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Thursday, 11 December 2014

Walk 125 Exeter to Starcross (Devon)

Walk 125 Exeter to Starcross (Devon)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 192
Distance: 12 miles or 18 km approx
Difficulty: fairly easy
Terrain: road and coastal/river path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Regular trains from Exeter St Davids in both directions

It is worth spending a few hours or more in Exeter including the 14th century cathedral which was badly damaged in World War 2 and the Roman walls which go around the city.

From St David’s Station cross the River Exe at the first crossing point. In the thirteenth century a weir was built here by the Countess of Devon and this blocked the port. However, a lawsuit was decided in favour of the Exeter citizens and the weir was removed. Unfortunately, the river had silted up making navigation impossible. As a result Exeter Canal was completed in 1566 by engineer John Trew. The northern end of the canal can be seen a little further along the walk.

Continue alongside the river to the quayside. You don't need to use it but it was 30p to get the ferry to the other side when I went – there are some attractive outdoor eating/drinking places and an 18th century custom’s house on the quayside.

Further along is the canal basin. This was the last extension to the Exeter Ship Canal built in 1830. It provided reliable deep berths in the heart of the city for large sea going vessels. This helped to increase trade and contribute to Exeter’s wealth. The canal is over 5 miles long and goes alongside the River Exe. A huge variety of goods passed along the canal but the amount started to decline when the railways came in 1844.

Continue along the path to the Kings Arms sluice and Trew’s Weir. A double lock beyond here allows two vessels to park side by side, which is an unusual feature. Beyond this is the site of old lime kilns on the opposite bank. The limestone came mainly from Torbay and Plymouth and the high temperatures in the kilns produced quicklime – this was spread on the land to improve the soil and for speeding up the decomposition of bodies after burials.

The Turf Canal Basin further south allowed vessels to wait for a suitable tide, wait for fair weather or transfer goods between sea craft. Ships sailed to here from as far away as the West Indies. The Turf Lock Hotel which is still here would have been a busy cosmopolitan place. Look out for the old cottage, a small dwelling for the lock keeper – it is very near to the waterside. From here you can see Topsham on the opposite bank. Soon after this the canal merges with the River Exe.

About a mile along the river are the grounds of Powderham Castle. The building, which is the home of the Earl of Devon can be seen on the hilltop.

This part of the walk ends at Starcross. A ferry runs from here to Exmouth on the opposite bank of the river. Look out for The Atmospheric Railway pub on the seafront road. This is named after the Brunel built railway (this still runs from along this coast from Paddington to Penzance) which was originally designed as a revolutionary ‘atmospheric railway’. Two pump houses drew air out of a pipe between the rails and this produced a vacuum which worked a piston that in turn propelled the trains. The effects of the weather, rats and mice jamming the pistons (they ate the grease of the leather air tight seals) meant horses then had to be used to pull the trains. All this meant the expensive experiment ended in 1848 and steam then diesel (still diesel) took over.     

Photos show: Butt Ferry at Exeter Quayside; River Exe with Exeter on the opposite bank; Lock-keeper's cottage; Atmospheric Railway Pub at Starcross. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Walk 124 Budleigh Salterton to Lympstone, Exton, Topsham, A La Ronde

Walk 124 Budleigh Salterton to Lympstone with visits to Exton and Topsham and suggested trip to A La Ronde (Devon)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 192
Distance: 11 miles or 17kmm approx  (includes walks around Exton and Topsham)
Difficulty: moderate
Terrain: cliff paths, road and lower coastal paths
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Bus 157 goes hourly between Budleigh and Exmouth, a train leaves hourly for Lympstone from Exmouth Station

Leave Budleigh Salterton by climbing up the coastal path on to the cliffs of West Down. From here there is a good view of Littleham Cove and Otter Cove with their distinctive red rocks. When I walked along here there was sporadic gun fire from the military range at Straight Point – the path must be strictly kept to and danger avoided. To the right is a huge caravan site of over 2000 units. The estuary of the River Exe can be seen in the distance.

