81b – Ringstead Bay to Weymouth

Having been lost in the loneliness above Ringstead Bay, it was with some relief that we found the coast again.  Desperately behind schedule, we marched off through Osmington Mills and on to Weymouth. At Osmington Mills we passed by the Smuggler’s Inn.

5 - Smugglers Inn, Osmington MillsEmmanuel Charles was the landlord of the inn in the 1840’s; he was also the ringleader of one of the most notorious local smuggling rings in the area.  HM Customs recorded that within his extended family there were at least 27 convicted smugglers.  Charles himself is said to have made a significant amount of money through his smuggling operations, although by 1851 he had lost it all and he died in poverty.

We strode on, eventually reaching Bowleaze Cove at the very far eastern point of Weymouth Bay.  The artist John Constable came here on his honeymoon in October 1816.  He the view from here and his picture now hangs in the National Gallery.

Fantasy Island Fun Park suggested that all sorts of thrills and fun could be found here.  The two solitary figures huddled underneath its walls with their ineffectual windbreak suggested otherwise!  Perhaps it was a bit early in the morning.

Bowleaze CoveWe were more interested in the small jetty and the views it offered towards Portland, which was our destination for today.

Jetty at Bowleaze CoveWe continued our walk into Weymouth, enjoying the sound of the waves lapping at the beach after so many miles of walking up and down cliffs.

Selfie at Bowleaze CoveWeymouth, of course, is still on the Jurassic Coast, and we were reminded of this by the many stone benches that lined the seafront which were as much fossil as they were stone.

Fossil Bench on the Promenade into Weymouth with insert close upAs we approached Weymouth we were able to see Nothe Fort.

Nothe FortWe had visited here in 2011, so would not be stopping again today.  Originally built in 1860-1872 to defend Portland Harbour, like so many forts it never actually saw any action.  It was abandoned in the 1950’s and is now a museum.

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

  • Smugglers Inn, Osmington Mills: N 50° 38.085 W 002° 22.506
  • Bowleaze Cove: N 50° 38.175 W 002° 25.280
  • Nothe Fort:  N 50° 36.450 W 002° 26.625

Walk #81 Statistics (of which this post forms the second part):

Map

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81a – Trying to get back to Ringstead Bay

Today was our big day.  We were down at the coast for three days, but our first and last days also included travel back to London.  As such, we could only walk for half of those days.  In this, our middle day, we wanted to put some miles in and get to Portland.

It didn’t quite go to plan at first.

The day before we had finished at a car park with the intention of starting today’s walk from the same place.  When we got there, however, we realised we had to pay the parking charge at a small shop selling beach accoutrements and ice cream.  It was 7:00 am; the shop wasn’t open.  We had no choice but to drive about two-thirds of a mile inland and park at a larger, free, car park.

It was a beautiful day as we started our walk.  Chesil Beach sat stretched out in the distance with our prize sat at its far end.  We started out, striding purposefully towards our goal.

Looking from Ringstead to PortlandAlmost immediately we got lost.  Our map was clear, but the terrain didn’t seem to match it.  I checked our GPS.  It matched neither the terrain nor the map.  We hadn’t even started and were lost already!  Although we were headed west I saw a promising path leading back east, and both our map and GPS agreed that this led to a track which would take us straight to the coastline.  We followed this track off into a meadow.  There was knee-high grass all around us, but our track cut through this, almost as if a lawnmower had been through.

So far so good, but soon we were lost in a maze of criss-crossing lawnmower tracks, going off at any and all angles through the grass.  We tried to follow our map and GPS as best we could, but nothing tallied with the paths we met.  Eventually we gave up and turned due south, following our noses and hoping they would take us to the coast.  Every now and again we would take a track that led to a dead-end and would have to double back.  Soon we reached a better tended area – this must be the way!  We carried on, Deb exclaiming how beautiful it was.

Steps had been cut into the gentle grass banks, and we arrived at a peaceful glade which had been cut into a small meadow of wild grasses and flowers.  A bench sat here.  There was no view to the sea.  It was simply a lovely place to sit and reflect.

Private Garden at RingsteadIt was a good thing we had started out early today, for we had inadvertently wandered into someone’s back garden.  Just beyond the bench was an isolated house with a car in its driveway.  We hurried back, quickly retracing our steps and diverting ourselves around the house before we were discovered.  All of a sudden we hit a track which tallied with both our map and GPS – we were found again!

By the time we reached the coast we had already walked nearly two miles.

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

  • Closed Car Park: N 50° 37.970 W 002° 21.170
  • Inland Car Park: N 50° 38.473 W 002° 20.580N 50° 38.473 W 002° 20.580
  • Private House:  N 50° 38.240 W 002° 20.320

Walk #81 Statistics (of which this post forms the first part):

Map

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80e – Bat’s Head to Ringstead Bay

After the thronging tourist traps of Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, the path from Bat’s Head to Ringstead Bay is marvellously unpopulated.  Undulating and never boring, it was a relief to get away from the crowds and find a bit of solitude with nobody but the wind for company.

Looking back from White NotheLooking forward, we could at last get a good view towards the looming hulk of Portland, which we expected to reach after another day’s walk.

PortlandThe cliffs just before White Nothe looked a bit precarious, with one chalk buttress looking ready to peel away and join the rocks below.

Precarious looking Cliffs on the Approach to White NotheFurther on, we puzzled over this obelisk for quite a while:

Navigational Obelisk at West Bottom before White NotheIt had no dedication and no inscription, save for an abundance of scratched and chiseled graffiti.  It was marked on our map simply as a beacon, and so we had to give up and carry on.  The Power of Google later revealed that this was indeed a beacon – a navigational aid to shipping.

