Saturday, 19 October 2013

To be continued in 2014 :)

Reluctantly this walk is now on hold now for the Winter.

I'd love to walk all of the magnificent South West Coast Path in one continuous uninterrupted journey. However the reality is I have no option but to tackle it in sections due to work and family commitments. I'm already looking forward to getting back on the path in 2014, which will include a full week of walking during a break from work. It's my intention is to get at least as far as the half-way point of the path during the year, which I note is just south of Coverack in Cornwall.

The path certainly hasn't disappointed so far, as expected delivering a superb mix of terrain; genteel seaside resorts, rugged unspoilt coastline, sandy beaches and just about everything inbetween. I've walked through many wonderful places I'd never visited before and enjoyed mile after mile of spectacular scenery. Perhaps I was a bit unlucky with the weather at times, especially on Day 1 when I was battered by an horrendous storm, though on the other side of the coin I was fortunate to stay completely clear of any aches, pains or injuries. On reflection my favourite part to date was the glorious isolated and rural section between Berry Head and Kingswear on Day 8, simply magnificent. The low point was on Day 4; a tedious detour of several miles on steep and busy roads around Charmouth. The coast path was impassable both sides of town due to landslips leaving me no option other than this unpleasant slog in heavy rain.

I'd like to say a big 'thank-you' to my parents Eileen and Bill who let me use their house as a base for the first two nights and provided the best possible hospitality. Also to my partner Lea for her invaluable support. She patiently followed along in her car on Days 1 to 5, dropping me at the start point each morning, meeting me first for lunch, then wherever I stopped to take me back to our accommodation. She also brought along food, changes of clothes, etc. Unlimited use of 'Lea's Taxi' was very much appreciated!

Many people have asked me if this is another charity walk. Initially that wasn't my intention, however I've been persuaded otherwise after a few people insisted on making a donation to a good cause in appreciation of my efforts. I've decided I'd like any money raised to go to Macmillan Cancer Support again. They're a highly worthwhile cause who are currently giving invaluable assistance to my mother during her battle against breast cancer. If you'd like to make a donation please do so via my Just Giving page which you'll find on this link, otherwise you can forward it to me.

Thanks for reading, Gary :)

 
Progress to date, 178.67 miles covered in 8 days, about an Everest worth of ascent and descent thrown in for good measure. The red line accurately shows my route as recorded by my handheld Garmin GPS device. Click pic to enlarge.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Day 8 - October 11th 2013 - Torquay to Kingswear

By necessity my walk today commenced after I'd finished my regular daily milkround in Exeter, just as it had on days 6 and 7. That's an 8 hour shift spent mainly on my feet after a 1-30am alarm call. If you're questioning my sanity at this point I wouldn't be surprised. But don't worry; I can handle it. I try to avoid walking too much over 20 miles after a working day. On a non-working day my range is 30+ miles.

When I arrived in Torquay I was delighted with the weather; it was bright and sunny with a strong, cool northerly wind. Absolutely perfect when you're about to start walking south. The first couple of miles going into Paignton weren't that much fun, going along a footpath next to a busy main road. At least there were pleasant views across Torbay to enjoy. From Paignton onwards the main road diverts inland and the seafront becomes more peaceful. The tide was high and waves were coming over the sea wall in places. It wasn't too bad but the road along the front was closed to traffic as a precaution.

At the north end of Goodrington Sands a short section of the official path was closed by an unstable cliff. The diversion here was the first I'd seen since Charmouth. Broadsands seemed a lovely spot, though the name wasn't very apt today; the high tide and rough sea meant the beach was completely covered by big waves, I couldn't really see much sand at all. As I walked along the promenade I found myself being blasted continuously by spray. I didn't mind, that sort of thing just adds to the fun as far as I'm concerned.

