Archive | Backpacking RSS feed for this section

On the Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 4

3 Nov

Our last day dawned bright and we made our way through the quiet streets of Trefin in the early morning light to rejoin the coast path at Aber Draw with its old mill remains. Making our way along the coast path, we quickly reached the entrance to Porthgain Harbour with its distinctive white bollards on the headlands either side.

Porthgain Harbour Entrance

Porthgain Harbour Entrance

Standing looking down on the harbour, the expansiveness of the now ruined buildings on the dockside is immediately striking. These were the hoppers where stone was once stored, marking what was in many ways a 19th century industrial revolution. From 1837 for nearly 100 years, this little harbour was used to export roadstone, slate and bricks, with the stone being quarried from the hilltop behind the hoppers.

Porthgain

Porthgain Harbour

The port in fact reinvented itself several times. Having started life in the export of slates which were transported to the quayside via a tunnel bored into the hill, it was extended in the early 1900’s to allow larger ships to moor at the quay and not long after a brickworks was added. This used the waste from the slate quarry to make the bricks. For the last 20 years of its life, the port was used for roadstone, with the hoppers being filled with stone of varying sizes.

Porthgain

Porthgain Harbour from Behind the Old Pilot House

The port is now almost a museum of a bygone age, the once thriving busyness now replaced by an empty stillness. But it is a relic that is worth exploring.

Climbing up the steps behind the old pilot house, we discovered the other part of this old industrial complex, the quarry itself, that provided the raw materials for the port’s activities. Remains of brick buildings, stone crushing plant, weigh bridge, engine sheds etc litter the cliff top with inclines, cuttings and track beds linking them together.

Porthgain Quarry Remains

Quarry Buildings Near Porthgain

And by the water, the deep pits that formed the quarries themselves, huge areas where stone and slate were extracted for some 80 years. It felt like this was almost a graveyard of the quarrying industry.

Porthgain Quarry Remains

The Old Quarry, Porthgain

We spent much time exploring the old workings before continuing on our way. Not that we got very far before another detour at Traeth Llyfn – there was so much to see and explore all along this route. This is a lovely sandy beach that can only be accessed by steep steps……provided the tide is out! We climbed down to the beach despite the fact that we knew we would have to climb back up again 🙂 !

Traeth Lltfn

The Way to the Beach

Traeth Llyfn is a lovely secluded beach made up of craggy rocks and smooth sand – indeed, Traeth Llyfn literally translates as ‘smooth beach’. The steps down take you to the north end of the beach and great care is needed as it is easy to get cut off by the tide if exploring the southern end.

Traeth Lltfn

Traeth Llyfn

Here too there was evidence of quarrying, and some lovely colours in the cliffs too.

Quarry Remains

Evidence of Quarrying

Multi Coloured Rocks

Colourful Rocks

We climbed back up the 133 steps to regain the coast path and continued on our way……but again, not for long, as just a short distance farther on we reached Abereiddi, another place full of interest, and one to spend time exploring.

This again is an old quarry, with slate being mined here from around 1830 to 1904 and transported to Porthgain for onward shipment. The quarry gives the impression of having been a small port but in fact it was not. The illusion has been created by the fact that when the quarrymen had ceased working the area, they blasted a channel to the open sea and the quarry flooded. This is now known as The Blue Lagoon and is a deceptive 25 meters in depth. There are remains of buildings all around, including the old engine house which stands on the ledge across the lagoon.

The Blue Pool

The Blue Pool with the Engine House Beyond

Abereiddi and Blue Pool

The Blue Pool from the Cliff Top

Beside The Blue Lagoon, the headland of Trwyncastell stretches out to sea. This crag comprises volcanic rock and on its summit stands Abereiddi Tower which is thought to have been a watch tower although on ancient maps it is described as a summer house. It is a single story stone tower which apart from windows looking out to sea, also includes a fireplace.

Carn Lwyd

The Watch Tower on Trwyncastell

Actually one of the more welcome things about Abereiddi was that beside the beach was a tea wagon 🙂 ! We stopped for a cuppa and sat for a time listening to the waves rolling up the shore before heading off along the coast path again.

Abereiddi

Abereiddi or Abereiddy with the Watchtower on the Headland Beyond

Posts, Rock and Grass

Posts, Rock and grass

We had already seen a number of seals during the walk so far but when we reached the tiny cove of Aber Pwll, the number doubled. There were adults and pups, the latter being so much more conspicuous with their cream coloured fur, and they were everywhere, even up a stream bed inland of the bay. They were obviously quite used to humans.

Aber Pwll

Aber Pwll

Just Chilling

Just Chillin’

Climbing out of the bay, we looked back across the expanse of craggy coast that we had walked.

Aber Pwll and Abereiddi

Beautiful Craggy Coastline

The day was drawing on and the sun was going in and out almost in recognition that the coast here does the same thing. We continued our serpentine way and could see in the distance another of those distinctively shaped headlands, St David’s Head. This is easily recognisable by the conical shaped tor that we dubbed Carn Lidl – its actually called Carn Llidi! Having dubbed that one Can Lidl, we figured the nearer and flatter hill must be called Carn Aldi 😉 !

