79f – Arish Mell to Lulworth

Arish Mell, a small beach and bay in the middle of MOD land in the Lulworth Ranges, is quiet and secluded.  This is due to its inaccessibility – it can only be reached when the range walks are open, and then only by walking just under two miles.  The effort, though, is surely worth it.

Arish MellWe climbed the cliff path from Arish Mell, crossed the clifftop whilst trying to swat away the plague of early summer flies, and then dropped down into Mupe Bay.

 Mupe BayMupe Bay also lies within the Lulworth Ranges on MOD land, and being a mile walk from Lulworth Cove is almost as inaccessible as Arish Mell, at least to those lugging heavy beach accoutrements with them.  We discovered that visitors to the bay all came via boat.  There were some very expensive looking yachts moored just off the shore.  It felt more like Monaco than Mupe.

Mupe BayBeyond Mupe Bay we climbed steadily again, reaching the “Fossil Forest”, where fossilised tree stumps stand proud of their rocky outcrop.

Fossil ForestActually, to say these are fossilised tree trunks is not quite true; the story is slightly more complex than that.

Many millions of years ago, Purbeck was covered by the sea, but about 144 million years ago the sea level dropped.  A series of islands was uncovered and they became surrounded by lagoons and channels.  Soil formed and over time the area became a massive tropical forest, with giant cypress trees, monkey puzzles and ferns.  The forest didn’t survive, however.  It was eventually flooded by a shallow salt water lagoon and a thick layer of algae formed.  This covered the forest floor and crept up the bases of the trees.  Sediment in the water stuck to this algae, creating large cylindrical burrs around the tree bases.  The trees died in the salty surroundings and their wood disintegrated, but the burrs were made of sterner stuff.  They remained as lumps on the ground, with hollow centres where the tree trunks had been.  They now provide the most complete fossil record of a Jurassic forest anywhere in the world.

Fossil ForestJust after the Fossil Forest we reached Lulworth Cove, marking the end of our walk (and indeed the far end of the Lulworth Range Walks).  Lulworth Cove is perfect scallop-shaped bay and a famous tourist attraction.  It was formed by a battle between water and earth.  At Lulworth Cove a large bastion of limestone rock fronts the coastline, protecting the softer clays behind it.  At some stage a stream channelled its way through the limestone, flowing out into the sea and slowly eroding the rock to form a small valley.  As the valley became larger it was eventually breached by the sea, which made its way passed the limestone and started eroding the clays behind, hollowing out the cove.

Lulworth CoveMay years ago, when our children were little, we had a week’s holiday in Weymouth with my wife’s parents.  We decided to take the kids to Lulworth Cove and go fossil hunting.  There aren’t many fossils to be found at Lulworth as far as I know, except for Fossil Forest of course, but those fossils are a little big to pick up and cart off, and the authorities certainly wouldn’t thank you for trying.

My wife’s father was ill and couldn’t come with us to Lulworth, but he was very excited for the children.  He went to a local shop and bought some gemstones, giving them to my wife on the morning of my trip.  Later in the day we combed the shingle for fossils.  We were there for quite some time.  I found nothing and the kids found nothing, but every now and again my wife shouted in glee – a gemstone!  These things were incredible and the kids were amazed.  They had been so highly polished by the sea that it was as if they were shop-bought, and incredibly my wife found them in pairs – one for each child.

When we got back my father-in-law asked how the trip had gone.  “Oh it was great,” my daughter said.  “Dad was really bad at finding fossils but mum found loads!”.

A few years alter the kids discovered the truth behind this event.  I thought that would restore my reputation, but the idea has stuck.  I am still known as the worst fossil finder in our house, and my wife the best.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Arish Mell:  N 50° 37.350 W 002° 12.450
  • Mupe Bay:  N 50° 37.125 W 002° 13.350
  • Fossil Forest:  N 50° 36.975 W 002° 14.400
  • Lulworth Cove:  N 50° 37.100 W 002° 14.825

Walk #79 Statistics (of which this post forms the final part):


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79e – Worbarrow to Arish Mell

From Worbarrow Tout the Coastal Path climbs west, up the cliffs overlooking Worbarrow Bay, and then descends back down to skirt along the southern boundary of Bindon Range, one of the principle firing ranges of the Lulworth Rages and practice area of the Royal Armoured Corps Gunnery School.