Continue along the cliffs above Sandy Bay and down on to the road which leads in to Exmouth. Walk past the lifeboat station and to The Point then navigate along the roads to the main sands (Exmouth rail station is near here). The town was a fishing village from pre Roman times and be the end of the 12th century was one of Devon’s main ports. The town became a popular resort in the mid 18th century when many fine Georgian houses were built. The front is quite attractive with its distinctive clock-tower and wide sands (when the tide is out).

Follow the coastal path out of Exmouth and continue to Lympstone. This is a small attractive coastal village. To the north of Lympstone are the Lympstone Barracks – which house the Royal Marines.

The next two points can be reached by rail or car. Walking is possible but involves a tedious trudge along various roads inland.

Exton is on the single track rail line from Exmouth to Exeter. The mudflats, sandbanks and marshland of the estuary of the Exe are of international importance and provide thousands of habitats for birds and other wildlife.

At Topsham look out for the houses that have been converted from old storehouses and sail lofts. These date from the town/village’s heyday as a major British port and shipbuilding centre. There are several Dutch style buildings – these stem from the wool and cotton exported from here – Dutch bricks acting as ballast in the ships were brought in on the return journey.  The shop on the high street has a mural which reflects Topsham’s past.  The museum has interesting information about  Topsham including a section on the actress Vivien Leigh. Her connection with the village is through her one time husband Leigh Holman whose sister lived in the house which is now the museum. She founded the museum and made several donations connected with the actress.

Close to Lympstone is the unique building ‘A La Ronde’ owned by the National Trust. This 16 sided house, once owned by two spinsters, is well worth a visit. On their return from a grand tour of Europe in the late 18th century the ladies designed this unique building and included a shell gallery, feather frieze and other idiosyncrasies. This is best visited by car.

Photos show: Littleham, Otter Coves and Straight Point; Sands at Exmouth; Exmouth front and clock tower; single track railway line near Exton; Topsham; A La Ronde.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Walk 123 Sidmouth to Budleigh Salterton (Devon)

Walk 123 Sidmouth to Budleigh Salterton (Devon)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 192
Distance: 8 miles or 12km
Difficulty: moderate
Terrain: mainly cliff paths
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Bus 157 goes hourly between the two towns

Walk out of Sidmouth up the cliff and along to Peak Hill. There are good views of the coastline from here. Continue along to Ladram Bay.

Several fossils have been found in this area including one of a rynchosaurus – one of the oldest known plant eating reptiles. The reddish brown cliffs that can be seen here are made from Otter sandstone, they were formed in the Triassic period 220 million years ago. Their striking colour is caused by iron oxide – this indicates that the climate was hot and dry all those years ago, similar to that of the Arabian Gulf and South Africa today.

Further along the path is Brandy Head. It derives its name from smuggling which was once rife along this coast. Contraband was landed more safely at night out of the sight of the customs men. In World War 2 the headland was used to test new aircraft mounted gun sights. Evidently, local boys used to climb up and hide under the hedgerows to watch the planes practice air strikes.

Continue the walk along to Budleigh Salterton. As you approach the town there is a walk inland alongside the River Otter before crossing on to a road then walking back down the river south into the town.

The pleasant walk along Budleigh seafront is marked by a war memorial at the top of the hill and Straight Point can be seen across the sea in the distance. Salt panning during Roman times gave the town its name. Sir John Millais’s painting ‘The Boyhood of Raleigh’ was painted near here. A local ferryman and the artist’s two sons were models and the sea wall can be seen in the painting.

The town has the largest croquet lawn outside London. Look out for the steamer steps along the promenade, this was a stopping point for these boats many years ago.

Photos show: a beach near Ladram Bay; Ladram Bay; Budleigh Salterton

Monday, 6 October 2014

Walk 122 Seaton to Sidmouth (Devon)

Walk 122 Seaton to Sidmouth (Devon)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 192
Distance: 11 miles or 16km approx.
Difficulty: moderate
Terrain: coastal path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: X53 or 52A bus goes between the two towns every hour or so

Leave Seaton and follow the South West Coastal Path around to Beer. Corny as it sounds, I felt that I had to have a beer in Beer and there are is a pub near the front which sells good ale. (I forgot to note its name though). The village is spread along 13 valleys. Look out for Beer Brook which runs down the side of the main street.

