The first end-to-end test of the route is complete! Here are some stats:
Start: Weymouth, Dorset, 31st July 12:30
Finish: Stratford, east London, 10th August 18:38
Elapsed time: ten days six hours and eight minutes*
Number of pubs visited: 16
Fluffers (to keep me perky): 4 – Dad, Terry, Debbie and Dave
Blisters: 2 worth mentioning (left heel, right little toe)
Best kit award: Chocolate Fish base layer – incredible
Worst kit award: all my pants – things have to change
Unused kit in pack: 1 pair socks (wasn’t confident they’d be kind to feet); 1 Berghaus paclite (it only rained when I was walking and therefore too sweaty to benefit!); 1 supernoodles (beef); 1 Ainsley soup; 1 little gas canister (the other one is lasting for ever)
Most beautiful spot: tough choice, but I’m going for Swyre Head
Here are some photos from the journey, starting with Dorset:
Dad (and Milly his nutty Springer) joined me for the first bit of the walk across Bowleaze Cove in Weymouth and over the cliffs to Osmington and Ringstead. It was perfect walking weather and the ground much better than when Felix and I did this bit in January.
I left Dad at Ringstead and carried on over the steep cliffside to Bat Hole and Durdle Door, and on into Lulworth. Worth noting that the great campsite is not as far as Lulworth – I left it to Lulworth until checking the map! It’s about 20 mins from the campsite down to Durdle Door.
Bright and early (7:30) the following morning I was off across Lulworth Cove (walking round the beach, not over the hills – tiring lesson from January) and made time to scramble down amongst the Fossil Forest, which is amazing. I can’t explain the feeling of sitting on a Jurassic treestump, but it set my imagination on fire.
By far the hardest bit of the walk is between Lulworth and Worbarrow Bay – the climbs are incredibly steep but the views are sensational. In January Felix and I continued along the coast to Worth Matravers, but Dad and Wendy had told me of a higher, easier route slightly inland towards Kingston. It is definitely easier but stil has a good climb in it. Before the descent into Kingston you reach Swyre Head. This is *the* most stunning place on the walk in my view, and that is saying a lot. There is a burial mount at the top, and I think whoever is buried there picked well indeed.
Kingston is a pretty little village with a pub (The Scott Arms) that overlooks Corfe Castle. It is a great lunch spot – my advice is to dodge the food queue in the bar and visit the two Jamaican ladies selling jerk chicken instead – fantastic food in the most unexpected place.
The other legendary pub nearby is the Square and Compass at Worth Matravers, and I was delighted to be able to stop here for a pint before carrying onto Swanage.
Having survived a couple of cattle incidents including a very amorous bull blocking the gate, resulting in a cliff-edge diversion, I camped on the east side of Swanage.
The following morning I was breakfasting at Old Harry rocks and then strolling along the sandy beach at Studland. The far end of Studland is a nudist beach, and it was a bit busier than in January!
If you’ve been keeping tags on the route you’ll know that I didn’t really like the Poole-Bournemouth-Ringwood route, so this time I tried a different way, incorporating the Castleman trailway which allegedly runs from Poole to Ringwood. It requires a ferry into Poole Harbour (via Brownsea Island), and then a fairly noisy bit of walking by the harbour and the A35. You are rewarded at Upton however with a beautiful country park with a lovely teashop (mmmm apple pie)
From the country park you follow a shady path north alongside Upton Heath which is a nature reserve for about a mile where it bisects the Castleman trailway. I camped near here in a very friendly campsite, which gave me opportunity to stroll through the beatiful heathland.
As for the Castleman trailway – given that it is a disused railway line and therefore pretty straight, it takes a “special” kind of walker to get lost. That’ll be me then! My feeble defence is that the signs ran out at Wimborne and I couldn’t work out where to go. There is one OS map I didn’t buy because it had a tiny amount of my route on it – and this is the spot! Sods Law in full effect – I march off at almost exactly right-angles to the direction I needed, and about an hour or so later end up at a private girls school in Canford Magna. With the summer holidays sadly I wasn’t even greeted by private girls, but by a big-bellied man in gren overalls cleaning drains. Things got worse as I made a pitiful attempt to recover and ended up some time later being gently mocked by a few truckers and the owner of a layby burger van. Marvellous. On the plus side – MC Catering does an amazing bacon and egg roll, and thankfully the guys did point me in the right direction (flashback to me as a teenager “helpfully” directing holidaymakers around Weymouth!!)
I did eventually get back on track and rejoined the Castleman trailway in Ferndown. Even if I hadn’t got lost it would be a dull day’s walk so I am currently pondering a route from Corfe Castle.
Thankfully my friend Terry was patiently waiting for me at Ringwood and with my spirits lifted we set off for the New Forest. I’ll write about our adventures next…