Cliffs above Worbarrow BayAt the top of the cliffs overlooking Worbarrow Bay is the summit of Rings Hill and Flower’s Barrow, a 2,500 year old Iron Age hill fort.  Its clifftop situation may have meant it played a defensive role, but it may have simply been a settlement; nobody knows for sure.  Easily seen on satellite photos (co-ordinates for Google Earth can be found at the end of this post), it is more difficult to spot on the ground.  Its existence is signified by a series of earthen ramparts, but unless you know what you are looking for it is easy to miss.  You can tell where the rampart is by the line of gorse in this next photo.

Flower's BarrowGiven its clifftop position it is not altogether surprising that only two thirds of the original fort stands today.  The rest has fallen into the sea as the cliffs recede.  In this next photo, to the far right hand side, the footpath lies on top of the rampart but the rampart itself disappears at the cliff edge (click the photo to enlarge it).

Flower's Barrow and Receding CliffFrom Flower’s Barrow the Coastal Path leads down to Arish Mell, a small and secluded bay and beach.  This marks the start of my favourite section of the Range Walks, featuring dramatic geology and a landscape strewn with military vehicles used as target practice.

Lulworth Range TargetsI don’t know what happens to the cows on firing days, but it struck me that they wouldn’t last long in their present position.

IMG_2865And the geology?  It is as if the cliffs beyond Arish Mell have been grabbed by a giant and wrenched upwards.

Arish Mell and BeyondI was looking forward to this next section of the walk.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Worbarrow Bay:  N 50° 37.100 W 002° 11.250
  • Worbarrow Tout:  N 50° 36.950 W 002° 11.189
  • Flower’s Barrow:  N 50° 37.500 W 002° 11.650
  • Arish Mell:  N 50° 37.350 W 002° 12.450
  • Range Vehicles:  N 50° 37.420 W 002° 12.700

Walk #79 Statistics (of which this post forms the fifth part):


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79d – The Lost Village of Tyneham to Worbarrow

There is more than one route out of Tyneham to get back to the coast.  The easiest is the flat route, heading west along a made-up track to Worbarrow Bay.  We could have taken this path, and I saw my son looking down it with a certain longing.  It was not for us, however.  We had to head due south and climb back up to the top of Gad Cliff, to the same point we had left a couple of hours earlier for our inland detour.

Once we had returned to our vantage point we then set off west and down to Worbarrow Bay.  My son reminded me on more than one occasion that we could have taken the easier path; I reminded him more than once that when you walk the coast of Britain you do actually have to follow the coast.  I am rather pernickety about such things.

Worbarrow BayWhat I liked best about Worbarrow Bay is Worbarrow Tout.  It is a promontory of high land (the word tout comes from the Middle English word tuten, meaning to look out, or peer) which was once part of Gad Cliff before becoming separated from it by erosion.

In fact, the best views of Worbarrow Tout are from the cliffs above Worbarrow Bay, to the west of where we were.

Worbarrow ToutWorbarrow Tout is only a short climb, and worth it for the views.  In the far distance, on the horizon, we could see the Isle of Portland.

Catherine on top of Worbarrow ToutOpposite Worbarrow Tout, looking back east, is Pondfield Cove.  The strata in the rock here angle upwards steeply, along with much of the Jurassic Coast.

Pondfield CoveThis sharp upward trend is a result of the African and European continents colliding some 30 million years ago, causing the rock to fold and push upwards.  This upward movement has exposed rock formed over literally millions of years.  The cliffs shown in these few photos alone span some 75 million years worth of formation.

Pondfield Cove was formed when the sea eroded through the stronger Portland Stone, reaching the softer Purbeck beds of clay and limestone behind.  These eroded more quickly, widening out to form the cove itself.