On St David's Head

Nearing St David’s Head

Straw Bales in the Spotlight

Sunlight and Shadows

The clouds were gathering more and more, with the occasional breaks allowing the sun to throw spotlights across the hills. This was beautiful and much more interesting than straight forward bright sunshine although we feared that rain might reach us before the end of our walk.

St David's Head

Spotlight on the Coast

Eventually we reached the point where we were about to turn and round St David’s Head but before we did so, we stopped to look back the way we had come. The view took in the whole coast that we had walked over the last two days, reaching as far back as Strumble Head with the lighthouse visible on the extreme left in the picture below.

On St David's Head

Looking Back Towards Strumble Head

Finally, we left the view behind and rounded the headland and we could see below us the wide expanse of Whitesands Bay which would be our stopping point. We dropped down onto this beautiful beach in the fading light and as we made our way up the narrow lane that leads to the city of St David’s, light rain began to fall.

Whitesands Bay

Whitesands Bay

You could call this four day walk the ‘Two Saints Way’, having walked from St Dogmael’s to St David’s, and with the latter being named after the patron saint of Wales, it seemed a fitting end to our journey. It had been four days of wonderful walking in near perfect walking weather. What could be better?

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

 

Advertisements

On the Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 3

23 Oct

The next day dawned to a damp mist although with the forecasted strong breeze, we didn’t think it would last long. We made our way through the tiny hamlet of Llanwnda, a somewhat quirky and quaint settlement with a rich past. It’s most recent claim to fame was featuring in a documentary of Griff Rhys Jones in 2007 called ‘A Pembrokeshire Farmhouse’ which detailed the restoration of that building. This though was a place steeped in Celtic Christian history. We stopped to look at its remote church, the church of St Gwyndaf.

St Gwyndaf was a 6th century Celtic saint from Brittany who settled for a time in Pembrokeshire. He had an aristocratic background and married a noblewoman, the couple having two children. All four became Saints. The church itself dates from medieval times and has some interesting features. On the ancient roof beams is carved what is thought to be the head of a monk – see if you can spot it in the pictured below. The small high up door to the right is thought to have at one time led to a rood screen which has long since been removed.

St Gwyndaf, Llanwnda

St Gwyndaf

St Gwyndaf, Llanwnda

Spot the Hidden Monk

Our route from Llanwnda took us out of the village and down a damp and lush wooded valley to reach the coast path again at Carreg Wasted. This is famous for being the landing place of a small French army in 1797 on what was to be the last invasion of Britain. The invasion didn’t last long and the troops surrendered just four days later at Goodwick Sands. A memorial stone has been erected on the headland to commemorate the event.

The Memorial Stone at Carreg Goffa

The Memorial Stone

The mist had by now lifted and although a dull day, the still vibrant yellow gorse made it seem like the sun was shining.

The Colourful Coast

Sunshine Yellow

As we made our way onwards though, the sun did start to make an appearance. We passed Penrhyn with a single delightfully remote white rendered cottage right on the clifftop. What an idyllic place to live!

Oh, and apparently there are Dolerite Outcrops too……although again, we thought it would take a geologist to point them out 🙂 !

The Lonely Cottage

Penrhyn

After two days of steep climbs and falls, it was pleasant to be walking for a time on more level ground, with fine grassy stretches mixed with rocky outcrops. In the sunshine, this was most picturesque. Level, however, is not a word that can be used to describe much of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path as we were to find out all too soon as the path once again became rock strewn and undulating!

Strumble Head Scenery

Rocky Outcrops

At Porthsychan we came across the first seals of the day, an adult and pup just languishing on the beach. We would see many more before the day was done, some swimming in the sea, some playing in rock pools, some just dozing on the beaches, some resting under small waterfalls, some perched on rocks – we wondered how they got there as they are not noted for their climbing ability 🙂 ! They are always interesting to watch, especially as they attempt to waddle and wriggle their way up the beach and over rocks.

Seals at Porthsychan

Seals at Porthsychan

As we neared Stumble Head, we turned to look back the way we had come and could see in the far distance that same distinctive shape of Dinas Island with a myriad minor headlands between it and us. We had wound our way round and over every one of them.

On Strumble Head

Looking Back

Soon we reached Strumble Head with its well known lighthouse standing atop one of the islands. I say ‘island’ because that is what it is, although in reality it is just a short hop from the mainland and is connected by a footbridge. The lighthouse, now unmanned, was built in 1905 to replace a lightship that was previously moored nearby, since there had been numerous shipwrecks in the area. Interestingly, as recent as 2003 one wreck was discovered that was thought to have been part of the French fleet that invaded in 1797.

Strumble Head Lighthouse

The Strumble Head Lighthouse

Looking at the foaming seas even on this relatively calm day and with the bay sheltered by the headland, you could see why a lighthouse was needed at this point.

