I woke the next morning at 4.30am as the first light appeared in the sky and immediately leapt out of my sleeping bag, eager to start my day – it seems so much easier when camping than when at home in a soft bed. Half an hour later the sky turned a delightful shade of pink, red and orange as the sun broke through. The sheep on the hillside were already eating breakfast and there was a beautiful stillness. The scene before me was mesmerising and I captured it as best I could, wishing I had my tripod with me!
I had a quick breakfast of cereal bars and tea watching the ever lightening sky and listening to the sheep and cows that surrounded me. I was still alone on my hilltop although the village below me was starting to stir.
I packed up my things – well there wasn’t much to pack really – and before leaving I went into the chapel again. The doves were also stirring for the day, and one conveniently posed for me in the east window. I think that picture with the dove in silhouette was a fitting picture on which to end my stay at that amazing place of peace and pilgrimage and I bade my farewell.
Making my way across the hilltop, I dropped down the other side towards the coast path again, looking out across the Fleet with its swannery and the Chesil Bank that provides its protective south bank. The day was already warm despite the clouds that had now gathered. It was to become even warmer later despite the earlier forecast of cooler weather!
It was barely 6am and there was no-one else around apart from a few fishermen farther along Chesil Beach. From a distance, I could see them reeling in fish so it looked like it had been a successful night. The skies cleared once more and the early sun threw long shadows across the deserted beach. There was a lovely stillness in the air and it was wonderful to be out walking so early in the day.
The first few miles of the day were hard going because they were either on hard but broken tarmac, or worse still, on shingle as the path follows the edge of the shingle beach. It was like constantly walking uphill and it was a relief when at last the path turned slightly inland to skirt along the edge of a nature reserve. Ahh, solid ground underfoot!
It was at this point that two walkers passed me – the first contact with humanity today. They waved a cheery good morning and continued on their way but we would meet again later in the day.
Gradually the day became busier! This was in part because the morning was drawing on but also because I was now entering a more ‘touristy’ section of the walk, with a number of towns, beaches and caravan parks. The first of these was Burton Bradstock, a popular beach with a caravan park just further along the coast.
It is at the caravan park that the River Bride enters the sea on its somewhat serpentine route. The river is not wide……but it is wide enough to need a footbridge to cross it, and that footbridge is half a mile inland. So at this point, my route detoured inland along one side of the river to reach the bridge, and then followed the other side back again.
Generally though the walking along this section was not difficult as the headlands are not majorly high. That would all change later but for now, I could enjoy great views without too much effort.
There is one particularly interesting feature here though, and that is the Bridport Golf Club. Now I’m not a golfer but the hole in the picture below must be a challenge especially on a day when a stiff sea breeze is blowing. The tee off point is on the headland beside where I am stood and the hole is in the valley some 150 feet below! That must be difficult to gauge!
In terms of climbing, this was the first challenge of the day as I dropped down to almost sea level and climbed again up the other side. I stopped at the top to catch my breath….although it was of course in the guise of taking a photo. There are benefits to being a photographer 🙂 ! The view back was clear all the way to Portland, the ‘island’ that juts out into the sea.
I arrived in a very busy West Bay in time for brunch – cheeseburger and tea which I ate sat along the harbourside. It always seems somewhat incongruous being in such a busy, tourist hot spot after walking along some remote coastal parts and it was only afterwards that I realised I didn’t take a single photograph there.
Having replenished my food and water supplies, I moved swiftly on, keen to be out on the wild coast again. I knew that the afternoon would be far more challenging than the morning with much higher headlands and steep climbs to negotiate, and the day was hotting up too! This was very quickly evidenced by the number of paragliders that habituate this part of the coast.
Even on the lower headlands I often found myself looking down on them rather than up, as they swooped from almost sea level to soar over my head. I was entering Broadchurch land (for those of you who watched that series on television) and I dropped down into Eype Mouth. Ahead of me I could dee my first major climb up over Thornecombe Beacon!
The day was by now extremely muggy with very little breeze to give any relief and I drank copious amounts of water as I made my way up the steep climb. The views were awesome and as I looked west I could see my next, even bigger, challenge in the shape of Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast.
Before that climb though I had to drop down to sea level to reach Seatown, another popular beach with a nearby caravan site. For once I was happy about that though because I knew there was a shop there and that would be my last opportunity to replenish my supplies until tomorrow.
Climbing up out of Seatown I stopped to look back across Thornecombe Beacon.
The view from the top of Golden Cap makes all the hard work worth while and I dropped my pack and just sat drinking it in. For a time I had the place to myself although that rarely lasts long as many walkers pass that way, sometimes arriving from easier inland routes. I didn’t yet know where I would spend the night but it occurred to me that right there would be good. The day was still too young though so I continued on my way.
Dropping down off the headland, I detoured slightly inland to walk through the almost deserted medieval hamlet of Stanton St Gabriel with its derelict church, dedicated to St Gabriel, and few remaining cottages. This was once a thriving fishing and farming community but making a living was hard and gradually people were lured away to the larger town of Bridport where there were mills and rope works. It became a smuggling area where contraband was stored and now provides holiday homes, even the old manor house being divided into flats.
I just find these villages so fascinating and I stood wondering what life, and the people, were like when it was in its heyday. If only Apple could add time machines to their phones so that we could at will go back and stand observing life then.
I was woken from my reverie by the first drop of rain! And in many ways, it was welcome rain to cool me from the warmth of the day. I continued on my way knowing that there were no higher climbs to come although this part of the coast is still a switchback of ups and downs. Behind me Golden Cap gradually faded further into the distance.
The day was drawing on and I started looking for somewhere to stop for the night. Nothing suitable materialised though until I summited the last headland before Charmouth which was flat and grassy. Here I would spend the night. There was even a seat there for me!
I sat alone in my ‘bedroom’ eating the food I had carried and brewed a cup of tea thinking that I would be able to sit and read for a time before settling down for the night…..but that wasn’t to be! First of all four people arrived carrying picnic chairs and settled on the cliff top. Then over the next hour others arrived until I was sat on my headland with a hundred or more people – it turned out that the Red Arrows, the RAF aerobatic team, were giving a display that evening as part of the RNLI celebrations in Lyme Regis across the bay from me. So I spent the evening chatting to various people and enjoying a display that I had known nothing about 🙂 !
Two of the people I chatted to were the two walkers I had passed at the beginning of the day. They told me that they were walking to Land’s End to raise money for charity. They had started as a trio but the third member had taken a tumble and broken his ankle so the two were continuing alone. I bade them good luck and they continued on their way.
After the display had finished, people gradually drifted away and ultimately I had my lofty bed place to myself again. Almost as if I had given a cue, it was at that point that the clouds parted again and I was treated to the most amazing late light display that bettered even the Red Arrows. The sun slanted across the top of the headland where I would sleep, picking out the brightly coloured heather on the cliff edge.
The sun soon dropped below the horizon and as the light faded, I set up my bed for the night. With the clouds still lingering and the recent rain, I decided to set up my tarp in case it rained in the night.
In the darkness, the lights of Charmouth and Lyme Regis twinkled below me. I would be passing through both of those places tomorrow but for tonight, I was content to be once more sleeping right in the midst of nature. What better place is there to sleep? I drifted off to the gentle sound of distant waves below me.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed walking with me again today and that you will join me for another great day tomorrow.
Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler
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