I unzipped the tent and peered out to see a dull but dry day although I knew from the forecast that it was unlikely to stay that way! After a cup of tea and a quick breakfast snack, I packed everything into the rucksack and set about dismantling the tent.
Now one of the problems with backpacking in the autumn is that the tent gets very wet overnight even if there has been no rain and this morning was no exception. The call to get out on the trail early does not allow time for it to dry so there is no choice but to roll it up wet. Since I would be putting the tent back up again in less than 12 hours time, this is not a problem……except it weighed twice as much as yesterday :(!
The early part of the walk took me back through the village of Puncknowle and back up onto the ridge I came along yesterday. After a short time on the ridge, I dropped down the other side to rejoin the coast path at the end of Chesil Beach where I turned west. After a short time I turned around to look back at the beautiful sunlight catching the hills I had just walked over, but there were already ominous signs in the dark clouds gathering above!
I continued walking westwards into what was a gathering wind and soon dropped down into Burton Bradstock. For the next few miles I would be walking in Broadchurch land – the series was filmed along this stretch of coast. It is a standing joke in our house when we were watching that series that every 5 minutes I would be saying, ‘I’ve walked there’, or, ‘I been to that place’!
Only a short distance further and I reached Burton Freshwater, the next beach along. In reality though I had to walk twice the distance because the River Bride drains into the sea at that point. The only way to cross it is to detour inland to the nearest bridge and then walk back out on the other side – probably a mile long walk to reach 20 feet! I guess I could have paddled across :)!
Burton Freshwater is home to a large caravan park, so as lovely as it is I don’t linger there, preferring to continue along the coast. This took me up onto the cliff top where I thought I was going to have a nice flat walk into West Bay – wrong!! I had forgotten that along the short stretch of coast there was one of those annoying dips in the cliff that necessitated dropping right down to sea level only to climb back up the other side! There will be many of those to come over the next few days!
At 10.30am I walked into West Bay where I intended to stop for breakfast as I knew there would be kiosks selling bacon and egg baps – mind you, I hadn’t anticipated having to share it with a hundred starving starlings ;)! They were so tame that they were eating off my plate and out of my hands. The two girls sat at the next table thought it was really funny. Just to continue the TV theme, I noticed that the kiosk also sold Broadchurch Burgers, a smart marketing move :)!
It was very pleasant sat beside the harbour with its myriad boats and as a bonus, it was sheltered from the wind which had increased. However, whilst sat there I felt the first drops of rain!!
Climbing back up to the top of the headland, I turned for a last look at the town to see the wind really whipping up the waves along the shore. It was becoming increasing difficult to walk against the ever strengthening westerly wind! I continued along to the next bay, Eype Mouth, another Broadchurch location with the little cabin part way up the cliff path. Even on the leeward side of the hills there was little protection from the wind which was like an enemy trying to beat me back.
Ahead of me lie another of the steep climbs of the day, up to the top of Thorncombe Beacon. At the top, the now gale force westerly wind buffeted me, constantly changing direction and knocking me off balance. The rain was now pouring down but at least I still had a view from the top. But much worse was to come!
As I descended towards Seatown the weather really closed in on me. So much so that my next major obstacle, Golden Cap, was not even visible. That particular headland is the highest point on the south coast of England so is no easy feat in any conditions, but today…….!!!!??? It would be fun ;)!
Starting my climb upwards from Seatown I passed a couple walking in the other direction with the wind on their backs, ‘Its clearing from the west’ they said. It didn’t! Well not for some time anyway. Shortly afterwards I passed the cows in the picture below – even they were trying to find refuge from the severe conditions, trying to shelter under what flimsy trees there were.
By this point, my walking pole, normally reserved for the end of the day or emergencies, was off my rucksack as I needed it just to make progress. Every step, even on the flat, was like walking up a near vertical hill. I passed the time of day with another couple dropping down off the headland but the conditions weren’t conducive to conversation as the wind just whipped the words away.
I continued my slow upward progress, for a short time gaining some respite from the wind as the path skirts round the back of the headland before climbing up to the top. The respite was all too short though and ultimately I reached the top and walked again into the teeth of the howling gale. Normally this is a place to linger and take in the amazing views but today there were none so I headed straight back down the other side!!
Only when I was half way down did I drop out of the mist and low cloud and could see the way before me. I wiped the rain from the camera lens for the hundredth time before trying to grab another picture. Three miles to go to reach Charmouth where I hoped I would find a tea rooms to dry out and perhaps ride out the storm. I pressed on with yet more ups and downs, yet more wind, yet more dense mist, yet more teeming rain in my face! The final climb before Charmouth, whilst definitely not the highest, always seems the hardest, probably a case of ‘so near and yet so far’! But eventually I made it!
Reaching the top, I could at last drop off the exposed headlands and get out of the constant buffeting wind. I walked down the lane into the town where I found just what I was looking for :)! It was with relief that I sat down in peace and stillness and enjoyed a cream tea. Never had a cream tea tasted so good :)!
And not only that but in the half hour I sat there, the storm did finally clear from the west and the sun came out :)!
The walk wasn’t over and the wind hadn’t abated completely but my it was pleasant walking in the sunshine again. Not that the route is great from here as due to cliff falls some years ago, the path follows the main road for some distance before diverting into the countryside again. For the second night I headed inland, walking down a lovely country lane with beautiful dappled sunlight filtering through the trees.
The last two miles were particularly lovely, as I passed first a beautiful old mill and then followed the path through the trees beside the old mill stream into the village of Uplyme where I would stay the night.
At 5.30pm, after nearly 17 miles walking and 1,500/2,000 feet of ups and downs in gale force headwinds, I pitched my tent and had a welcome cup of soup. It was too early to eat and there was still daylight so what did I do? I went for a walk :)! Actually I knew that there was a disused railway viaduct nearby and I wanted to find it. After what was a very pleasant stroll in the evening light, I once again retired to the local pub for a meal.
Retracing my steps back to the tent at the end of the evening by the light of the almost full moon, I reflected on the day. And what a day it had been, what a GREAT day :)! Sometimes it is wonderful to walk in really bad conditions and I’d certainly done that. I climbed into my sleeping bag a contented walker.
Oh yes, and I did sleep reasonably well last night, and hopefully will do again tonight :)! It is one of the benefits of walking long distances :)!
Thanks for reading.
Until next time,
The Dorset Rambler.
If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.
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