Pondfield CoveWe stopped for a spot of lunch at the base of Worbarrow Tout.  Near our picnic spot we found this:

Allen Williams Turret at Worbarrow BayWhat was it?  The rusted shell of a Second World War mine, hauled out of the sea?  No!  We guessed its age, but not its purpose.  This was the turret of an Allen-Williams pillbox.  A steel and brick pit would be dug into the ground and topped with this metal turret.  The pillbox could take a “garrison” of two or three men, and the turret swiveled through 360°.  The turret had a front loophole and also a top window, allowing a machine gun to cover the entire area.  According to the manufacturer, four men could dig the hole and erect it within two hours.  It would take 30 minutes to remove completely.  According to Wikipedia almost 200 of these were manufactured, but only 33 remain today.  This was one of them.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Worbarrow Bay:  N 50° 37.100 W 002° 11.250
  • Worbarrow Tout:  N 50° 36.950 W 002° 11.189
  • Pondfield Cove:  N 50° 36.937 W 002° 10.985

Walk #79 Statistics (of which this post forms the fourth part):


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79c – The Lost Village of Tyneham

Tyneham Village stands in a quiet valley in south Dorset.  Quiet, that is, when the Ministry of Defence are not firing salvos of various ordnance over its head, because Tyneham sits slap bang in the middle of 11 square miles of firing range.

It wasn’t always like this; Tyneham was a casualty of war.  In November 1943 its inhabitants received notice that the land was required for forces’ training.  They were given 28 days to leave.  A total of 225 people vacated the village under a veil of secrecy.  An increase in local adverts was the only hint that something was going on – farmers had to advertise to sell their livestock and machinery.  By 17 December 1943 the villagers had gone.

The military moved in.  By Spring 1944 the area was a massive camp in preparation for the D-Day landings.

It is said that the last person to leave posted a note on the village’s church door:

“Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes, where many of us lived for generations, to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly”.

The inhabitants never did return.  In 1948 the village was compulsorily purchased; it has been deserted ever since.

Part of the village is in ruins, although there is a pristinely refurbished telephone box.  It stands incongruously by a row of cottages, looking so out of place it reminded me of the Tardis, set down in a post-apocalyptic English countryside.

Tyneham Village

The telephone box isn’t the only well-kept building in the village.  The farm has been restored and the village church is in immaculate condition.  The MoD covenanted to maintain it as part of the purchase agreement.

The village schoolhouse is now a museum.  The clocks were suddenly stopped and time has stood still ever since.

Tyneham SchoolI found a wall by the farm buildings particularly interesting.  Artillery shells of various sizes and nationalities had been set into the mortar capping, many with their own little signs telling you where they had come from and why they were used.  Some were spent, their casings having been ripped to shreds on detonation.  Others were in-tact shell casings.

Tyneham Artillery ShellsWe could have spent a lot more time at Tyneham, but we had the coast of Britain to get round.  After an hour or so we headed back out of the village and south, back to the coast.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • The Lost Village of Tyneham:  N 50° 37.390 W 002° 10.150

Walk #79 Statistics (of which this post forms the third part):


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79b – Kimmeridge to the Lost Village of Tyneham

Gad Cliff stands just over a mile to the west of Kimmeridge.  It is an impressive and beautiful line of rock faces peering south across the mouth of the English Channel.

Gad CliffI say that the faces peer, but they don’t.  The linear rock strata look like bandages across their eyes, binding them as if a punishment for some ancient wrongdoing.  They are all blinded to the view, all save for one, at the eastern end of the cliff.  It’s eyes stare and its mouth gapes.

Gad CliffBelow Gad Cliff lies Brandy Bay, which was given its name thanks to the smuggling activities that took place here in the 17th and 18th Centuries.  Brandy Bay is made up of similar ledges to those we saw in Kimmeridge, although they were submerged by the high tide as we passed by.

Brandy BayWe climbed up Gad Cliff and walked along its top.  Just inland, in the valley to our north, we saw a small cluster of buildings: the Lost Village of Tyneham.  We rarely head inland on our walks (there is simply no time if we want to get round the whole country), but on this occasion it was time to detour.