Foaming Seas

Choppy Waters at Strumble Head

At this point too is one of the best examples of up-cycling that you are likely to see. This is an old wartime lookout post that has been converted to a wildlife observation post as this area is well known for its dolphins and porpoises…….not that we saw any on this day 😦 ! The whole area is an SSSI, rich in wildlife, and the lookout was opened by Bill Oddie in 1988.

On Strumble Head

A Great Bit of Up-cycling

As we made our way round the headland and turned south, we could see clearly the three islands lined up before us across Carreg Onnen Bay. Interestingly, the two smaller islands to the left in the picture, Ynys Onnen and Carreg Onnen, were offered for sale some years ago having been in the hands of a local farming family for generations. The problem of course is that you couldn’t build anything on them so they would be of little use to most people. The papers at the time were suggesting figures of around £40,000 but I do not know if they were ever snapped up.

The Strumble Head Light

Two Islands for a Bargain Price

There was some delightful walking along this section. Although some of the land was a little marshy, the long yellow autumn grass made a beautiful foreground against the rocks beyond. Already in the distance we could see another distinctively shaped headland that would be our route tomorrow, St David’s Head. It is on the extreme right in the picture below.

The Path Round Strumble Head

Autumn Grasses and Rocks

And along this part too, some strange signs! One wonders what that path to the right is like – could it be precarious……..go down there and you will fall flat on your face? 🙂 The sign stands at the lip of Pwll Deri, one of Pembrokeshire’s most popular beauty spots, and home to one of its most remote youth hostels.

Precarious?

Whoops!

The day had now become overcast again bringing some lovely clouds to the pictures. It was a subdued light that somehow suited the landscape, adding a mood that was appropriate to the character of this rugged and rough coast.

On the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Moody Weather

Before long, we reached Abermawr Bay, with now heavy skies above. For once there were people around us, a sure sign that there is parking nearby.

Abermawr Bay

Abermawr Bay

We stopped at this point and fell into conversation with a lady with a dog. She told us that her husband was out in the bay somewhere swimming and my immediate thought was, ‘rather him than me’! It seemed that he loved to swim whatever the weather but that this was likely to be the last of the year. His dog gazed out to sea, watching to see him come ashore……

Watching

Looking Out to Sea

……which he did a short time later, and his dog ran off happily to meet him.

After the Swim

Greeting on the Beach

There was something else strange along this part of the coast and that was that the sheep were all clean! Normally they are quite grimy but these looked as though they had just had a bath and a coiffure 🙂 !

Clean Sheep

A Clean Sheep

We passed another little cove at Pwllstrodur, and another dog walker silhouetted against the patch of bright light reflecting off the water. The apparent peaceful tranquility belied the very breezy conditions!

Pwllstrodur

Pwllstrodur

Eventually we reached the delightful old harbour of Abercastle with its row of cottages on the hillside overlooking the water. This is another ancient trading port, exporting slate, grain, limestone, butter, honey, etc in bygone days. Now though it is a stopping point for pleasure craft.

Abercastle

Cottages at Abercastle

The sun was low in the sky as we rounded the harbour and made our way back out along the other shore. Across the harbour, we could see being picked out by the sun, a cottage, the ruined ivy-covered granary, and the islet of Ynys y Castell, a promontory earthwork fort.

Abercastle

Abercastle with Cottage, Ruined Granary and Islet Fort

We had decided that our stopping point tonight would be Trefin and we climbed out of the harbour onto the last few miles of coast path for today. And what a lovely part it was too, with level grassy paths underfoot and a setting sun before us.

At the End of the Day

Walking into the Sunset

The lower the sun got in the sky, the brighter pink turned the clouds to our left. what a beautiful pastoral scene this was, especially with the dark clouds that had still not blown completely away.

Darkness Beckons

The Day’s End

As we neared our stopping point for the night, we took a last look out to sea to watch the sun drop below the horizon. It cast highlights and shadows across the sea as the waves rolled in on an endless quest to reach the shore. The craggy coast took on a dark, foreboding nature as everything settled down for the night ahead.

Sunset

Sunset

Reluctantly, we turned away to follow the last half mile of path into Trefin and our night stop. On this beautiful evening, I couldn’t help but think back to the last time I stayed here. On that occasion, there had been driving rain and a howling gale and as I had laid in my tent, I almost feared that it would take off or that trees might come down on me in the night. Oh, how different this day was!

What a fabulous day! Another 17 miles of awesome walking along some of the best coastline you could hope to find! We were nearing the end of our time away, but as we settled down for the night, we were looking forward to what joys tomorrow would bring us.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

On the Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 2

16 Oct

The morning dawned bright and sunny with the promise of another good day, and we were looking forward to slightly easier walking than yesterday as the ups and downs were said to be just slightly easier. I’m not sure that we actually found that that was the reality though!

Newport

Newport

We had a brief walk around Newport before dropping down to the coast path again. This runs beside Newport Bay and passes the Parrog, which is the town’s old port. It is hard to imagine that at one time this was a thriving and active harbour, a far cry from the quiet and peaceful place we were walking through. Back in the 1800’s, slate, herrings and woollen goods would have been exported from here, and there was also a shipbuilding and repairing industry. The silting up of the estuary put paid to those activities.