From Churston Point onwards the nature of the path changed noticeably. The seaside resorts were behind me now and the going started to become quite rural and moderately hilly. From here through to Brixham was a surprisingly pleasant section. Sandy beaches were replaced by more rugged coastline, the path passed through some wooded sections and across a couple of small coves. Brixham itself is a pretty fishing town, totally in contrast to the modern touristy areas I'd passed through earlier. I stopped here briefly for my lunch (a Cornish pasty again). It was consumed while I sat on a bench next to the statue of William of Orange. He landed an army of 20,000 men near here in 1688.

After leaving Brixham I made my way up to Berry Head. There was much to see including the impressive Napoleonic era fortifications. In front of the lighthouse there's one of those direction and distance signs that points out what you can see on a clear day. I could easily make out Exmouth, 18 miles distant, and several other places I'd passed through along the Jurrasic Coast. That included Golden Cap in Dorset, I wondered if there were people up there at that very moment looking back across Lyme Bay towards me. On such a fine day for walking I concluded there probably were. It was a little too hazy to make out the island of Portland from where I was, I expect those at Golden Cap could see it. Portland Bill was 42 miles away in a straight line according to the sign. I can tell you from very recent personal experience it's actually 120 miles away if you do the journey on foot without using any ferries!

Soon after leaving Berry Head the path enters a spectacular section that continues all the way around to Kingswear. You leave civilisation behind and don't see any roads or buildings for several miles. There are spectacular coves and cliffs, occasional small beaches that you can only access on foot or by boat. The path gets rocky and rugged and becomes a switchback of steep hills, it's tough going and not for the faint-hearted. In my opinion areas like this are exactly what the path is all about, representing the coast of Great Britain at its very finest and I enjoy them immensely. In one spot I found my way blocked by three grazing Dartmoor ponies who didn't want to budge, there was a cliff top close to my left and dense scrub to the right. It was a magical moment. After a brief stand-off I eventually sweet-talked my way through! I thoroughly enjoyed these last eight miles or so of today's walk, they were undoubtedly right up there with the very best I've seen on this journey so far. I was getting tired by the end, stopping for regular breathers on the last few killer hills, including the steep one that climbs through the fascinating WWII defences at Brownstone Battery. Despite that I was left in absolutely no doubt it had been more than worth the effort to see such wonderful places.

When I got into Kingswear I made my way down to the ferry terminal where the official South Coast Path crosses over to Dartmouth. My arrival was well-timed to catch the 5-00pm tourist steam train back to Paignton. It was a little more expensive than the bus, though a far more pleasant mode of transport. The steam train was hassle-free, relaxing and on time. To the contrary when I got alighted at Paignton I found my connecting train to Torquay on the National Network had been cancelled, so I ended up on a bus after all. I'm making good progress on this walk, I'm not sure if the same can be said for public transport.

Distance Walked Today 19.78 miles (31.83 km)

Walking Time; 5 hours 51 minutes

Average Walking Speed 3.4 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 178.67 miles (287.54 km)

GPS Track; https://www.strava.com/activities/533760819

 
Paignton Pier in superb walking weather
 
 
Sands? What sands? Stormy seas at Broadsands
 
A replica of the Golden Hind in Brixham Harbour
 
Naopleonic era defences at Berry Head
 
A deserted beach at Long Sands
 
This is the stuff! A spectacular section of the South West
Coast Path somewhere near Scabbacombe Head
 
One of the Dartmoor ponies that blocked my way to The River Dart
 
Looking across to Dartmouth upon my arrival in Kingswear
 
 
This Iron Horse took me away from the River Dart
 


Friday, 4 October 2013

Day 7 - October 3rd 2013 - Starcross to Torquay

Due to Met Office severe weather warnings of heavy rain and localised flooding my decision to walk today was left until the very last minute. After finishing at work I took a close look at the live rainfall rader images and decided to go for it; I could see that the heaviest of the rain would be passing shortly before I started and that conditions should improve in the afternoon.

