Earlier this week I had a short, and what I would describe as a ‘proper winter’, walk, and along the way I met someone I consider almost a legend and whose exploits I have been following for many years!
The man is Chris (Christian) Lewis (Chris Walks the UK) and I had the privilege of meeting him at Studland. Chris, and Kate who I met last week, are backpacking the whole of the UK coastline, including all the islands, for charity – it is a mega walk and a mega story.
Over 5 years ago, after 8 years serving in the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment, leaving to bring up his daughter as a lone parent, hitting hard times and mental issues, and finding himself alone when his daughter left to pursue further education, Chris, almost on a whim, decided to walk the whole coastline of the UK for charity – SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity – who had helped him in the past. Shortly after, with less than ideal equipment, 2 days rations and £10 in his pocket, he set off from The Gower Peninsula in Wales and headed north. Many thousands of miles, and 5 years, later, he is still walking! Along the way, he first gained a rescue dog, Jet, lived on an uninhabited island during Covid lockdown, met his now fiancé Kate, had a son, Magnus, now 6 months old, and has become a totally changed man with hope and a future! The lone ‘lost’ walker who set out on the 1st August 2017 has become four walkers (except Magnus can’t walk yet ) and they have now reached Dorset.
I met Kate last week at Sandbanks but I managed to miss Chris that day, so I was really pleased that I finally got to meet him as they walked through Studland. He, and his story, are inspirational and I am really looking forward to reading his book, Finding Hildasay’ when it comes out next February. Chris is the kind of guy who doesn’t do things in the normal way – he wrote his book old-style using pen and paper whilst living in a yurt, taking time out after the birth of Magnus. Actually, Kate is like that too as she continued to backpack throughout her pregnancy.
They are a lovely couple and it is well worth looking them up on Facebook (‘Chris Walks the UK’ and ‘Kate Walks the Coast’).
It was a great start to my walk but hey, if I’d stayed any longer chatting, I wouldn’t have finished my walk, and Chris wouldn’t have finished proof reading his book as that is what he was doing when I found him 🙂 !
The walk I was doing was one of my regular circuits, just a 4 mile loop starting from the National Trust car park at Studland, following the road that passes the Glebeland Estate to climb up to the Ballard Down ridge where the stone seat, ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ stands. The seat always brings back happy memories of my childhood when we, as a family, would walk the ridge and sit on the seat. It is somewhat the worse for wear compared to how it was back then, but it still works. Not that I sat on it on this day because it was WET! And do you know what, it was wonderful walking in proper winter conditions, in the rain with heavy cloud overhead. I loved it! And I love Ballard Down too, it is one of my happy places and it always makes me think of warm, summer days with skylarks singing overhead and sheep bleating – lazy, hazy, crazy days of my youth.
It was actually as I was walking down off Ballard Down towards Old Harry Rocks that I turned and noticed the ‘fire’ because that is just what it look like, as if Ballard Down was ablaze! It wasn’t of course, it was just the sun setting. At that moment, I so wished I had been still on the ridge top so that I could have got a picture looking across Swanage Bay to that blazing sky but I knew I wouldn’t have time to get back up there before it faded.
Instead, I took a few pictures from where I was and then I headed across to the cliff edge in the hopes that that would provide a better composition.
And it did! Amazingly, there were young lambs along there, even some that looked virtually new born. It was like a spring scene but in winter weather. Things have changed because when I walked these hills as a child, there would be no young lambs at this time of the year. It was such an amazing sky, and it felt quite eerie with the rain falling and that heavy cloud. In fact, the light was fading fast but I managed to capture one more picture of a more pastel sky from one of the headlands that jut out into Swanage Bay – that picture is at the top of this post.
Rounding Old Harry Rocks, I headed west as the light faded and I felt like I was glowing inside like the sunset had been. I always enjoy walking this little circuit whatever the time of year, but this had been a bit special in more ways than one, and I am so glad I had gone out despite the weather.
The message is, ‘We don’t care what the weatherman says’……because you never know who you are going to meet, or what is going to happen, so just go for it!
Stay safe, stay active, stay WILD, and thanks for stopping by to read my ramblings.
Until next time,
The Dorset Rambler
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