeared from view.
20180504_5 Looking back on Charmouth and Lyme Regis
Golden Cap was ahead of me now.  I'd visited it years ago and remember it not only for its wonderful views but for my walk off the headland through a field of cows.  I am still not a major fan of them but a few years ago I was petrified - so much so that I recall hopping over a fence into a patch of stinging nettles just to avoid their scary glares.  I was steeling myself for cow-gate when I caught up with a couple ahead of me who simply just strolled through the field of cows and calves.  I quickened my pace to keep up with them and, phew, once again I survived a bovine field.  I thanked them for being my rescuers.  One day I'll grow up and manage cows like a big brave person.  Until then...
20180504_6 Towards Golden Cap
Golden Cap trig was just as expected - trig like in all its utter beauty - TP3399.  Little view to speak of but I did manage a self-timer shot.
20180504_7 Golden Cap Trig Pillar 12.10.47
20180504_7 Golden Cap Trig cropped
One of the amazing things about the coast path is the views. One minute you're slogging up a hill focused on the next metre of climb and the next, ta da!, the coast throws open a beautiful breath-taking vista that stops you in your tracks.  It's worth the slog up for the 'wow' factor on the descent.
20180504_9 Towards Eype and Chesil
I descended into Seatown and realised, to my horror, that I was very behind schedule. I had apparently only walked 10 km in 3 hours which was ludicrous.  I think the detours had increased my distance and decreased my time.  Anyway, I had a much needed stop and mental re-group.  A glass of wine and 4 glasses of water later I was raring to go.  And so I did.
20180504_11 Eype Beach
I pretty much shot along the next few km.  West Bay was apparently 1 hour 15 mins from Seatown.  I did it in 45 mins.  It's not the most attractive town in Dorset.
20180504_11 West Bay 13.54.47
But initial appearances are deceptive and, once clear of the holiday park and practical but dull breakwaters, the harbour itself is quite pretty.
20180504_11 West Bay 14.12.32
Burton Bradstock is another Dorset village unblessed with a holiday camp.
20180504_12 Burton Bradstock
I cleared the last cliff and descended onto the beginning of Chesil Beach.
20180504_13 Chesil Beach begins 15.25.33
I don't recall seeing brassica on a beach before - sea kale (Crambe maritima).
20180504_13 Chesil Beach begins 15.28.25
The excitement of a flat route was soon superseded by the annoyance of walking on shingle. I was 22 km into my walk and a pebble beach work out wasn't on my agenda. Fortunately the path detours behind Bruton Mere reed beds into a bog.  I have to admit that bog hopping is preferable to shingle schlepping.

Once back on the beach I stopped to watch the pedestrians pass.  I've never had ducks on my route before.  The duck hen was being very closed watched by her two suitors.
20180504_13 Chesil Beach begins 16.02.35
As my car was at Swayle I could see a few short cuts on my map up to it.  Strangely, once seeing the footpaths in reality, I gave them a wide berth.  There is bog and there is bog.
20180504_13 Chesil Beach begins 16.15.09
On reflection, a marvellous day on the path heightened by such a long absence since my last walk.  Plenty of time to relax, reflect and refresh myself.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

When Time Stands Still

Day Forty Four - Seaton to Lyme Regis 11.0 km (6.8 miles).
Time on route 3:00hrs, walking time 3:00hrs.

Saturday 23 September 2017
Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 01.21.43
The first memorable thing that happened today was that my watch broke at Seaton. So for the first time ever on the path I was walking time-blind (I keep my phone in my rucksack for emergency use only when I'm walking).
20170923 1_Seaton 18.42
I left Seaton and walked over Axmouth Bridge. This listed bridge, built in 1877, is the oldest concrete bridge in the UK, but built to emulate a masonry bridge.
20170923 2_Axmouth Bridge 4.14
Axmouth Harbour.
20170923 2_Axmouth Harbour
Up past Axmouth golf course, the path turned down a muddy path (I was to experience a lot of mud this day).
20170923 3_Path
Initially the going was open and I walked over the Downlands Cliffs and Landslips. This particular area is called Goat Island which was caused by the Bindon landslide of 1839.  It was so famous in its day that Queen Victoria herself came to view it.
20170923 4_Dowlands Cliffs
Not knowing how fast I was walking was strange.  Stranger still was the route: a 10 km trek through the Undercliff National Nature Reserve. 10 km of sticky slippery mud and few way markers to measure one's progress. So I just trogged along the path in a timeless state, skidding occasionally and once falling right over and ending up in the mud.  Not my finest hour.
20170923 5_Whitlands Cliff
10 km later I emerged and pretty soon afterwards so did Lyme Regis.  It was a sunny Saturday and the promenade was full of tourists in shorts and t-shirts.  I looked very out of place in my muddy clothes and clodded boots.
20170923 7_Lyme Regis 23.10
I was early enough into Lyme Regis that I ate my lunch there overlooking the River Lym, before catching the bus back to Seaton.  Oh, and I'm now in Dorset by the way.  My 4th county.
20170923 7_Lyme Regis 52.16
There was a lot of de-muddying to do once home...