Newport Bay

Across Newport Bay

Looking across the bay, we could see the headland we walked around last night at the end of a hard day’s walking. Seeing Newport in the distance was a welcome sight then. Now, we were about to leave it behind again as we made our way along the beach, a part of the coast path that is only available at low tide. The alternative takes a slightly more inland route.

The main challenge today would be climbing up over Dinas Island, which is in fact not an island at all. This headland is pentagonal in shape, with one side attached to the mainland and four facing out to sea. Its rather distinctive shape stood out across the water as we walked, as if it was beckoning us to visit.

Towards Dinas Island

The Distinctive Shape of Dinas Island Beckons

This was to be another day of climbs and falls, and of many craggy inlets to be negotiated. This meant constantly weaving in and out and up and down, adding many more miles to the distance a crow might fly when travelling from Newport to Llanwnda – although I am not sure why a crow would want to fly that route anyway 🙂 !

We dropped down to sea level to reach the first of many beaches we would cross that day. This was Aber Rhigian, a remote pebble beach with nothing but a few washed up relics like the debris in the picture below. In truth, this and all the beaches along this first stretch are partly man made because slate was once quarried here. I say slate because that is what it is called locally but in fact it is actually shale slabs.

Aber Rhigian

Aber Rhigian

Shortly after, another beach came into view. This one was Aberfforest, a delightful cove with a stream running down the valley to exit into the sea. It doesn’t take long to realise that all these beaches bear the name ‘Aber’, which is a Celtic word meaning ‘confluence of waters’. We looked out to sea again in the hopes that dolphins or porpoises might be swimming but there was no sign of any.

We moved on, once again climbing out of the bay and onto the clifftop where we could see Dinas Island getting closer.

Aberfforest

Aberfforest

Eventually we reached the start of the ‘island’ and a remarkable place known as Pwll-yr-eglwys which literally translates as ‘the valley of the church’. The church in question is St Brynach the Abbot, and at one time this holy building could seat 300, that is until 1850/51 when stormy seas destroyed the chancel and undermined the foundations. There was huge damage to the graveyard too, with human remains being exposed by the deluge. Some nine years later another storm further damaged the building leaving it in a state that was beyond repair and it was abandoned. The ruins remained in place until 1880 when they were demolished, with the exception of the west wall, in order that a sea wall could be built to protect what was left of the graveyard.

Pwll-yr-eglwys is a truly delightful place. It just oozes peace, tranquility and stillness being nestled between protective headlands and sheltered from Westerly winds. A line of benches looks out across the sandy beach and out to sea, and they called to us to sit awhile.

Cwm-yr-eglwys

Pwll-yr-eglwys

All too soon, it was time to move on and we made our way out of that idyllic place and started our climb up and around Dinas Island. The undulating path here was soft underfoot and made for pleasant walking, especially with the amazing views that greeted us all along the way.

On Dinas Island

Climbing Dinas Island

Autumn coloured bracken contrasted beautifully with the blue of the sea and sky, and as we climbed higher, we could look back to Newport where we started out our day.

On Dinas Island

Looking Back to Newport

This is a popular part of the coast path because there is parking nearby and circumnavigating the pentagonal headland makes a great 3 mile walk. We passed numerous dog walkers and day trippers on our way up to the high point of the headland, Pen y Fan at 466 feet. We just had to stop and drink in the views from this lofty vantage point. In fact, that is one of the problems with walking this coast, there is just so much that you want to tarry over and absorb that time seems to just disappear.

Watching!

Watching!

We had to move on, and we made our way round and down the westerly side of the headland to reach Pwllgwaelod, another sandy beach, albeit one that this time was exposed to the westerly winds. In fact you could avoid climbing the headland altogether by simply following the valley that leads directly from Pwll-yr-eglwys to Pwllgwaelod, one side of the pentagon instead of four……but, really, why would you!

We reached sea level again, and couldn’t help noticing that there was a pub near the beach that served teas. Now, normally when I’m walking, I try to avoid the more commercial parts, but today the draw of a good cup of tea was too strong so we stopped for a brew 🙂 ! And what a great spot to enjoy a cuppa too, sat at a picnic table gazing out to sea.

Pwllgwaelod

Pwllgwaelod

Refreshed, we climbed up once again onto the clifftop to pass a place with an even more unpronounceable name, in fact, a name with no vowels in it at all, Pwll Cwn. I’m sure the name makes complete sense to a welsh person, but to an Englishman……!

Pwll Cwn

Pwll Cwn

It was along this section that we bumped into two fellow walkers coming the other way. We had passed the same two yesterday and just exchanged greetings. This time we stopped to chat. These two were walking the same route as us but doing it in a slightly different way – they had two cars and each morning they would drive in one car to their next overnight stop and then walk back along the coast path to reach the previous night’s stopping point and the second car. They would then drive to that nights stopping point to join the first car. We bid farewell knowing that we would see them again tomorrow.

This section was again full of geological features, dark shale cliffs, lots of creeks, offshore rocks and stacks, and little beaches such as Pwll Gwylog and Aber Bach. The latter is sheltered from the westerly winds and because it is not easy to reach, is very unspoilt.

