It serves me right for complaining about the weather earlier – these last few days have been scorching! At least, that was until there was a massive thunderstorm on Friday night. The weekend was much cooler and greyer, not so good for photos but actually much more pleasant for walking.
Since my last blog entry I have spent a day and a half walking the length of Chesil Beach, an 18 mile long pebble and shingle bank which is one of the most outstanding features of this stretch of coastline. Large parts of the pebble bank and the lagoon behind it are a nature reserve, so the South West Coast Path mostly runs through fields next to the lagoon. Which is a great relief – the few short stretches which are actually on the pebbles are incredibly hard going!
Chesil Beach finally comes to an end at the Isle of Portland, famous for its quarried limestone. As it is not a true island, being linked to the mainland by Chesil Beach, it is part of the Coast Path and should be walked to get the full completist tick of the route. I had no idea what it would be like – after all, in its small area it has huge quarries, a prison, a young offenders’ institute and several sites owned by the Ministry of Defence, so my expectations were low. But it has some beautiful places too, stunning cliffs, a huge lighthouse at Portland Bill, and I even found one of my best wild camping spots ever, on some low cliffs below the ruins of a 14th century castle.
Then it was back to the mainland for a sweltering hot, ice-cream fuelled plod along the promenade at Weymouth, another classic English seaside resort. Nice in its own way, but over the weekend it was absolutely wonderful to get back onto high cliffs again, and traverse the Lulworth Ranges and Kimmeridge Ledges. I have no idea how many metres I’ve climbed in total, but my knees tell me it was a lot. My guide book describes it as a “monstrous rollercoaster” which seems a little harsh. I thought it was great. I’m afraid my photos don’t really do it justice, as the weather was grey and misty, and there weren’t many objects around to give an idea of scale! As this whole area is owned by the Ministry of Defence, there is only occasional access for the public, and the path is sandwiched between the no-go area of a military firing range and the towering cliffs. So it feels quite isolated and wild, an amazing place to visit, and a sharp contrast to my idea of Dorset as a place of gentle green hills and quaint villages.
So here are some photos, I hope you enjoy them.