A big downpour had left a lot of standing water when I set off from the railway station car park at Starcross, though the rain falling at the time was actually quite light. I made my way to Dawlish Warren along the unavoidable roads, though it was a bit better than the last time I walked through here as some new wide new footpaths have been constructed where before there were none. Soon after I started to walk along the sea wall between Dawlish Warren and Dawlish it began to rain quite hard again, the sea was rough and visibilty was poor. I'd chosen to walk this section today due to low tide falling at lunchtime, at high tide two sections of the coast path in this area are impassable.

Conditions stayed misreable as I did the first hilly sections after Dawlish and made my along the sea wall that takes you into Teignmouth. I just put my head down and got on with it at a good pace, reminding myself frequently that the rain wouldn't be lasting all day. To my surprise I saw three other individual long-distance walkers out on this section despite the foul weather, each of them alone and heading north.

At Teignmouth I thought it very unlikely the ferry would be operating in the rough seas, even if it was I didn't fancy waiting around for it in the deluge. So after buying a pasty for my lunch I headed straight for the The Saldon Bridge. To my relief the heavy rain started to ease off just before I crossed.

After Shaldon the weather gradually improved and the walk became far more pleasurable . The path closely follows the clifftops around scenic Labrador Bay. The coast road is too far away to be heard over the sound of crashing waves and you feel far from civilisation, I didn't see another person here for a couple of hours along this stretch. This was my favourite part of the walk today. Mind you, the going was pretty tough all the way. You're always going up or down and it's often steep. It was also quite overgrown in places, I was glad I was wearing waterproof trousers rather than shorts when I found myself wading through nettles and brambles. Low hanging branches weighed down by rain are an annoyance when you're six feet tall.

Apart from a couple of short road sections the path is surprisingly rural and rugged as it skirts around the built-up areas to the north of Torquay. The going remains quite hilly, but you are rewarded by some great views of various coves and cliffs. With the sun breaking though by now I enjoyed walking through here too, visibilty was improving and I caught occasional glimpes of Exmouth and western end of the Jurrasic Coast in the distance.

By the time I finally emerged into Torquay itself I was beginning to tire. It was hardly surprising; I'd been up since 1-45am and put in eight hours on the milkround before this walk. During that shift I'd probably walked at least another 10 miles. I made my way to the railway station and caught the first train back to Starcross where my car was parked. It took a mere 32 minutes to return me to the place it had taken me over 6 hours to walk from. As the the train passed along the spectacular line through Teignmouth and Dawlish I could see huge waves crashing over the sea walls I'd walked along earlier, this made me very pleased that I'd researched the tide times before setting off.

The walk today was very varied, both the terrain and the weather. Admittedly the first couple of hours wasn't much fun in terrible conditions. However I was glad I hadn't let the adverse weather stop me, by the end I felt exhilerated and with an overwhelming sense that I'd thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Distance Walked Today 21.12 miles (33.99 km)

Walking Time; 6 hours 03 minutes

Average Walking Speed 3.5 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 158.89 miles (255.71 km)

GPS Track; https://www.strava.com/activities/533694901


South Wet Coast Path, the live rainfall radar just before I set off
 
Heading south out of Dawlish as heavy rain falls, Lea Mount the first hill of the day ahead
 
A short video clip I recorded between Dawlish and Teignmouth during the downpour,
the path had turned into a river here
 
Looking back at Teignmouth through the murk
 
Yay, it starts to brighten up as I walk along the Labrador Bay cliff-top, the angle
between the fence and the horizon shows how steep it is here
 
Babbacombe Cliff Railway in the first rays of sun of the day,
the path goes under the track in a small tunnel
 
Ansteys Cove
 
Torquay Harbour and blue sky, a very welcome sight after the earlier deluge

Friday, 27 September 2013

Day 6 - September 27th 2013 - Exmouth to Starcross via The Exe Estuary Trail

The official Coast Path crosses the Exe via the Exmouth to Starcross Ferry. That seems a bit too easy to me so I chose to take a long-cut today and make my way across the river by walking around the excellent Exe Estuary Trail, one of my favourite local walks. After an eight hour shift delivering milk I set off feeling fit and well in fine weather after resting at home for an hour. It was also less than 48 hours since I'd made a blood donation, though as usual that seemed to have had absolutely no impact on me and my energy levels felt normal.