This area is famous for smugglers and Lace. Queen Victoria’s wedding dress was made here. Leave the village by climbing on to the cliffs that lead to Beer head. The cliffs provided shelter for a fleet of small fishing boats winched up on to the shore at night.

Continue along the cliffs for about a mile and descend the hill to Branscombe Mouth. The views of the beach, village and cliffs are stunning. The valley was carved out in the last ice age, 15000 years ago. One of the buildings, now an outlet for food and drink, is a former coal wharf and boat house. The area has been a rich source of lobsters, crabs and other seafood. The cliff tops have plenty of live stock and local farmers have produced a range of goods including beer and cheese. The Branscombe Vale Brewery is nearby. An old forge, mill and bakery in the village are owned by the National Trust and are worth a diversion inland to visit. Look out for the large anchor near the front, this is from a ship beached here in 2007. Containers were swept off the ship and treasure seekers from all over the UK descended on the beach to plunder the containers and two days of chaos ensued.

Further along the coastal path is Hooten Landslip. In 1790 about 15 million tons of sand and chalk cliff subsided in the middle of the night. The red colour of the cliffs here is evidence that they were formed when the area had hot dry deserts – similar deposits can be found in Death Valley, California.

The next notable landmark is Weston Mouth. The hamlet of Weston lies at the top of the ‘combe’ or valley created by a water course cutting through the chalk and softer sandstone of the hills. Combes are typical features of the East Devon coastline.

Continue the walk along to Dunscombe Cliffs. Much of this area is a National trust nature reserve. Some of the greyer cliffs near here were used by stone masons when building Windsor Castle and Westminster Abbey.

From Salcombe Hill there is a panoramic view of Sidmouth. The River Sid comes out here. The town was fashionable long before the likes of Exmouth and Torquay and was saved from over development by the late arrival of the railway (since closed). The seafront has a number of Georgian and Regency buildings and cottage style houses. They reflect a time when fashionably dressed people strolled along the prom and hired bathing machines and sedan chairs. Sidmouth was given royal approval in 1819 when the Duke of Kent came here with his daughter Victoria – later to become queen. Many people have retired here as it is considered a healthy spot to live. The author Ronald Delderfield, who wrote ‘To serve them all my days, has a plaque indicating that he lived here.

Photos show\; Beer beach looking towards Beer Head; Branscombe; Weston Mouth; Looking eastwards at Sidmouth.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Walk 121 Lyme Regis to Seaton

Walk 121  Lyme Regis to Seaton (Devon)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 193
Distance: 8 miles or 12 km approx
Difficulty: Very challenging – care needs to be taken underfoot – there is a warning near the start of the walk
Terrain: coastal path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: X53 bus goes between the two towns every couple of hours

This walk appears to be easy on paper. However, the uncertainty of the surface underfoot can make it hazardous. I saw two people who had fallen and being treated for cuts. You have to look down and take things slowly. A warning notice alerts walkers to the fact that the walk is only a few miles but may take much longer than expected.

Start the walk on the front at Lyme Regis near the clock tower.  Lyme Regis marks the border between Devon and Dorset. It was a fashionable watering place in the 18th century and was evidently very popular with the citizens of Bath. The buildings surviving from that time means it retains much of its charm. The beach is famous for its fossils and this is reflected in The Fossil Shop on the main street. During the 19th century, Mary Anning, who became a famous fossil hunter, discovered some of the first fossils that has made this area famous and led it to become known as the Jurassic Coast. The huge ammonites and shells were from life here around 180 million years ago. 

Walk along the harbour and to The Cobb which was originally a sea defence built in the 13th century. It has literary and historical associations. For example, it has seen ships set sail to fight in The Hundred Years War and the Spanish Armada. Lyme MP George Summers left from here on a journey which led to the discovery of The Bahamas. In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Louisa Musgrave took a tumble from The Cobb to blight the prospects of the heroine Anne Elliott. In the film of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Meryl Streep was filmed looking out to sea – lots of people were seen posing this when I visited!

Continue to Monmouth Beach. In 1685 the Duke of Monmouth landed here and began his ill fated challenge for the throne of his uncle, James 2nd – this ended in bloody fashion at the Battle of Sedgemoor. Twelve of his men were subsequently hanged in Lyme Regis.

