14th March 2015 Dorset Coast – South West Coast Path
The much needed weekend break had arrived and we were on the 18:00 train to Weymouth. As John works with train sets we were treated to first class and the journey was very civilised. Selma greeted us at Weymouth and, despite our large snack en route, we were soon tucking into a fine tandoori meal served by one of the most polite waiters I have ever come across. I think the restaurant was called Weymouth Tandoori – not very imaginative but worth finding. The walk back to the B&B was the dark side of Weymouth with lots of drug and alcohol crazed rather menacing people hanging around the streets. The cleverly named B&B – called Weymouth B&B was modern, clean and served up a good breakfast. The view from our room perhaps wasn’t the best. (Cost about £80.00 for a double room)
Weymouth is a handy place to start a walk as it can be reached swiftly by train from London. Our first day was to be a short walk to Lulworth Cove – about 12 miles away. We set off at a lazy 10 am on Saturday morning. Sadly Selma wasn’t to join us for the walk as she is recovering from an ankle injury so John, Grit and myself pushed off along the grand sea front towards the hills. We called in at a busy little café at the end of the beach to buy some sandwiches for lunch but they would only sell things with bacon so we had a cup of coffee and pushed on up the hill. There we found a really splendid café called The Lookout who would make us some sarnies for lunch. It had a very appetising menu. Next time we will have coffee here!
The imposing white Riviera Hotel in a Spanish style looks slightly smaller as you get closer. Soon a rather splendid outdoor centre looms beside the path. There are some long and intricate zip wires and diabolical swings which must be pretty character building for the hard hatted children who looked like they were enjoying the experience. The path is not for people who don’t like hills. Although this section is less arduous than the North Somerset and Devon sections it is nevertheless very hilly indeed. One year I was walking it and there was an ultra marathon taking place. They were so knackered that we were able to overtake most of them by walking at a brisk pace. It is said that the South West Path has the same ascents as climbing Everest twice. I believe it is Europe’s longest continuous path but I could be wrong. For March it was quite cold dropping to 2 degrees at night and only touching 7 during the day. Add a bit of wind and you can soon chill off. I wore a pair of merino long Johns with Montane technical trousers on top and two Devold merino tops with a Montane Event jacket on top. A merino hat, Devold wool mitts and merino snood were donned when necessary. It was a good choice as I never got cold or hot. I had a Rab belay jacket and waistcoat for when we stopped for lunch. At Osmington Mills there is a normally very attractive pub but on this occasion masses of flood defence work was being carried out and the place looked like a bomb site. I’m sure it will get restored to it’s former glory soon. As we approached Burning Cliff we found a little wooden church. It was rather Norwegian. The cliffs around here have been known to catch fire. In 1826 this cliff burnt for a year. Soon we were climbing to White Nothe and preparing ourselves for some splendid walking along the whalebacks of this wonderful coast. Durdle Door is a popular spot for tourists and in this case almost entirely Indian visitors – not sure why! After Durdle Door there are just a few more beautiful miles before reaching Lulworth Cove where we once again met Selma at about 4 pm. We were booked into the very posh Lulworth Inn which was quite a treat compared to some places I’ve stayed in. (cost about £105.00 for a double room) John and I decided to do a bit of hill running before our evening meal. In the morning we left at about 9.30am as we had intentions of getting to Worth Matravers for lunch. If we had bothered to think about it we would have realised that that was virtually impossible without running shoes. The path from the bay was closed due to a cliff collapse so we walked back through the village and over the fields. In fact we could have saved ourselves a big hill by walking around the beach! Mupe is a lovely anchorage sheltered from the South West by a ridge of rocks. Soon we were in the Ministry of Defence firing range where we were attracted to a sign saying “Danger Keep Off” hanging on a tank with the inevitable consequence. This section of the path is more demanding than the day before with some corking great hills. Those Ultra Runners must have been crestfallen when they saw some of the paths, many of which need steps to achieve the gradient. At Kimmeridge the surf was up and about 50 surfers were out there enjoying the waves. There was a group of kayakers riding the waves too. The oily stone at Kimmeridge can be turned on a lathe to make unattractive ornaments. There is a working oil well on the cliff. Once we reached Chapmans Pool we needed to turn away from the gorgeous Dorset Coast and head inland. Chapmans Pool can be a good overnight anchorage but nowadays the Sunseekers from Poole Harbour tend to snatch the space before the slow yachts can get there. Just a few more miles inland and we arrived at what must be one of Britain’s finest pubs – the Square and Compass. What a heavenly pie (and a pasty) and tasty pint! Can life get better?