The following morning at just after 5 am I was up and about. It must have been a warm night as the inside of the tarp was damp with condensation despite all the air movement that using a tarp allows. Next time, I’ll raise it higher so that there is even more space for ventilation.
The moon was still up and there was just a hint of pink in the sky – the sun was still in bed – and there was a slight sea mist across the bay. I wondered if the mist might account for the dampness of the tarp! It was a peaceful morning again as I sat having breakfast watching the light gradually grow.
By the time I had finished breakfast, the sun had appeared and it threw the most beautiful light across the headland and across Golden Cap in the distance. It was a fleeting light that I had to make the most of so I tried to capture the unique early morning atmosphere as best I could. It was truly, truly beautiful and I felt totally inadequate to even try to capture either in words or in camera something of what it felt like that morning!
I decided to try to get a view down into the valley that Charmouth sits in and leaving my gear where it was, I headed down the western slope of the headland in order to get clear of the trees and shrubbery that covered that side of the hill. I was very quickly treated to the most amazing sight, a cloud inversion that completely filled the valley below me and washed out to sea almost as if it was water running down a channel and spilling out at the end.
I wanted to get clear of the shrubbery so I dropped down further still in an effort to get some better shots although by the time I managed to get a clear view, I was a little too low. But still the sight was amazing!
Cloud inversions are caused when the temperature in the valley is lower than the temperature above causing the air in the valley to become denser. It is one of those awesome natural phenomena that creates beautifully atmospheric scenes……which of course photographers love.
I was conscious that all my worldly possessions, well some of them, were still up on the headland so I headed back up the hill. The sun had by now risen fully, and the warmth had at least partially dried my tarp. The problem with wet equipment is that it weighs more but often when you are up and out on the trail early, you have no choice but to pack everything away still wet.
Although I was reluctant to leave my headland, I wanted to see if I could get some more pictures so I quickly stowed my gear in my rucksack and headed back down the hill I had just climbed up. In the short time it had taken me to climb up and pack my things however, the mist in the valley had completely lifted. The River Char was totally clear and reflected the blue of the sky and beach huts beautifully. I wondered what this scene would have looked like had the cloud inversion lasted a little longer.
The next few miles were unfortunately the low point of this walk. Cliff erosion necessitated the coast path being closed many years ago so there is no choice but to walk through Charmouth and follow the main road most of the way over the next headland and down into Lyme Regis. The powers that be have tried to find more interesting paths and there are short stretches away from the road but overall it is not a great section.
It was again an extremely hot day and I stopped for a time in a small wooded section just to get some shade. It was something of a relief when I finally arrived at Lyme Regis sea front.
I continued my usual pattern of following a snack breakfast with a more substantial brunch and stopped at a seafront eatery. The day was still young so there were not many people about in this normally popular resort and it was pleasantly relaxing sitting looking across the bay. Normally my route from here would take me around the bay and past the famous Cobb which I could see in the distance but on this occasion, my route was to take me inland.
Leaving the coast, I followed the River Lim that winds its way down through the town past the old cottages and houses that line its banks. This is such a pleasant and interesting walk because it passes through the older part of the town before exiting into some beautiful woodlands. All the while, the gentle rippling of the stream was my ever present, and ever pleasant, company.
Part way through this wooded area, I passed Uplyme Mill, an 18th century textile mill with its overshot mill wheel still in place. It always amazes me how a little stream could be harnessed to provide sufficient power to drive the machinery that would have been within. These days of course it is silent and peaceful, its working life having long since ceased.
Beyond the mill, and still climbing steadily up through the valley, I once again entered the woodland that was lit by the most beautiful dappled light. The stream still babbled along beside me as it made its gentle way down the route I had come up.
This was my third day without any opportunity to shower and I looked for a way of perhaps getting down into the stream to splash water over me in a crude form of bath, but unfortunately I could find nowhere suitable. My wash would have to wait till later!
Eventually I cleared the mixed woodland and for a time I followed the road, catching sight of the old, disused Cannington Railway Viaduct in the distance. This was part of the Lyme Regis Branch line than ran down to the coast from Axminster main line station. The viaduct was built around 1900 using materials that were carried by ship to Lyme Regis harbour and then transferred by 1,000 foot cableway to the site. The line unfortunately fell fowl of the Beeching axe and was closed in 1965. So here I was some 51 years later having to walk inland to Axminster to pick up my train home as a result 🙂 !
Interestingly, there were proposals in 2002 to reopen the line as a narrow gauge railway so that the service to Lyme Regis could be re-instated, using some of the old track bed, but so far the plans have not come to fruition.
I continued to climb, entering yet more woodlands and passing an interesting sign that read Prescott Pinetum. Carrying out some research later, I discovered that a pinetum is a plantation of pine trees and conifers for scientific or ornamental purposes. You learn something new every day 🙂 !
The final part of the walk was through a more recent conifer plantation, following wide gravel forestry tracks, not the most interesting scenery! And surprisingly, with the sun so high in the sky, with not much shade either! It was hot! From there, it was narrow country lanes to end my three day walk. I did pass one pretty sight over that last mile or two, and that was a pair of gates with the most delightful light filtering through the trees above. As a photographer, I am always looking for nice light!
On reaching Axminster, the end of my three day pilgrimage, my first port of call was to a cafe for a cup of tea and some water to replenish my lost hydration! Then I walked to the church and sat on the grass in the shade of a tree and I had a ceremonial washing of my face, hands and feet. This felt as good as sitting in a spa bath in an expensive hotel – in fact, much better than a spa bath in an expensive hotel! I sat leaning against the tree just drying off naturally in the gentle, cooling breeze.
My final port of call and the one on which I ended this idyll before boarding my homeward bound train was to enter the church. Here, amongst other things, I gave thanks for the last three days and for the continued ability to walk these distances and the freedom that we enjoy in this country. I will always maintain an attitude of gratitude for comparatively good health, and especially that my ‘enemy’ Arthur Itis remains under control.
What a fantastic three days this has been. Glorious weather, awesome scenery, amazing wild camping spots, fabulous walking and another all round great experience. Writing this blog just brings back all the wonderful memories I have and I consider myself truly blessed!
Thanks for walking this way with me – I hope you have enjoyed it and that I have conveyed something of how awesome it was…..and maybe inspired you a little to try it if you haven’t done it before.
Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler
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