The path out of Lyme Regis can be accessed from Monmouth Bay. As explained above this path has a warning notice: ‘The terrain can be difficult and walking arduous and will take around 4 hours’. It also states that there is no access to the sea. Only glimpses of the coast can be seen on this stretch. One landmark in the first half of the walk is a ruined building that was once a freshwater pumping station and an engineer’s house. Water was pumped up from here to a nearby estate and used as drinking water.

Further along, Downland  and Bindon Cliffs are famous for their enormous landslips. On Christmas Eve 1839 an enormous piece of these cliffs tore free from the mainland to form a deep chasm. It carried huge chunks of wheat and turnip fields and became an area known as Goat Island – a Victorian tourist attraction for some time.

At the end of the walk, approaching Seaton, look out for the tree sculpture which is formed into a grabbing hand (complete with fingernails). To get into Seaton you cross The Axmouth Old Bridge which was opened in 1877 but has been closed to traffic since 1990. This is the oldest standing concrete bridge in England. Axmouth Harbour which is to the south of the bridge has existed since Roman times. A tramway runs up the side of The River Axe and it is worthwhile (at another time) taking a tram to look at the river and wildlife.  

Look out for the clock tower which provides a suitable background to some pleasant landscaped gardens. A large holiday camp nearby was once used as an internment camp in World War 2. Large pebbles from the beach have been sent as far afield as New Zealand for paint blending and rubber processing.

Photos show: Beach and clock at Lyme Regis; Main Street and Fossil shop, Lyme Regis; Lyme Harbour; The Cobb; Monmouth Beach; Hand sculpture near Seaton; Seaton front and clock tower.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Walk 120 Bridport to Charmouth (near Lyme Regis) Dorset

Walk 120 Bridport to Charmouth (near Lyme Regis, Dorset)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 193
Distance: 10 miles or 16 km approx.
Difficulty: moderate with some challenging parts
Terrain: coastal paths
Access: Parking in Bridport and Charmouth.
Public transport: Regular bus service between the two towns, X53, X31 or 76.

This walk could be continued to Lyme Regis via a rather long inland route on the coastal path, or by following a path along the cliff. The latter did not look to be in good condition when I went so I stopped at Charmouth. Things might have improved by now.

Follow the coastal path out of Bridport to West Bay then walk along the cliffs to Eype beach. The nearby village is divided into Higher Eype and Lower Eype. There are several village buildings here dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Eype means steep place and I can confirm this as we stayed in a rather nice country club hotel here (good food) -got stuck on the one track steep hill with a vehicle coming the other way which was scary!

There are some stunning views from the cliffs along this stretch including from Doghouse Hill and Thorncombe Beacon. Soon after East Ebb Cove is the settlement of Seatown a place of fishing and smuggling in the past. The whole area is rich in fossils but these must not be removed. Behind the village is the magnificent Golden Cap which, at 191 metres, is the highest point on the entire south coast. Take a rest at Seatown as the next task is to walk to the top!

At the summit of Golden Cap look out for the triangulation point marking its highest point. The name derives from the golden greensand rock which caps the top. It enjoys World Heritage status. Follow the path along for the next couple of miles into Charmouth. This is the site of where Danish pirates slaughtered many people in 831. In 1651, after the Battle of Worcester, Charles 11 escaped and was hidden in the Queen’s Arms Inn in Charmouth. The king fled when he knew he was discovered – just in time.  There is a heritage centre to find out more about the area near the mouth of the River Char.

Photos show: looking back towards Eype from Doghouse Hill; East Ebb Cove; Seatown with Golden Cap behind it; a view from Golden Cap towards Charmouth. 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Walk 119 Abbotsbury ro Bridport (Dorset)

Walk 119  Abbotsbury to Bridport (Dorset)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 194 and 193
Distance: 12 miles or 20 km approx
Difficulty: moderate
Terrain: coastal paths and some road
Access: Parking in Abbotsbury and Bridport.
Public transport: X53 bus operates between the two towns about once an hour.