My house looks over the estuary and I can see Starcross from my bedroom window less than a mile away across the water. However it's a much longer walk to get there. The trail starts just across the road from my house. I set off at a good pace, well aware that the last river ferry from Starcross back to Exmouth would be leaving at 4-10pm. If I were to miss it I'd have to make my way home by making a time consuming train journey via Exeter St.Davids. I was soon in Lympstone, as usual the eastern side of the trail was very popular being shared by many walkers, joggers and cyclists. I also saw several bird watchers with big binoculars and cameras with huge zoom lenses. The tide was quite high and I could see huge flocks of birds on the vast expanse of water.

Between Lympstone and Exton you pass behind the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre. All Commandos famously have to complete four tough tasks here in full kit at the end of their intense 32 week training course if they're to earn their green beret, not many make it that far. There is a curious railway station, Lympstone Commando, next to the path here where ordinary trains stop but only military personnel may alight, the only one of it's type in the country. Occasional parts of the Exe Estuary Trail are on roads, including a section here, though for the most part they're very quiet lanes and you see very few cars. There are almost no hills on the trail and the entire route is essentially at sea-level and completely flat.

Just past Exton I could see a new section of the path under construction, it looked close to completion and includes a large bridge over the River Clyst. It will shorten the route a little by cutting out the part where I had to use the footpath next to the road between Darts Farm and the Bridge Inn. There are several ways you can make your way through Topsham. I prefer the footpath next to the river, even though it's fairly narrow here and always muddy because it gets covered by the water at high tide. There is another river ferry here for foot passengers which you can use to cross to Turf Lock, I passed the opportunity and continued north determined to do it all on foot. Close to Countess Weir Bridge I diverted into a housing estate to buy a sandwich and a drink in a convenience store. Due to the urgency of catching the last ferry I decided to eat while I walked rather than stopping for a break.

The Countess Weir Bridge on the southern outskirts of Exeter in the furthest place South where pedestrians can cross the River Exe on foot. The road here is very busy, though you're only next to it for a short distance before heading south on the tow path of the Exeter Ship Canal. The first section along the canal isn't exactly the best; first you pass a large sewage works on the opposite bank, then under the noisy M5 motorway. After that it gets much more tranquil and pleasant. There were swans in the water and several fishermen camping along here, all of whom seemed to have three rods each and well equipped green tents. The Turf Hotel at Turk Lock where the Exeter Ship Canal meets the Exe Estuary is a lovely spot, I'm told it's a great place to stop for lunch though I've never been in myself. After stopping briefly to take a couple of pictures I pushed on. The path from here goes along the high bank on the side of the estuary for a mile or two, to my right were peaceful flat fields where cattle were grazing, to my left with the tide subsiding there were mud flats starting to emerge where earlier there was water.

After crossing the railway line the last mile and a half was spent walking along a lane behind Powderham Castle, home of the Earl of Devon. The castle itself is quite distant and you only get occasional glimpses though the trees. There are many deer in the grounds and I got within a few feet of a wading crane at one point. It flew away before I could get my camera out. Upon reaching Starcross I felt I could have easily carried on for a few miles more, but with the ferry by far the easiest way back going any further on made no sense. To my amazement I'd arrived more than an hour before the 4-10pm ferry, in fact I'd just about made it in time for the 3-10pm crossing, my good pace today allowing me to get home an hour earlier than expected. After a relaxing crossing on the boat and an easy stroll home from Exmouth Dock tiredness finally began to kick in. I'll sleep well tonight, very happy with progress on this walk so far.