Aber Bach

Aber Bach

One of the more famous stacks along this section is the Needle Rock which stands just off the cliff face. With its ‘eye’, it looks for all the world like a needle that has been pushed into the sea bed. In the distance, we could see houses, a tell tale sign that we were approaching civilisation in probably the largest conurbation to date, Fishguard and Goodwick.

Needle Rock

Needle Rock

We would reach that all too soon but not before passing yet more craggy inlets and mini ‘islands’. Looking back, we could see in the distance the distinctive shape of Dinas Island again.

The Rocky Coast

The Rocky Coast

The first sign that you have reached Fishguard and Goodwick is the old fort that stands at Castle Point. Fishguard Fort was built in 1781 to defend the local community against privateers, although at that time this was a much smaller settlement. Then, the main settlement was Lower Town, another coastal trading harbour, shipbuilding centre and fishing port. This has now been very much superseded by its larger neighbours of Fishguard and Goodwick – it is from Fishguard Harbour and it’s jetties that the ferry to Ireland comes and goes.

Fishguard Fort

Fishguard Fort

From the old fort, our route took a sharp turn south and we made our way to Lower Town and onto the Marine Walk, a tarmac path that rounds Saddle Point to reach the town of Fishguard which then very quickly blended into Goodwick. One strange anomaly here is that Fishguard Harbour is actually not in Fishguard but Goodwick.

Along the way here, we passed some interesting old outhouses so being a lover of quirky things, I grabbed a picture 🙂 !

Doors

Doors

Looking back from Saddle Point, we could see the old Lower Town below us, settled neatly around its sheltered drowned valley. You could see why it had once a port, and perhaps why it had faded with the coming of much larger vessels.

Lower Town

Lower Town

One of the problems with such an unspoilt coastline is that facilities along the way are few and far between so there is always a need to think ahead. One of the very few shops along this four day stretch was at Goodwick so we stopped to stock up on food. We knew also that there was nowhere to eat at Llanwnda, our overnight stopping point, so with the light fading, we decided to eat at Goodwick which actually made a lovely end to the day as the meal was delightful.

In the two days that we had walked so far, we had covered nearly 34 miles, and what fantastic miles they had been. As we made our way to our overnight stop, we wondered what tomorrow would bring!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

On the Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Part 1

13 Oct

Some three years ago I backpacked the whole of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path during a very cold, wet and windy April and despite the weather, I fell in love with that rugged coastline. Recently, it beckoned me again but this time I walked it not alone as I did previously, but with the best walking companion, my son Paul. And that wasn’t the only difference, this time it was October and the weather was near perfect……for Pembrokeshire at least 🙂 !

The Path runs from St Dogmaels in the north to Amroth in the south, a distance of some 186 rugged miles. This time, we were intending to walk for four days, finishing at the city of St David’s, named after the patron saint of Wales.

St Dogmaels

Setting out from St Dogmaels 

We set out from St Dogmaels on a bright and breezy morning, walking along the shoreline of Cardigan Bay, following the road and then track that climbs steadily upwards to reach the point of Cemaes Head where the path takes a sharp left turn. At this point, we were greeted by some unusually inquisitive sheep.

Nosy!

Inquisitive Sheep on Cemaes Head

And sheep weren’t the only animals to greet us either, as a little further on, some very friendly ponies came over to say hello. Nice to have a bit of a welcome party and to know that the natives were friendly 🙂 !

Pony on the Path

Friendly Ponies

All along this coast, there are relics of war and we passed the first of these on Cemaes Head. A lookout post in a comforting state of dereliction – these relics of war are also a symbol of peace by their very dereliction from decades of disuse. You can’t help but wonder though what it would have been like standing there when this building was in its heyday. In fact this particular post dates from long before WW2, having been built originally as a coastguard lookout in the 19th century.

On Cemaes Head

Relic of War or Symbol of Peace!

The coast along the northern part of Pembrokeshire is truly spectacular with many high headlands and craggy inlets where river and sea meet. It is a switchback of steep climbs and falls and a sign part way along makes it very clear that this is a tough section, stating that there are no escape routes, no water and no provisions until you reach Newport. But of course it is this very fact that makes it such an awesome place to walk.

The highest point of the whole coast path goes by the somewhat unpronounceable name of Pen yr afr. We made our way across this 574 feet high monster bathed in beautiful sunshine – so very different from the last time I passed this way. The only similarity was the wind although even that was nowhere near as fierce as three years ago when I struggled to even keep on my feet.

On the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

On Pen yr afr, the Highest Point

It is of course the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ and with that comes a plentiful array of fungi. We would pass many more of these before the end of our walk. As we walked, we kept a constant eye on the sea for any telltale signs of dolphins but on this occasion they were conspicuous by their absence.

Lichen

Coastal Fungi

Along this first part of the walk, the path underfoot was soft and grassy and with beautifully autumnal bracken on either side. This was not the case with the path generally though as much of it is rocky and hard on the feet. For now though, we enjoyed the softness and the slanting autumn sun. In the distance, we could see the distinctive shape of Dinas Island, which is actually not an island at all! We would be walking round that tomorrow.

