The Dorset and Devon Coast Path 2018

Breakfast time!
Breakfast time on Weymouth sea front

I had been looking forward to this day for some time – the start of my 4 day backpack along the Dorset and Devon Coast Path……with some TDR variations πŸ™‚ ! Oh I know I have walked the route many times but each one is special and different, and this was to be no exception. And I was starting with a lighter pack after a bit of ruthless thinning out of my packing list. This time my pack weighed 25 pounds and although it could be improved still further, it was 10 pounds lighter than my Dales High Way walk earlier in the year.

The day started as usual with a train ride to Weymouth, followed by breakfast on the sea front before a short ferry trip to cross the harbour entrance. The reason for starting in Weymouth, aside from the availability of breakfast πŸ™‚ , is that it avoids the problem of having to get round the Lulworth Firing Range where footpaths are closed during the week.

Rowing boat ferry, Weymouth
On the rowboat ferry

The ferry trip always makes a special start to the walk somehow, I guess because it is something different and perhaps a little quirky as I doubt there are many rowboat ferries still in existence. It always makes me think about Chris De Burgh’s song ‘Don’t Pay the Ferryman’ but I did – in fact I paid him double, it was worth that much just for the enjoyment of being rowed across. Of course you can walk to the bridge a mile or so upstream but this was much more fun πŸ™‚ !

Sandsfoot Castle
Sandsfoot Castle and Garden

 

Within a couple of miles of reaching the far shore, I passed two castles, the first was Nothe Fort, built in the 19th century to protect the Portland Harbour entrance, and then the even older Sandsfoot Castle, built in 1542 by Henry VIII as part of the coastal defences. The two castles are very different, the former being one of the best preserved of its type in the country and the latter being just ruins, albeit ruins with a beautiful garden…….and a tea kiosk – I resisted the urge to stop as it was much too early in the walk!

The first few miles followed the Rodwell Trail, a disused railway line that once connected Weymouth to the Isle of Portland. Surfaced and wheelchair friendly, the trailway which runs beside the sea is a great facility and demonstrates what can be done with these old railway lines.

Ferrybridge and The Fleet
Ferry Bridge and The Fleet with Portland in the distance

It very quickly took me to Ferry Bridge, which marks the starting point of the bridge/causeway that now connects the one time island of Portland to the mainland – prior to 1839, a ferry was used to reach the island, hence the name Ferry Bridge. I didn’t stop but just crossed straight over the road as I was anxious to leave civilisation behind.

The Fleet
Beside The Fleet with Portland in the distance

I joined the path that runs beside The Fleet, and very soon felt that I was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by countryside and wildlife. The vegetation was yellow after such a dry summer but it was nonetheless beautiful for that.

The Fleet is a brackish lagoon and a conservation area of international importance. It is some 13km long with the sea entering at its south eastern end which means that at its north western extremity it is much less salty. My route would follow the lagoon for most of its length, the path diverting inland around 4km before its end in order to preserve it for wildlife, and its world famous swannery.

n the shores of the Fleet
The Fleet and Chesil Beach

Across the other side of The Fleet runs the equally world famous Chesil Beach and it is this that protects the lagoon from the open sea. At least, it has and does protect it apart from one day in 1824 when a mighty storm breached the shingle bank and washed several miles inland, demolishing most of the Fleet village church and some of the cottages which surrounded it. The remains of the church still stand just off the coast path and I paid a visit as I always do when walking this path. This time though bees had taken up residence so the church was closed. Fleet church was immortalised by J Meade Faulkner in his book, ‘Moonfleet’, a great schoolboy story about smuggling in Dorset.

Moonfleet
What is left of Fleet Church

This is such a lovely path to walk as it weaves in and out of various bays along The Fleet, with lots of wildlife to see. I passed an area planted with sunflowers – you can always see where their name comes from. The fields around were yellow too, with stubble, the corn having been already harvested.

Sunflower
Sunflowers beside the path

Eventually though I had to leave the lagoon and climb up onto the inland ridge that runs all the way to Abbotsbury. As I approached that lovely village, I could see the remote St Catherine’s Chapel on its hilltop, and beyond that, the ridge that would take me to my stopping point for the night.

Abbotsbury
Heading into Abbotsbury

Dropping off the ridge, I walked through the village with its delightful church, ruined abbey and famous tithe barn. I had hoped to find the cafe open for a cup of tea but sadly I was too late so I just had to settle for topping up my water bottles.

The church at Abbotsbury
The beautiful church at AbbotsburyΒ 

Walking on, I climbed up again onto the ridge further inland again and I stopped to take in the scene below me. The church stood proud but the tithe barn stood out impressively too, and beyond was the open sea and the tip of Portland that I had passed earlier in the day.

Abbotsbury
Looking down on Abbotsbury with its church and tithe barn – taken from the inland ridge

This inland ridge was a fabulous place to walk on this fantastic day. The views all the way along were just breathtaking, the sun was warm, well hot actually, and the air was still, in fact it was the perfect day to walk this perfect path. What could be better! I had some emails to send and some phone calls to make so for a time the ridge top became my office, an office with an amazing view from the ‘window’ πŸ™‚ !

On the Dorset Ridge
Breathtaking views, great weather and a great path to walk, not to mention a great ‘office’ πŸ™‚

Part way along the ridge, I passed Abbotsbury Castle, an Iron Age hill fort which has the same amazing views. In its day, this was the front line defence against invasion, although when the Romans invaded in AD43, it was in fact quickly taken and subsequently occupied by them. These days, erosion and shrubbery have taken their toll on these once fine ramparts.

Abbotsbury Castle
Abbotsbury Castle

I continued along the ridge before dropping off the inland side to reach Puncknowle which is on the southern slopes of the Bride Valley. As I entered the village thinking about dinner, I spotted a fish and chip van so I stopped to eat sat on a seat in the village centre watching the sun set as villagers passed with a ‘hello’. Ah, chips out of paper, a great, if not healthy, meal after a day’s walking.

Having refuelled, I made my way to my campsite to set up my tent and shower before sitting outside as the last light of the day faded.

It had been 19 miles of great walking and as I climbed into my sleeping bag that night, I was looking forward to another great day and another 19 miles tomorrow.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me,Β my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All words and pictures in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and may not be reproduced without permission.

Advertisements

6 Comments

  1. You know what amazes me about your travels is the paths along the way. I don’t recall here in America where there are places like that. You seem to have them all about and for miles. I think we have paved roads everywhere or trails and most of them are paved.
    I really enjoy your adventures. Keep sharing them with us. Though, you do have to walk many miles in a day. I am unable to walk far and am glad for you, that you are able to enjoy your trips. Keep traveling and keep taking us along.

    1. Thanks so much for your encouraging feedback Lee. We have some lovely and varied paths here which I love, although we don’t have really long distance paths like the AT or PCT or CDT etc, unless you walk the whole British coast πŸ™‚ Think I’m a bit old now to take on anything that long anyway though πŸ™‚ Best wishes, Terry.

    1. Ah, thanks so much for your kind comment Heather, its always great to receive feedback and I’m so glad you enjoy reading my blog πŸ™‚ I have tried shortening my posts recently because I am conscious that people don’t always have to time to read long posts. Not sure if it is a good idea or not πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s