Distance Walked Today 14.97 miles (24.09 km)

Walking Time; 3 hours 37 minutes

Average Walking Speed 4.1 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 137.77 miles (221.72 km)

GPS Track; https://www.strava.com/activities/533694892




 A typical section of the eastern side of the
Exe Estuary trail
 

Razor wire, high security at the Training Centre entrance next to
Lympstone Commando railway station
 

 A peace stroll through Topsham beside the River Exe
 

 The spot where the peaceful Exeter Ship canal passes under the busy M5 motorway
 

 Busy mum, a swan with eight cygnets on The Exeter Ship Canal
 

 Turf Lock and the Turf Hotel, there is no public road neaby, you can only get here on foot
 

 The grounds of Powderham Castle, deer graze under the oak tree
 

The best surviving engine house of Brunel's experimental
atmospheric railway at Starcross
 
 


Friday, 20 September 2013

Day 5 - September 20th 2013 - Seaton to Exmouth

I enjoyed the best weather of the walk so far today, cool with bright spells. There was no rain at all and perhaps most importantly of all for the first time I didn't have a head-wind to contend with.

The 10 miles of path between Seaton and Sidmouth were very hard-work yet exhilarating. There were breath-taking views from the cliff-tops, though a tough descent and ascent to contend with each time a river mouth was reached. Branscombe Mouth was a lovely spot, here I saw the anchor of the cointainer ship MSC Napoli which made world-wide headlines in 2007. After it grounded at Branscombe in a storm the containers which washed ashore were scavenged by enterprising locals.

The views over Sidmouth from Salcombe Hill, the highest point of the day were superb. In the fine weather this section of the coast path was busier than any I'd seen so far. When I reached Sidmouth it was buzzing having hosted the start of a Tour of Britain stage a couple of hours before my arrival. With the field including Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, Britain's two greatest ever cyclists, large crowds had been attracted to the town. After a brief wander around taking in the atmosphere I rested on the Esplanade for a few minutes where I ate my lunch.

From Sidmouth onwards the going got easier and I was on very familiar territory; the path from here to Exmouth being a section I've walked many times before. The long slog up to Peak Hill was the last significant climb of the day, though it didn't seem as steep as those I'd negotiated in the morning. I passed straight through Ladram Bay, a favourite spot of mine, very tranquil and the sea stacks are a superb sight. Approaching Budleigh Salterton the path takes an annoying detour 2/3 of a mile inland to cross the River Otter. Once in town I stopped to buy refreshments and enjoy the sea view for a few minutes.

After some easy climbing which rewarded me with more superb views of the spectacular coast in this area I arrived at Straight Point. The small headland is a military firing range and closed to the public. Right next to it is a very large caravan park, supposedly the biggest in Western Europe. Locally it's known as Sandy Bay, though the holiday companies market it using the name Devon Cliffs. Strangely the Sea View CafĂ© has been allowed to build a patio across the official coast path here and long distance walkers awkwardly pass between tables of holiday makers enjoying a drink with their magnificent view.

After Sandy Bay I passed over Orcombe Cliffs and reached the Geoneedle that marks the western end of the Jurassic Coast, a pleasing landmark. Between here and Old Harry Rocks back on Day 1 I'd thoroughly enjoyed my journey along the World Heritage Site, undoubtedly one of the greatest natural wonders in Britain. A pleasant and flat two mile stroll along Exmouth sea-front followed. At Exmouth Dock were the official path crosses over to Starcross on a ferry I continued on to my home address from where I shall resume. It isn't my intention to use the ferry, I'd rather cross the river via an attractive long-cut; The Exe Estuary Trail.

Distance Walked Today 25.00 miles (40.24 km)

Cumulative Distance Walked 122.80 miles (197.63 km)

GPS Track; https://www.strava.com/activities/533694903

Unfortunately there are no photographs of the spectacular scenery I saw today, I accidentally set off without my camera!