The Lost Village of Tyneham

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Gad Cliff:  N 50° 36.950 W 002° 10.200
  • Brandy Bay:  N 50° 36.750 W 002° 09.500
  • The Lost Village of Tyneham:  N 50° 37.390 W 002° 10.150

Walk #79 Statistics (of which this post forms the second part):


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79a – Kimmeridge

The Type 25 Pillbox at Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset is a tiny defensive structure, with an internal diameter of only 6 feet.  I cannot imagine how it must have felt to climb through the tiny door into the tiny structure and stare out of the tiny window on a dark and quiet night in search of a massive invasion fleet on the horizon.  The people who had to stand guard in this pillbox must have been very relieved that invasion didn’t come.

The pillbox today is said to be making its way slowly, slowly down the beach, towards its watery grave.  I doubt they’ll let it get that far; it’s something of a local landmark.

Type 25 Pillbox at Kimmeridge BayKimmeridge is an oil-rich community!  Everyone has heard of North Sea Oil, but what about Kimmeridge Oil?  Oil has been extracted here for hundreds of years.  The oil-permeated shale here was mined as long ago as the Neolithic period (that’s around 4,500 to 6,000 years ago), but by 1858 attention had turned specifically to the oil and gas in the rock.  In 1858 Kimmeridge oil was being extracted at a rate of 50 tonnes a month and its gas was being used to light the streets of Paris.  Today, a sole nodding donkey continues to extract 80 barrels (that’s 12,720 litres) of oil a day.

8 - Kimmeridge Wellsite Nodding DonkeyJust beyond the Kimmeridge Wellsite we found ourselves at the entrance to the Lulworth Range Walks.  This is Ministry of Defence land and is closed off most weekdays, although open most weekends and holidays.  We had to time our trip down here to coincide with the opening hours; to find the Range Walks closed and to circumnavigate would have taken us on an inland detour of about 10 miles.  No thanks!

Entering the Lulworth Range WalksApart from all of the unexploded ordnance lying around the Range Walks there were other, larger, smellier dangers to be wary of.  And they were right in our path.

Cows just inside the Lulworth Range WalksWe have had our fair share of experiences with cows whilst walking the coast of Britain.  Some have ignored us with apathetic disdain.  Others have taken individual (or worse, collective) action against us.  On a couple of occasions we have found ourselves being herded out of a field like…well…cattle.

We saw these cows had calves with them.  Would this make them more aggreesive in their defence of their young?  They eyed us and we eyed them.  They didn’t move, but rather dared us to cross the cattle-gate and make our approach.  We had little choice but to submit to the situation.  We made our way across and skirted around the edge of the path, keeping our distance, ready for evasive action if required.  The cows turned out to be the disdainful type and roundly ignored us.

Some walkers behind us decided not to cross the cattle-gate, but rather wait the cows out.  Some half mile later I looked back.  The cows hadn’t moved.  Nor had the walkers.

Once through the cows the wildlife became altogether more appealing and fluffy.  Aww, look!

Sheep in the Lulworth Range WalksIt is surprising that something as fluffy and lovely as that can live in the middle of this:

Danger Sign in the Lulworth Range WalksI wonder if the unexploded debris had anything to do with this, which we found a few minutes later?

Carcass by CrowProbably not, but you never know…

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Type 25 Pill Box:  N 50° 36.701 W 002° 07.881
  • Kimmeridge Wellsite:  N 50° 36.790 W 002° 08.170
  • Entrance to Lulworth Range Walks:  N 50° 36.769 W 002° 08.226
  • Disdainful Cows:  N 50° 36.672 W 002° 08.363

Walk #79 Statistics (of which this post forms the first part):


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The Coastal Path in Malta

In April this year we went off to Malta and experienced some coastal walking there.  We were told Malta is a “marmite country” – you either love it or you hate it.  I loved it!

Early morning was a good time to start, I discovered.  Most days I got up at 6:30 am to watch the sunrise.  The sun started off blood-red as it crept over the horizon, gaining colour as it rose.  As it cleared the water, it seemed to almost drip back into the sea as it melted in its own warmth.

Sunrise over MelliehaSoon enough it was clear of ther water, rising with an almost visible speed and warming everything up.  I suddenly realised that I would be carrying my fleece rather than wearing it.