The walk starts on the coastal path south of Abbotsbury. After half a mile or so look out for the “chocolate box” Lawrence Cottage with its uninterrupted views of the sea. Continue along to the National Trust owned West Bexington beach.

This next landmark on this peaceful stretch is Cogden Beach also known as Burton Bradstock beach. This is a very popular spot with a large car park. It is also famous as the place where Reggie Perrin, as played by Leonard Rossiter, took his clothes off to fake his own death in the TV series.

Further along is East Cliff – the yellow sandstone cliffs on this stretch are attractive but crumbling away. On the descent from the cliffs is West Bay which lies at the mouth of the River Brit. Workers in West Bay have provided the maritime world with quality rope, twines and nets for centuries.

Complete the walk by turning in land to Bridport. This town has a number of interesting old buildings including many from the 18th century in Main Street – the museum is housed in a 16th century building. The town was referred to as Port Bredy in Thomas Hardy’s Wessex novels. A few well known people are associated with the area including one of my favourites, the politically left wing singer and songwriter Billy Bragg.

Photos are: West Bexington Beach; Lawrence Cottage; Burton Bradstock Beach; West Bay.




Monday, 30 June 2014

Walk 118 Weymouth to Abbotsbury (Dorset)

Walk 118  Weymouth to Abbotsbury (Dorset)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 194
Distance: 12 miles or 20 km approx
Difficulty: moderate
Terrain: coastal paths and some road
Access: Parking in Weymouth.
Public transport: X53 bus leaves and returns once an hour on weekdays up till about 8 at night

The walk starts at Ferrybridge near to the road across to Portland. Walk westwards along the coastal path to the bay near Charlestown. For the next few miles you get a good view of Chesil Beach. (An appropriate book to read when having a rest might be Ian McEwan’s, On Chesil beach). There is a rifle firing range on this stretch and, if it is active, you will need to follow the alternative path.

The path winds its way along to Fleet Lagoon. In 1824 there was a great gale or tempest which battered the Dorset coast and the village of Fleet was nearly washed away.

Further along is Gore Cove. There is a hotel here that was once called The Moonfleet. It was named after the 1898 novel by J Meade Falkner and was popular with children in the past. The village of Moonfleet is based on this area and the story is also set in Carrisbroke Castle on the Isle of Wight. It is a romantic tale set in times when smuggling was rife.

The walk into Abbotsbury is pleasant enough but the path cuts inland which restricts views of the coast. The town has a big 15th century tithe barn (this is where tithes were stored – the one tenth of produce taken as a tax to support the church and clergy during that time). There are also the ruins of an 11th century monastery. The swannery at Abbotsbury is the largest in England and has been around since the time of Henry V111. It originally provided birds for the monks table at the monastery. Just outside of Abbotsbury is St Catherine’s Chapel. This lady was the patron saint of spinsters who used to meet there and invoke the saints to help them get a husband.

Photos show: The bay near Charleston; the firing range; Fleet lagoon.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Walk 117 Weymouth and Portland (Dorset)

Walk 117 Weymouth and Portland (Dorset)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 194
Distance: 17 miles or 25km
Difficulty: moderate
Terrain: road, cliff and other paths
Access: Parking in Weymouth.
Public transport: Plenty of buses between Weymouth and Portland.

This is a bit longer than the normal walks I do as it involves a circular walk around the island of Portland. Start off on the coastal path near to the George 111 statue in Weymouth and walk along the coastal path adjacent to the beach.

Look out for varied architecture including The New Vic Hotel which has a rather smart bust of Queen Victoria above its entrance. There are good views to the sheltered Weymouth Bay from here and soon the River Wey will have to be crossed for the walk to Nothe Fort. On the hills near Weymouth is a chalk carving of a horse meant to represent George 111 – dismayed that the work generated royal disapproval the artist killed himself. Fortunately, these days we are a little more sanguine about royal criticism – there would be an architect’s bloodbath if Prince Charles comments about some modern buildings were taken too much to heart!