The Slanting Sun

Autumnal Bracken

Very soon, we dropped down once again to sea level at Ceibwr Bay, a one time seaport serving Moylgrove and its farming community. Just before the bay we passed a well positioned seat, sheltered nicely from the wind, and lunchtime suddenly appeared out of nowhere 🙂 ! Refreshed and replenished, we explored the bay with its rocky outcrops and not quite ‘crashing’ waves. The upturned strata made for an interesting and rugged coast, but needed great care when walking across it.

Ceibwr Bay

Jagged Rocks at Ceibwr Bay

Rocks and Waves

Not Quite ‘Crashing’ Waves at Ceibwr Bay

Just a short way on, having climbed up over another headland, we dropped down yet again to another equally rugged inlet with an even more unpronounceable name. This was Pwll y wrach, also known as The Witches Cauldron, marine erosion at its best. Several caves formed at this point when softer rock was worn away by the sea along a fault, and the subsequent collapse of some of these created the cauldron itself, accessible only by boat. This was definitely a place to explore!

It was at this point that we saw our first seal, a cream coloured pup sleeping on the rocks, unreachable because of a tract of water in front of us. This was the first of many as throughout this walk, every bay and inlet had seals either sleeping or playing.

Pwll Y Wrach

Pwll y wrach and our First Seal

Caves

Caves at Pwll y wrach

The light as we walked along this part of the coast was spectacular. Bright sun intermingled with cloud gave a spotlight effect which combined with the outcrops and foaming sea made a breathtaking scene. One can only stand and wonder at the beauty of this created landscape. It is one of the things that motivates me to walk.

Carreg Yspar

Sunlight and Shadows at Carreg Yspar

According to our guidebook, a feature of this area is ‘rotational slumps’ and apparently there are a number although we decided that it would probably take a geologist to recognise them. They are caused when the top layers slide in a rotational manner down harder and slippery sub-strata, causing a layering effect to the land.

After much up and down, in and out, winding walking, we finally rounded a headland to see Newport Sands in the distance with Newport beyond. That would be our stopping place for the night.

Newport Sands

Newport Sands come into View

We dropped down off the headland to reach the Nevern Estuary and the wide expanse of sand to reach the crossing point of the river and made our way along the southern estuary shoreline as the sun set before us, to enter the town itself and our overnight stop.

Newport

Entering Newport as the Sun Sets

They say that walking the whole of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is the equivalent of climbing Everest in terms of ascent and the first section from St Dogmaels to Newport is the toughest but the views and the sheer ruggedness of this coast makes it all worth while. To walk it in such perfect conditions just made it all the more special.

Tomorrow would see us out on the next section of the path, heading for Llanwnda. We were looking forward to it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

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

On the Wild Side – The Dorset Coast Path Day 3

10 Aug

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.

4.30am

In the Early Morning Light

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!

Sunrise on Stonebarrow

Sunrise on Stonebarrow

Early Morning View from Stonebarrow

Stonebarrow with Charmouth and Lyme Regis Across the Bay

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.

Charmouth Cloud Inversion

Charmouth in the Mist

On Stonebarrow

Dropping Down Lower

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.

Charmouth Cloud Inversion

Cloud Inversion

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.

Cloud Inversion at Sea

Mist Rolls out to Sea

Wild Camp

My Drying Camp

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.

Charmouth

Blue

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.

Lyme Regis Beach

Lyme Regis Seafront

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.

Lyme Regis

Brunch

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.

Lyme Regis

The River Lim

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.

The Old Mill, Up Lyme

Uplyme Mill

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!

A Walk in the Woods

Beautifully Dappled Woods

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.

Holcombe Viaduct

Cannington Viaduct

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!

The Gate

Beautiful 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.

Welcome Relief

Ceremonial Washing

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.

St Mary the Virgin, Axminster

Axminster Church

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

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

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

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

 

On the Wild Side – The Dorset Coast Path Day 2

4 Aug

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!

Abbotsbury Sunrise

5am – Sunrise over Abbotsbury

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.

St Catherine's Chapel

The Interior of St Catherine’s Chapel

Peace

Peace!

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!

The Fleet and Chesil Beach

The Fleet and Chesil Beach

Reaching the Coast

Joining the Coast Path

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.

Beach Walk

Early Morning Shadows

Along the Beach

Looking Back

On the Beach

Shingle and Surf

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.

Solid Ground

Walking on Solid Ground

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.

Burton Bradstock

Burton Bradstock

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.

Serpentine

The Serpentine River Bride

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.

On Burton Cliff

On Burton Cliff

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!

What Hole?

A Hole in One?

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.

An Awesome Coastline

Awesome Views

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.

Freedom

Paraglider

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!

Broadchurch Land

Eype Mouth with Thornecombe Beacon Beyond

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.

From Thorncombe Beacon

From Thornecombe Beacon to Golden Cap

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.

Climbing Golden Cap

Climbing Golden Cap

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.