Reviewing today's GPS data after arriving home


Thursday, 19 September 2013

Day 4 - September 19th 2013 - West Bay to Seaton

The weather wasn't on my side again; I was walking into a strong head-wind all day and there was more rain. However I refuse to let that put me off and made good progress regardless.

The morning was spent on hilly terrain between West Bay and Lyme Regis. As is usually the case the toughest climbs rewarded me with the most spectacular views. West of Eype Mouth the views from Thorncombe Beacon (which I reached before the rain set in) were superb. From here Portland to my left already seemed quite small and distant. Amazing considering that's where I'd set off from yesterday morning. To my right I could see many cliffs, headlands and towns that awaited me between here and Exmouth.

After dropping down into Seatown I climbed up to the highest point of the entire South Coast of England; Golden Cap. Surprisingly the ascent wasn't as tough I expected, being a little less steep as many other uphills on my route. Unfortunately the first pulse of rain arrived shortly before I reached the top and I had to stop to put on my waterproofs. There was a great 'top of the world' feeling on the plateau at the top, the path was fairly quiet in the bad weather and I had it all to myself. I stopped there for a few minutes to enjoy the superb views and managed to get some pictures when the rain eased briefly, though visibility wasn't great.

As I pushed on towards Charmouth the weather worsened and the rain got heavier. Unfortunately the coast path both sides of Charmouth was impassable due to land slips an there was no choice but to bypass the town and make my way to Lyme Regis by walking along busy, hilly roads. Even an off-road section of the diversion was closed. This unpleasant slog in the heaviest rain of the day this was easily one of the low-lights of my journey so far. At lovely Lyme Regis it was a welcome relief to meet Lea on the front who was waiting for me in her dry warm car with a delicious hot pasty and a dry shirt for me to change into.

Leaving Lyme Regis I crossed the county border and entered Devon. Most of the way to Seaton the path passes through the dense woodland of the Underhills National Nature Reserve. Glimpses of the sea were few and far between, if it wasn't for the ever-present sound of crashing surf to my left it would have been easy to forget I was on a coast path at all. The going was somewhat tricky, very muddy and the endless tree routes a tripping and slipping hazard, however the jungle-like tree cover did a great job of protecting me from the wind and took the sting out of the rain. When I emerged onto the rugged cliffs a mile from Seaton the storm blew itself out and I saw the first rays sunshine of the day. It was a pleasant stroll down into Seaton through a golf course where I met Lea who was waiting for me as planned on the seafront.

Distance Walked Today 17.82 miles (28.68 km)

Cumulative Distance Walked 97.80 miles (157.39 km)


 
The view east from Throncombe Beacon, Portland on the horizon
 
The view west from Thorncombe Beacon
 
Descending into Seatown, Golden Cap ahead
 
Passing through a huge field of maize west of Seatown
 
 
The view from Golden Cap, the highest point on the
entire South Coast of England
 
A warning sign where you enter the Underclifs National Nature Reserve,
for the record it took me 2 hours
 
Hooray, the sun comes out at last as I descent into Seaton through the Axecliff Golf Course


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Day 3 - September 18th 2013 - Chiswell to West Bay

After Lea dropped me back where I'd stopped yesterday at Chiswell my first task was to cross back over the causeway from Portland to the mainland. Two miles of walking on tarmac next to the busy main his was a fairly tedious task, though at least I had the eastern end of Chesil Beach, my companion for most of the day, to admire. Another plus was the weather, while there was a fairly stiff breeze in my face at least it was dry, and dry it would stay all day apart from one short sharp shower mid-morning.

When I joined the mainland I had to double back a little way after accidentally wandering into a caravan park that while directly next to the path didn't offer any access. Then I set off through mile after mile of gently rolling English countryside, the amazing Chesil Beach, a natural shingle bar 18 miles long, always on my left.

There were a couple of military firing ranges to detour around and a few moderate hills towards the end, but it was mainly easy going all the way to the picturesque town of Abbotsbury where I met Lea for lunch.