The bridge across the Wey gives a good view up and down the river – lifeboats and old sailing vessels were in evidence when I was there. A plaque near here states that Captain Richard Clark departed from Weymouth to join Sir Humphrey Gilbert in his discovery of Newfoundland. Continue the walk up to and along the pier where ferries leave for the Channel Islands and Brittany. A less welcome visitor arrived here in 1348 as it was near Weymouth that the Black Death entered Britain killing nearly half the population in one year!

Weymouth Harbour was once a major port in the UK for both fishing and cargo – less so now although the catch is still the third largest in England. The bridge here is raised every two hours to let shipping through.

Continue the walk to Nothe Fort. This was built in 1860 by the Royal Engineers, with help from prisoners from Portland Prison, as part of the defence of Portland Harbour. It housed 12 gun batteries with 70 rooms on 3 levels. It remained in active service until 1956 and is now owned by the council.

Walk westwards and after about a mile is Sandsfoot or Weymouth  Castle and gardens. This was completed on the orders of Henry V111 in about 1539 to support Portland Castle in the protection of Portland Harbour. It has 2 storeys, dungeons, cannons and quarters for 50 men. The castle was in bad repair by 1584 due to damage by the sea and remedial work had to be done. It was held for the king in the Civil War and was then used as a mint. It then became a storehouse and never saw serious military action.

Portland Harbour was built in Victorian times and was an important naval base during the times of the Spanish Armada. It was closed (under the then name of HMS Osprey) in 1999 and the work transferred to Somerset. The cycle track along this stretch is part of The Rodwell Trail and follows part of the old Weymouth to Portland railway line which was closed in 1965. Look out for the platform and a sign of one of the old stations.

The walk along the road to Portland is a bit tedious. It becomes better near the end where there is a good view of Chesil Cave. This point, which lies at the end of Chesil Beach, gets the full blast of the Atlantic and is the site of many shipwrecks. The walk on the west side of the island starts with a rather steep and difficult climb alongside some houses to West Cliff. The path wasn’t entirely clear and it is possible that I took a route that was more difficult than it should have been. There is a very good view back to Chesil Beach which is one of the greatest examples of a tombolo in the world (a tombolo is a spit of land formed by longshore drift that has completely sealed in a section of the coast). The beach is 17 miles long and has been built up by a steady deposition of pebbles, the bulkiest near to Portland and the smaller down the coast at Abbotsbury. Local fishermen can tell exactly where on the beach a pebble comes from by its size.

Continue the walk along the path adjacent to the rugged coastline past Blacknor and towards Portland Bill. The scaly cricket’s only British home is in this area possibly brought here on a World War2 landing craft.

The 115 ft high lighthouse at Portland Bill was built in 1906 although there is an older disused one a little bit inland. To the right of it is an obelisk constructed in 1844 and warning of a low ledge stretching out 30 metres into the sea. Look out for Pulpit Rock further to the west which is a popular attraction because of its shape.

Continue the walk around the island where a mixture of erosion and quarrying has resulted in unusual rock formations. The area has been quarried for centuries to extract limestone. This has been used in such notable places as St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and the United Nations HQ in New York. Further round near Freshwater Bay there appears to be some new quarrying going on – a crane with a load still attached was abandoned – must have been knocking-off time!

Further up the east coast is Rufus Castle which is at the top of a steep climb from Church Ope Cove. The castle was built for William Rufus, king of England from 1087-1100, and is also known as Bow and Arrow Castle because of the many spaces for these weapons in the 7 ft thick walls. All that is left is a ruin and the arch is the only original part that remains.

Look out for the grim facades of the Young Offenders Institution and prison at Grove with the barbed wire and cameras. Near the end of the walk, on a hill near Fortuneswell, is an impressive sculpture of a quarryman. Descend into Fortunewell where there are buses back to Weymouth if needed.

Photos show: Chesil Beach from Portland; Portland Bill lighthouse; Quarrying areas on the south coast; sculpture of quarryman near Fortuneswell. 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Walk 116 Lulworth Cove to Weymouth (Dorset)

 Walk  116 Lulworth Cove to Weymouth  (Dorset)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 194
Distance: 13 miles or 20 km.
Difficulty: moderate/quite challenging in parts
Terrain: mainly cliff paths
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Train and bus are possible to Lulworth but involve a train and a bus - bare bones service. Taxi best option. Good bus and train links from Weymouth to surrounding areas.

