Hopefully everyone’s happy to brush over the (ahem) taxi from the Square and Compass to our hotel in Swanage and we can carry on. It’s probably worth apologising to the lovely taxi driver (Emerald taxis) for muddying up the back of his car, and to Purbeck House Hotel for washing about 6 stone of mud from our trousers into their shower. In good news the hotel shower was easily up to the job and we got the room nice and toasty so within an hour or so Felix and I felt able to tuck into a great meal at Tawny’s just down the road.
Another early night and a fun breakfast of boiled eggs and soldiers had us raring to go on Sunday morning. My Dad and Wendy met us after breakfast and walked with us from Swanage to Studland before circling back. The walk along the sea front was a lovely start, although the tide was right in so we had to dodge the sea spray from the waves. The path then runs inland and through some housing before climbing up out of Swanage towards the famous Old Harry rocks.
The morning sky was as clear as the two previous days but we were treated to a chilly breeze coming straight off the sea – the wind is something I miss so I was quite happy to find one side of my face numbing up nicely! It wasn’t long before we caught sight of some rocks and a view over to Poole and Bournemouth:
It is a shameful admission but in all the years I lived in Weymouth I don’t remember ever visiting this bit of the country. The cliffs are chalky white and it’s a sheer drop into the sea below. The Old Harry Rocks stand apart from the main cliffs and look as if they are wading out to the Isle of Wight clearly visible in the distance.
We continued around the coast to Studland where we left Dad and Wendy (and Milly) and carried on through the dunes and along Studland Bay. For a freezing cold day there was an impressive number of people walking off the Christmas excesses on the beach.
It is a gorgeous walk along the bay and around to Shell Bay (tiptoeing across a small lagoon) which is the end of the beautiful South West Coast Path. It was here that we met the ferry which took us across to the other side of Poole Harbour and saved a 25-mile detour. Bargain for the 90p fare!
The ferry arrives at Sandbanks which is the millionaire’s end of Poole. Felix, ever the fashionista decided that walking boots simply wouldn’t do in such a glamorous setting and slipped into something more comfortable – her MBTs. Out of sympathy/chivalry I tied her boots to my rucksack and spent the last few miles getting gently kicked in the arse.
In truth the last few miles from Poole to Bournemouth were a bit of a slog – flat ground, sea to the right, Bournemouth pier in the distance never seeing to get closer. Plus it turns out that Felix isn’t as fond of the sea breeze as I am so she was fully zipped and hooded and muttering terrible incantations at any runners who crossed her path. So not much variety and an inexplicable lack of pubs and restaurants along the way. Fortunately we were saved by a proper seaside hot dog and chips within throwing distance of the pier and our spirits lifted tremendously.
It was a wonderful 3 days all told but I’m not sure we’ve got the route finalised at all. The Lulworth-Worth Matravers route is beautiful but very hard work and I think Dad’s alternative route warrants some investigation. I’m also not very happy with the Poole-Bournemouth leg of the walk, and I’m wondering if we can’t cut up maybe as early as Wareham and across into the New Forest. Definitely food for thought, and a great excuse for another night in the Square and Compass!