Changing Times on the Coast Path

Day Forty Three - Sidmouth to Seaton 16.7 km (10.4 miles).
Time on route 4:40hrs, walking time 4:20hrs.

Friday 22 September 2017
Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 01.10.17
I fancied a two day'er but as my back/knees are a little fragile I decided not to overdo the distances for the next two legs.  I drove down to Seaton and caught the bus back to Sidmouth to begin.  Ooh, I hadn't spotted this mural before at Sidmouth Triangle.  Bet that's them peddling up Peak Hill.
20170922 1_Sidmouth 25.58
I set off along the promenade, dodging dawdling holiday makers and ascended the cliffs.
20170922 1_Sidmouth 30.56
As ever, such wonderful views from the top back towards Sidmouth, and a chance to catch one's breath.
20170922 2_Looking back towards Sidmouth
The whole of today's walk was labelled "severe/strenuous" in the guide book and it certainly was hard work initially.  This photo doesn't capture the sheer drop and climb ahead of me.
20170922 3_Salcombe Mouth
After another climb it was a sharp descent to Weston Mouth, and a satisfying crunch across the shingle trying not to focus on the 150 m ascent dead ahead.
20170922 5_Weston Mouth
At the top of Weston Cliff I spotted a nicely painted trig across the field but I couldn't drum up sufficient enthusiasm to warrant detour to hug it.  What is my world coming to?  It's TP6843 in case anyone is interested.  It has been adopted in memory of a Royal Engineer/Ordnance Survey employee hence its beautifully maintained condition.
20170922 6_TP6843
Also up on top of the cliff was a field containing my nemeses.  However, since I'd bypassed a trig without hugging it, I figured I could ring the changes again by marching through the middle of this lot.
20170922 7_Moo 8_1
So I did.  And they gave me a stiff ignoring.
20170922 7_Moo Butt
I eventually dropped down into Branscombe Mouth and came across the anchor of the Napoli that grounded offshore here in 2007.  I recall taking my girls down to the coast to view it.  They were young and trusted my every word then, believing me when I pointed to the two halves of the ship and said "now, there on your left is the 'Nap' and on the right is the 'Oli'".  I wouldn't get away with that nowadays.
20170922 9_Branscombe Mouth 02.21
I stopped for tea at the lovely cafe there then headed off upwards again.  I was rewarded by my first view of Portland Bill (hard to see in the photo, but it's there, honest).
20170922 8_Portland Bill 4.37
Just after this, the path sits under the cliff top and meanders through the entrancing Under Hooken for a kilometre or so.  And then, at Beer Head, Lyme Bay really opened up and I saw my first view of Seaton.
20170922 11_Lyme Bay
I marched down into Beer. What a lovely row of cottages.
20170922 10_Beer 1.06
And doorway: two of my favourite things - stained glass and a compass...
20170922 12_Beer in the evening  5.49.50
I didn't spend long there as I was staying there that night so left Beer and headed onwards.
20170922 10_Beer 4.07
As it was low tide I was able to take the coast path route along the shingle.
20170922 11_Seaton 38.18
The rocks are soft enough that tiny grains of sand (presumably) have made small holes in them.
20170922 11_Seaton 41.07
Seaton promenade has some interesting sculptures.  "Waves shape the shore".
20170922 11_Seaton 51.48
And "Shore shapes the waves".
20170923 1_Seaton 10.33
I drove back to Beer and overnighted in their Youth Hostel. Cheap and cheerful, but not terribly sociable.  I'd sort of hoped that a hostel would have interesting people loafing around all evening with whom I could chat, but the interesting ones obviously headed out and I was left with with the middle-aged lady (comme moi) drinking earl grey tea and knitting (pas comme moi).  Ah well.