Sunrise over MelliehaThe Maltese coastline is spectacular.  We didn’t walk through much of it, but what little we did shows what is on offer.

Wave cut platforms in Qammieh…

Wave Cut Platform and Boulders at Qammieh

Wave Cut Platform at Qammieh…with boulders as big as houses littered across the shoreline.

Qammieh Wave Cut Platform and BoulderWe could hardly fit the biggest boulders in our camera frame, but they made for some interesting climbing.

Climbing a Giant Boulder at QammiehWe walked around the capital city of Valletta, with coastline paths in front of the city walls hewn out of the rock.

Valletta CoastlineMalta suffered particularly badly during World War Two; fortifications in the city walls were still very much in evidence.

Fortification at VallettaSea arches seemed to be everywhere, but the most impressive was the Azure Window on Gozo, the second largest island.  You can see the scale of it by the size of the boat in the next photo.

Azure WindowThey say the Azure Window will only last another few years; it is in imminent danger of collapse as the sea wears away its base.

You can take a boat trip out to see it from Dwerja (the “Inland Sea”) a small lagoon a couple of hundred metres away, which was formed when water flooded in through a 100 foot long cave.  Local fishermen operate small boats, taking tourists through the cave and out to the Azure Window.

The Inland SeaWe also visited Comino, the third largest of the islands.  Large ships do not visit here and there are no roads.  Comino is best known for its Blue Lagoon, where boats seem to float on air instead of water.

The Blue LagoonDon’t swim too far towards the entrance of the lagoon, though.  There are strong currents and a few weeks after we were here two British holidaymakers were drowned.

Comino is heaving at the popular tourist spots, but otherwise virtually deserted.  We walked around half of the island, finding only one house and a tiny graveyard during our travels.  We also found this strange small hut on the southern shoreline.  What it was I do not know.  Look – another sea arch in the background!

Hut at Southern Comino

Sea Arch on CominoComino had a lot of sea arches…

Comino Sea ArchI liked this one at the Blue Lagoon.

Sea Arch at the Blue LagoonWhere there are sea arches there are surely caves; we stopped off at the Ghar Hasan caves on the main island on our way back to the airport.

Entrance to Ghar Hasan Caves-1There is no real health and safety here.  No guards, gates, or warning signs to sully the spirit of adventure.  This was fresh nature, ready to be explored.  Well ok – there was that metal fence with a sign on it (you can see it in the background) which seemed to have been chucked up as a half-hearted gesture, but it was clear from the footprints that it was roundly ignored, and the passages leading off from the main cave before the fence were not barricaded at all.  Armed with only the torch on my phone we ventured in.

Ghar Hasan CavesAt first we could stand at full height, but as we got deeper inside the maze (and it was something of a maze in there) the ceilings got lower and lower and the atmosphere more and more clammy and muggy.  At one point we went down a tunnel that got smaller and smaller, until we could only creep through it by squatting like cave frogs.  Of the three of us only I had a torch, so we made our way through the claustrophobic squeeze whilst fighting our own shadows.  As soon as one of us got in the way of the torch the others were plunged into darkness.  At one point we turned the torch out completely – it was pitch black.  The tunnel eventually petered out into nothing; we had to retreat and take another branch.  You can just see the kids in the background of this next picture.

Ghar Hasan CavesWe didn’t have time to explore the caves in full.  We probably saw about 300 metres of them but I suspect they go much further than that.  But we had a plane to catch, so made our way back to emerge into the bright light of day drenched in sweat and dirt (the airline staff must have been overjoyed to see us).

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Big Boulder at Qammieh Wave Cut Platform:  N 35° 58.137 E 014° 19.420
  • Valletta City Walls:  N 35° 54.165 E 014° 31.220
  • The Azure Window:  N 36° 03.210 E 014° 11.300
  • Dwerja:  N 36° 03.230 E 014° 11.470
  • The Blue Lagoon:  N 36° 00.830 E 014° 19.420
  • Strange Hut on Comino:  N 36° 00.380 E 014° 20.688
  • Ghar Hasan Caves:  N 35° 48.406 E 014° 31.084

Trip Statistics:

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