In the afternoon I dropped back down onto the path which was flat for many miles. In a few spots you find yourself walking on the Chesil shingle, tiresome going but pleasant none-the-less. It was a perfectly clear day and I could see the entirety of Lyme Bay from Portland Bill to Start Point including many headlands that await me before I reach Exmouth.

From Burton Bradstock, where Chesil Beach ends, to West Bay there are a few sharp climbs, but you are rewarded by a cliff-top walk above the spectacular sandstone cliffs, a wonderful sight. By now the downhills bother my legs more than the uphills, the short steep descent into West Bay was probably the most uncomfortable walking of the day. I finished feeling this had been a very good day; pleasant weather, beautiful countryside to admire, a distinct lack of hills and 23 miles covered.

Distance Walked Today 23.07 miles (37.13 km)

Cumulative Distance Walked 79.98 miles (128.72 km)


 Chesil Beach and the Swannery below, as I climb towards Abbotsbury in fine weather
 
 One of the short sections of the path on the Chesil Beach shingle
 
 
Looking back towards Portland where I set off this morning
from Burton Bradstock 
 
 
 The spectacular sandstone cliffs at Burton Bradstock
 
 West Bay, my destination for the day comes into view
 


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Day 2 - September 17th 2013 - Lulworth Cove to Chiswell

After Sunday's energy-sapping test of willpower I took an unplanned day off for rest and recovery. It paid dividends; I set off today feeling fully recovered and keen to resume my task. There were steep hills to tackle right from the start, though I was rewarded by spectacular scenery including the stunning Durdle Door after only a mile and impressive chalk cliffs that included another natural arch.

From Whitenothe Cottages onwards the going got much easier as I gradually descended towards Weymouth. I loved the spot at Osmington Mills where the official Coast Path goes through the beer garden of the delightful 13th century Smugglers Inn.

After meeting Lea for lunch on Weymouth Esplanade I made my way through town to the 2 mile long causeway that connects Portland with the mainland. Soon before I crossed on the disused railway bed a series of storms blew in. Much like on Day 1 I was set to spend the rest of the afternoon being battered by strong winds and pulses of heavy rain, though the wind never got quite as severe as it had on Sunday. Unfortunately this meant my camera equipment needed to be stowed in a waterproof container inside my pack again, so few pictures were taken.

Portland is a bleak, grey island, yet still fascinating. Quarries and prisons seem to be the main industries around here. Big parts of the island are an endless series of abandoned quarries, you can clearly see where huge chunks of material have been removed over the centuries to be used for construction, including in many world-famous buildings. From the outside Verne Prison looks to be a particularly grim place, being housed inside an abandoned military barracks that was quite literally cut into the rock at the top of the island in the eighteenth century.

Coming around the south-east corner the going was quite tricky requiring clambering over loose rocks in abandoned quarries that were slippery when wet, so I slowed down to avoid the risk of an accident. I didn't see another long-distance walker on the island all afternoon, the conditions must have put everybody else off. After passing the lighthouse at Portland Bill the path back along the west side of Portland becomes much more direct and the going gets easier, though while on the west I was more exposed to the strong winds. Again there were diversions here due to rock falls.

After descending down the steep hill into Chiswell I opted against crossing the causeway again and called it a day. I'll leave form the same spot tomorrow, my intended destination West Bay. A dry day would be nice!

Distance Walked Today 26.85 miles (43.21 km)

Cumulative Distance Walked 56.91 miles (91.59 km)


 

Looking back towards Lulworth Cove on the
first big climb of the day

Durdle door, spectacular natural arch
 
 Chalk cliffs at Bat's Head

The Smugglers Inn at Osmington Mills

Arriving at the Esplanade, Weymouth

Portland Bill

 A brief break in the clouds as I walk along the cliff-top on the west side of Portland

 