This walk features some of the most outstanding views on the English coast. It is worth popping into the Heritage Centre at Lulworth Cove to learn about the area’s geology. Follow the coast path westwards and up the steps to Dungy Head. The view back makes clear the horseshoe shape of Lulworth Cove. Forward are the outlines of Weymouth and Portland with the dramatic cliffs of St Oswald’s Bay in the foreground.

Next up is the iconic ‘Durdle Door’, an arch of limestone rock. A unique species of butterfly, The Lulworth Skipper, was discovered here in 1832. The walk continues up to Swyre Head, the highest point of the Purbeck Hills which form this part of the coast. (The area between Durdle Door and here is known as Scratchy Bottom!)

A little further along is Bats Head. There is a small gap near the point of the head and it is thought that erosion will eventually lead it to looking much like Durdle Door.

Continue along to White Nothe then Ringstead Bay – an area popular with divers. Burning Cliff, which overlooks the bay, is owned by The National Trust and is so called because in 1827 a peat fire, possibly started by lightning, burnt for six years.

A mile or so further along is the settlement of Osmington Mills. The mills were water mills which were used to grind corn. The Smugglers Inn, once the house of notorious smuggler, Emanuel Charles, dates back to the 13th century. John Constable came here in 1816 on his honeymoon and the views inspired his paintings of the Weymouth coast.

Continue along passing Black Head and an activity centre and on to Bowleaze Cove. This is a popular area for holiday makers with the Waterside Holiday Park an additional attraction. However, it is the long white building that sits above the village which is most impressive. This a grade 2 listed building designed in a Spanish Riviera style. It was owned by Pontins between 1950 and 1960 but was back as a hotel when I went there. The exotic sounding River Jordan exits on to the beach. Curiously, remains of elephants have been found in the area.

Continue along Furzy Cliff where there is a panoramic view of Weymouth and Portland. Descend on to the sea front where a piece of sculpted rock marks the recent building of sea defences. The entry promenade road into Weymouth has a row of colourful B&Bs/guest houses. Further along there is a mixture of Georgian and Victorian buildings. Look out for the pavilion jutting out on to the beach, this was built in 1960 to replace one destroyed by fire in 1954.

There are several things to look out for on the front. The ANZAC memorial (Australia and New Zealand) commemorates the troops from these countries who were stationed in Dorset and moved to fight in Palestine. The colourful clock tower commemorates the jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. The war memorial on the Esplanade features 3 events: 749 men killed off nearby Lyme Bay when they were attacked by torpedoes when training in 1944; also in this year 802 men died when their troopship sank in the channel; approx. 3000 American troops died after they left here for Omaha beach on D Day.

Further along is a full size replica of a bathing machine used by King George 111 during one of the 14 summers he spent here between 1789 and1805. On first arriving he was so impressed by the views that he exclaimed ‘I never enjoyed a sight so pleasing’. However, Queen Mary thought it a dull and stupid place!

Do not miss the impressive George 111 statue. Part of his cure, for what was then known as ‘the king’s madness’, (in fact a chemical imbalance in his body which damaged his nervous system) was to bathe in the sea water. The king’s visits helped to establish Weymouth as a popular resort and the statue was funded by ‘the grateful inhabitants’. The railway station is close to this area.

Photos show: Durdle Dor; Osmington Mills; Bowleaze Cove; View to Weymouth and Portland; George 111 statue in Weymouth. 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Walk 115 Kimmeridge Bay to Lulworth Cove (Dorset)

 Walk  115 Kimmeridge Bay to Lulworth Cove  (Dorset)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 195 and 194
Distance: 8 miles or 12 km.
Difficulty: challenging especially if muddy – some slippery slopes
Terrain: mainly cliff paths
Access: Parking at both ends. NOTE: This walk is on the Lulworth firing ranges and is only open at certain times. Check on: before going.
Public transport: There appear to be no options for Kimmeridge. A morning bus service goes from Wareham to Lulworth. Local taxis specialise in the trip. I left my car at Lulworth Cove car par and arranged (in advance) for a taxi to Kimmeridge. A bit expensive but OK if you can share with other walkers.