Golden Cap View

The View East from Golden Cap

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.

St Gabriel's Church

St Gabriel’s Church

Stanton St Gabriel

The Old Manor House, Stanton St Gabriel

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.

Golden Cap from the West

Looking Back to Golden Cap

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.

 

Red Arrows

The Red Arrows Display

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.

Stonebarrow

Stonebarrow  with Golden Cap in the Distance

Stonebarrow Sunset

Stonebarrow Sunset

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.

Stonebarrow Sunset

The End of Another Perfect Day

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

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

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

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

On the Wild Side – The Dorset Coast Path Day 1

2 Aug

Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know that I have just been on a short (well 50 miles) wild camping trek along the Dorset Coast – well I thought I would blog this amazing trip.  This is Day 1 when I walked from Weymouth to Abbotsbury.

The day was hot, really hot, and I got off the train and made my way to the seafront. I have completed this walk numerous times and each time the day starts the same – with a bacon bap and cup of tea on the seafront overlooking the beach. This sets me up well for the walk to come. I sat under the shade of an umbrella.

Breakfast

Bacon Butty Breakfast!

Leaving the beachside cafe I made my way around the beach to the harbour where my next transport awaited me – the rowing boat ferry that crosses the harbour entrance. This ferry saves a mile or more of walking to reach the nearest bridge but for me, it is much more about the quirkiness of being rowed across to the other side. Its just such a great start to the day and is worth more to me than the £1 it costs.

Weymouth Harbour

Waiting

The Ferry

Row Boat Ferry

Reaching dry land again, I made my way through Nothe Gardens and around the headland with views across Portland Harbour entrance. This was once a major Naval Base and still retains the features that were at one time so important to its operation.

Portland Harbour Entrance

Portland Harbour Entrance

Military connections continue for a time as the next feature on the walk is Sandsfoot Castle, built by Henry viii in 1539 to protect this part of the coast. The now derelict castle has recently been made safe so that visitors can walk around it, and it is surrounded by the most beautifully colourful gardens, including a tea room. Resisting the temptation, I walked on!

Sandsfoot Castle Gardens

Sandsfoot Castle

I joined the Rodwell Trail that follows the old railway that once ran from Weymouth to Portland. This was easy walking along a tarmac track until reaching Ferrybridge where I finally left civilisation behind and joined the winding track that follows the shoreline of The Fleet, a nearly landlocked tract of brackish water separated from the sea by the famous Chesil Beach.

The Old Gateway

The Start of The Fleet

The Fleet is fed by the sea at its eastern end and by a number of streams along its 8 mile length. It is therefore almost a lake but rises and falls with the tide. Its southern shore is straight and bounded by Chesil Beach, its northern shore winds in and out of various coves and inlets, as well as one or two military establishments including a firing range and a bridge building centre where the army practices building bridges. One of its most noted military connections from the past is that it was an early testing area for Barnes Wallis’ famous bouncing bomb.

The Old Jetty

Langton Hive Point

For the most part these days it is just the most beautiful and peaceful place to walk. The walking is flat and easy with much to take in along the route, including a number of old jetties. The most photographed of these is the one at Langton Hive Point which sadly now has few timbers remaining. I decided to stop here for an early lunch with lovely views out across The Fleet with numerous rowing boats moored along its shore.

The Fleet

Beside the Fleet

Lost in the Grass

Rowing Boats and Grass

The early afternoon sun was becoming hotter still and I was having to drink copious amounts of water to keep hydrated. With nearly 20kg on my back, the walk was tiring despite its flatness – I knew though that there were hills aplenty to come before my 50 mile trek would be complete but the forecast suggested that it was to cool over the coming days. I hoped so!

Moonfleet Church

Fleet Church

I always think one of the most interesting features along this stretch of the Dorset coast is the hamlet of Fleet which has an interesting and somewhat tragic past. In November 1824 there was an almighty storm and the sea breached Chesil Beach that had until then protected the tiny hamlet. The devastation was massive as huge waves washed inland destroying many cottages and most of the church. Only the chancel of the old church was left standing. A local boy observed the scene and wrote:

“At six o’-clock on the morning of the 23rd I was standing with other boys by the gate near the cattle pound when I saw, rushing up the valley, the tidal wave, driven by a hurricane and bearing upon its crest a whole haystack and other debris from the fields below. We ran for our lives to Chickerell, and when we returned found that five houses had been swept away and the church was in ruins.”

The hamlet and what is left of the old church is delightful and I always stop here for a time of reflection. It is so peaceful that it is hard to imagine the events of 1824.

Aside from those catastrophic events, the village has been immortalised by J Meade Faulkner who based his book Moonfleet on the area.

Moonfleet Church

The Ever Open Door

Leaving ‘Moonfleet’ behind I continued along the shore and met another backpacker walking the other way. We fell into conversation and the girl, a young Swiss student, told me how she was walking the entire South West Coast Path having started some 5 weeks earlier. She was on the latter stages and was to finish the walk the following weekend after 630 miles and 6 weeks of walking. I was impressed, not only that someone so young should take on what is a serious undertaking alone, but that she chose to backpack it, sleeping in a tent each night. Most people choose to use hostels/B&B, and use baggage transfer companies.