Monday, 16 September 2013

Day 1 - September 15th 2013 - South Haven Point to Lulworth Cove

Despite the forecast arrival of the first big storm of the season later in the day (correct as it turned out) I was excited to get this adventure underway. After being dropped off by Lea and posing for a few photos next to the steel structure that marks the start/finish of the South West Coast Path. I set off from South Haven Point in good walking conditions; bright, cool and breezy. The first couple of miles were an enjoyable stroll along the golden sands around Studland Bay, I kept close to the waters edge to make the most of the firm sand. At Studland where the beach ran out I moved to the cliff-top path and made my way to Old Harry Rocks, a very pleasant spot. The chalk rocks here mark the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, which I intend to walk in it's entirety this week. While at Studland I came across the first of many path diversions I expect to encounter on my journey due to coastal erosion.

From Old Harry Rocks to Swanage the going started to get quite hilly for the first time and the wind was already picking up noticeably. Swanage looked like a pleasant place, there were plenty of visitors in town, many of them there to cheer on runners in the Purbeck Marathon that was taking place that day.

Swanage was the only town (or village) I walked through today. The next 10 miles to St Aldhelm's Head were rugged terrain with the remains of many limestone quarries to seen. The wind strength continued to build through this section and was beginning to make progress noticeably more difficult than it otherwise would have been. Unfortunately due to an unexpected complication and the absence of any mobile signal my lunchtime meeting with Lea at St.Aldhelm's Chapel didn't happen. I rested for a while, ate the emergency back-up snacks I'd been given by my Mum and pressed on. I took this short video clip soon after leaving St.Aldhelm's Head a few minutes before the rain arrived, it gives you an idea of the wind strength I walked into all afternoon;


When I reached West Hill the well-forecast storm hit and the rest of the day would prove to be very tough. Winds were up at gale force and in my face most of the time. The rain was of the stinging horizontal variety that penetrates through even the best of water-proofs. Visibility was very poor, no more photographs could be taken and I was unable to enjoy the scenery. Soon after West Hill a 4-mile section of the path was on a long-term closure due to land slides. I followed the diversion route as well as I could, but it was poorly sign-posted and I ended up taking an improvised route that went through a muddy smelly farmyard and the grounds of Smedmore House.

Despite the horrendous weather I was determined to make it through the Lulworth Firing Ranges today. It was a Sunday, after today they would be closed to the public until the following Saturday. My intention is to walk the South West Coast path in sequence if possible, I don't want to skip bits which I'd have to go back and walk later.

I made my way back down to the Coast Path again after entering the firing ranges on a ridge. The wind remained very strong and made the going a real battle on the more exposed sections, it was hard to stay standing in places. The final three miles from Worbarrow Tout to Lulworth Cove were the toughest of the lot. By now I was getting exhausted and de-hydrated due to the aborted lunch meet-up. The last two steep hills were very steep, a real challenge, I stopped to rest every 20 metres or so. It was a big relief when I finally sighted Lulworth below me when a mile away with darkness falling. It was all downhill from there, I chose the Radar Station path. It was a great relief when I met worried Lea, who was waiting in the car park with much needed food and drink.

The South West Coast path threw everything it had at me today;  high mileage, more climbing than an ascent of Ben Nevis, ferocious weather. My missed lunch meeting and lack of fluids was a further complication that made the day even more challenging. I'm very pleased I managed overcome such a tough test on the very first day of this journey, I hope I won't face anything worse between here and Minehead.

After such a tough test on my Day 1 I decided to make Monday an unplanned rest day to recover, the walking to resume from Lulworth Cove on Tuesday morning.

Distance Walked Today 30.06 miles (48.38 km)

Cumulative Distance Walked 30.06 miles (48.38 km)


 

South Haven Point, the journey begins here
 
Old Harry Rocks, the eastern end of The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site
 
The large globe at Durlston Castle
 
One of the many disused limestone quarries
 
St.Aldhelm's Chapel
 
The terrain starts to get hilly west of St. Aldhelm's Head. Shortly after I took
this picture the storm hit preventing any further use of my camera .