Follow the coastal path westwards out of Kimmeridge Bay. Soon you will come to a ‘nodding donkey’ pumping up oil from a small BP well. This has been tapped for over 40 years and has been producing about 80 barrels a day. From Iron age times, oil shale (oil impregnated soft slate) was extracted and used to produce artefacts including jewellery and furniture. In the 1850s the oil was exported to Paris as fuel for gas lit lamps.

About a mile further on, past Howbarrow Bay, is Gad Cliff which overlooks Brandy Bay. This bay derives its name from the smuggling that took place in the 17th and 18th centuries. About a mile further along is Worbarrow Tout which sticks out impressively into the sea. Care is needed on the walk down from here and up the steep path to Flowers Barrow (no steps or handrail). I fell at this point and ended up at the doctors with a knee injury. I did manage to hobble on to Lulworth Cove though.

Inland from here is the ghost village of Tyneham. It can only be accessed when the coastal path is open. The village was seized by the army in 1943 on Churchill’s orders and used for practising manoeuvres. The occupants were moved out and tanks moved in (as did thieves who stripped the buildings!). The village is still empty despite years of protests.

Flowers Barrow, which overlooks Warbarrow Bay, was the site of an iron age fort and has been eroded over the years. There appears to be no evidence that it was much more than a small settlement.

Visible from the path near here is Lulworth Castle which is a mile or so inland. It was built in the early 17th century by Thomas Howard as a hunting lodge, it then became a country house. It was gutted by fire in 1929 and was restored in 1998.     

 As you approach Lulworth Cove the views back to the east are stunning. The first view of the cove is the large car park and road stretching up the hill. Descend into the cove which is famous for its geology and picturesque outlook. The entrance to the cove is narrow because the rocks at this point are formed of the hard Portland Stone whereas the softer Purbeck stone in the cove is still eroding.

|Photos show: nodding donkey at Kimmeridge Bay; Gad Cliff and Brandy Bay; Warbarrow Tout; Lulworth Cove.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Walk 114 Worth Matravers to Kimmeridge Bay (Dorset)

 Walk  114 Worth Matravers to Kimmeridge Bay  (Dorset)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 195
Distance: 8 miles or 12 km.
Difficulty: very challenging especially if muddy
Terrain: cliff paths
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Very difficult. No 44 bus goes from Swanage to Worth at 12:11 and 14:11, the latest return journey appears to be 12:43. There appear to be no options for Kimmeridge. Taxi the only other option.

Follow the roads and tracks out of Worth Martravers and take the path westwards towards Houns-Tout Cliff. The steps up to the cliff top here must be one of the longest and steepest straight climbs on the coast anywhere in England. There is a good view back to St Aldhelm’s or St Alban’s Head. This stretch can get very muddy and needs great care if it is. I fell into the mire three times! Although a relatively short walk allow good time to complete it.

Continue walking to Egmont Point where there is a view of Swyre Head - an old Saxon Barrow. Kimmeridge Ledges provide interesting rock formations – the area is popular with geologists and surfers.

Clavell Tower is to the east of Kimmeridge Bay. This was built in 1831 by the Rev. John Clavell as  an observatory and folly. By 2005 erosion meant that the tower was very near the cliff edge so it was dismantled and rebuilt further back by The Landmark Trust. The writer Thomas Hardy courted one of his early loves, Eliza Bright, here and used the tower as a frontispiece for his Wessex Poems. The building also inspired the novelist P D James when writing her novel The Black Tower.

Continue round and down the steps where there is a good view of Kimmeridge Bay and beyond. The cliffs are famous for the fossils found in the alternate layers of limestone and clay. This is a very popular location with educational groups of all ages. In the past locals used to gather bituminous shale from the shore for extra fuel in winter. Reportedly, “Kimmeridge Coal” has an acrid and pungent smell when burnt.

Look out for the wild cabbage that grows here, it is the ancestor of modern cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Unusually, due to its position, Kimmeridge Bay has two low tides each day.

Photos show: Looking eastwards near Chapman's Pool; Swyre Head; the path near Kimmeridge Ledges; Clavell Tower; Kimmeridge Bay.