We stood looking at the view below chatting for probably half an hour before parting to continue on our separate ways. These brief meetings along the pathways are partly what makes these walks so interesting. Common interests are shared albeit briefly and most people are so friendly, creating a real camaraderie that you find in few places. Afterwards I wished that we had swapped contact information as I find myself wondering whether she finished and how her last few days went.

The Fleet

The Fleet

Leaving my Swiss friend, I walked on, passing Fleet House, built in Georgian times, now the Moonfleet Manor Hotel. Skylarks serenaded me as I made my way around the last part of the Fleet Lagoon before reaching the point where the path turns inland.

Fleet

Moonfleet Manor Hotel

On the Fleet Path

Beside the Fleet

From here, the route took me across farm land to climb steeply onto the inland ridge which would take me the remainder of the way into Abbotsbury. As I climbed higher, the views opened up all around me.

Turning Inland

Turning Inland

Abbots bury is a town that sits at the west end of The Fleet and it is a delightful town with honey coloured buildings. I passed the entrance to its world famous swannery, its ancient tithe barn, its derelict abbey, its tropical gardens, and its beautiful church, dedicated to St Nicholas. I paused for a moment of reflection at the gateway before entering the town itself as I was nearing the end of my first days walk.

St Nicholas, Abbotsbury

St Nicholas, Abbotsbury

With the exceptionally hot weather, my water was spend so I called at one of the pubs to buy some bottled water and to ask if they would fill my water bladder. One of the problems with wild camping is that there is often no water supply so I knew I would have to take enough with me to last overnight and through the next day. I carry an emergency water filter which is so useful but the streams I was passing on this walk were all low level and on farm land, making them less than ideal.

Having replenished my supplies, re-hydrated myself and splashed some water around my face (there would be no washing facilities where I would be sleeping), I made my way on through the village. I still hadn’t any idea where I would spend the night. One possibility was to climb up to the ridge inland of Abbotsbury and look for a flat grassy area there, another was to continue along the coast path and hope I would find some flat grass there, a third was to spend the night on Chesil Beach although I was not sure how comfortable shingle would be to lie on! Ultimately I decided anyway to climb up Chapel Hill to have a look at St Catherine’s Chapel before deciding which way to head.

On Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill with Strip Lynchets

With the sun now getting low in the sky, the chapel looked absolutely beautiful standing proud high on its hill like a beacon of hope to the world below. The slanting sunlight picked out the strip lynchets that run along the hillside which would once have contained crops. Half way up I turned to look back to the town with its own church tower standing sentinel over the surrounding cottages. Around me were sheep and cows grazing the hillside. It was such a delightful scene and it entered my mind that maybe that would make a good stopping point.

Abbotsbury

Abbotsbury

I continued to the top to look around this stunning chapel, standing seemingly solid against all the elements that had been thrown at it over the centuries, its delightful warm coloured stone standing out so clearly against the deep blue of the sky. I went inside the empty and disused chapel with its equally solid door – I say empty although it was in fact occupied by a dole of doves (yes, that’s the group name). It seemed totally fitting that this place of peace should now be occupied by doves, the symbol of peace.

There are no records of the construction of the chapel but it is thought to date from the 14th century. It was built as a place of pilgrimage and retreat by the monks of the Benedictine Monastery that once stood in the village far below and it seems to have survived the Dissolution although the abbey itself did not. It was dedicated to St Catherine, the patron saint of spinsters, and became a place of prayer for those seeking a husband. Occasional services are still held there.

St Catherine's Chapel

St Catherine’s Chapel

The Old Church Door

The Church Door

Outside, I settled myself down on the grass in the still warm evening sun and over the next couple of hours I passed the time of day with a number of visitors to my lofty bed place. One couple, strangely also from Switzerland, spend the evening picnicking there. They told me they were on holiday travelling around the UK and that they were staying in Abbotsbury.

There was a lovely cooling breeze gently blowing across the hilltop and there were amazing views in all directions. In addition to human visitors, I shared my hilltop with sheep, cows, doves, rooks, and mayflies – there were hundreds of them flying about.

St Catherine's Sunset

Sunset at St Catherine’s

I watched the sun set, with the sky turning gradually orange, then pink, then deepening red until the light finally faded. I was left alone on my hilltop and the words of the poet, Thomas Gray, came to mind, ‘And all was left to darkness and to me’. I spread out by sleeping bag and with the chapel sheltering me from the now cooling breeze, I lay watching the nearly full moon rise across the valley.

A Bed for the Night

A Bed for the Night

Moonrise

Nightfall

Today has felt like a pilgrimage and this ancient holy place seemed a fitting place to end my day. The moon provided a little light and the stars were a canopy over my head. What could be better than spending the night in this awesome place on a balmy night such as this. I drifted off to sleep, contented and wondering if tomorrow could possibly better this!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed today’s pilgrimage and that you will join me for another great day tomorrow.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

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

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.