White Nothe itself is home to a small terrace of ex-coastguard cottages, sat at the top of cliffs and accessed via a dirt-track driveway over a mile long.  They are a long way from anything, except this structure which has now fallen into ruin.

White Nothe PillpostMost pillboxes tend to be of one type or another, but this one is unusual.  It is an original pillbox, but with a Royal Observer Corps Observation Post built on top.

We carried on down to Ringstead car park and our walk’s end, descending via Burning Cliff.  Burning Cliff got its name after a landslip in 1826 caused a spontaneous combustion as the oil shale in the ground caught fire and then smouldered for several years.

Burning Cliff

These natural events, such as those at Burning Cliff in 1826, are known as pyrolysis: the thermal decomposition of organic material at high temperatures and in the absence of oxygen.  This part of the coastline is made of Kimmeridge oil shale, which is 70% organic material and so which burns easily when it is fractured in landslips (this is effectively natural “fracking” – the release of organic material by the fracturing of the rock).  The post-landslip fires occur underground where there is no oxygen and temperatures can reach up to 500° Celcius.  The burn is a slow one, hence the reason Burning Cliff smouldered its oily, sulfurous fumes for several years.

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

  • Shipping Beacon: N 50° 37.649 W 002° 18.577
  • White Nothe Cliffs: N 50° 37.575 W 002° 19.150
  • White Nothe Cottages: N 50° 37.669 W 002° 19.385
  • Pillbox/Observation Post: N 50° 37.611 W 002° 19.393
  • Burning Cliff:  N 50° 37.999 W 002° 20.350

Walk #80 Statistics (of which this post forms the final part):

Map

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80d – Durdle Door to Bat’s Head

The natural sea arch of Durdle Door stretches its arm parallel to the coastline, pointing out the line of old cliffs which once stood tall but were broken by the steady but persuasive action of the sea.  You can follow this line and discern darker shades of blue beneath the water.  These show the rocky line of the cliff base, now submerged and drowned.

Durdle DoorThere are a number of places where the teeth of the old cliff bases struggle to retain a presence above the sea’s surface.  These rocks poke up defiantly above the waves; in one sense they seem a vanguard to what lies beneath, but in reality they are the dying remains of a crumbled past.  They are called The Bull; The Cow; The Blind Cow; and The Calf.  They form a line between Durdle Door and Bat’s Head, just over half a mile to the west.  Here is the lonely Bull:

The BullBat’s Head itself is a sharp chalk promontory, poking out into the sea.  It too has a natural sea arch, Bat’s Hole, although compared to Durdle Door this arch is a baby, suckling at the sea which passes through it.  Standing just to the east of Bat’s Hole is another geological feature – a chalk stack known as Butter Rock (for a description of how these stacks are formed see my post on Old Harry Rocks).

Bat's Head and Bat's HoleThe cliffs between Durdle Door and Bat’s Head rise and fall in unforgiving gradients, but the scenery took our minds off the climbs.  At one point a Portland Coastguard helicopter flew by us.

Portland Coastguard HelicopterWe watched it as it circled what appeared to be Stair Hole, stopping to hover every now and again in more or less exactly the same spot.  All of a sudden, something was lowered out of the door.  Was it a person?  A stretcher?  We couldn’t tell.  I tried to see through my zoom lens, and managed to take a photo before the helicopter was lost from view as it descended behind the cliffs.  It was a stretcher, surely?

Portland Rescue HelicopterAn hour or so before we had been at that very spot.  There were a group of people getting changed into wetsuits who I thought at the time might be preparing to go coasteering.  Had one of them gotten into trouble?

A little while later the helicopter rose from behind the cliffs and headed off east and inland.

After we finished our walk we scoured local news boards outside newsagents, looking for headlines about dramatic rescues.  There were none.  I even stopped at a newsagent to see if there was a local evening paper which mentioned something.  Nothing.  When we got home we searched the internet, including the Portland Coastguard site.  Again, we found nothing.  Perhaps it was only an exercise.

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

  • Durdle Door:  N 50° 37.270 W 002° 16.620
  • Bat’s Head:  N 50° 37.360 W 002° 17.462
  • Butter Rock:  N 50° 37.356 W 002° 17.373
  • The Bull:  N 50° 37.260 W 002° 16.806
  • The Cow:  N 50° 37.269 W 002° 17.503
  • The Calf:  N 50° 37.260 W 002° 17.630
  • Stair Hole:  N 50° 37.070 W 002° 15.140

Walk #80 Statistics (of which this post forms the fourth part):

Map

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80c – Lulworth to Durdle Door

On the Dorset coast, in the space of only a mile, it is possible to see a fantastic series of coastal features demonstrating how coves are formed.

As we walked out of Lulworth and up Hanbury Tout we enjoyed good views back to Lulworth Cove.

Looking Back to LulworthLulworth Cove is the mature “finished product” (not that anything geological can truly be called “finished”).  Many years ago a river channeled through the hard rock of the coastline to reach the sea.  The sea forced its way through that breach, and wore out the softer clays behind to form a mature cove.

Right next to Lulworth Cove is Stair Hole, which is a cove in-the-making: not mature, but perhaps adolescent.

Stair HoleThe sea has found its way in through the harder rock, and is now beginning to channel out the softer rock behind.  The harder barrier fronting the sea has not completely abandoned the fight and continues to put up a defence, but the sea is wearing it down.  Several caves and sea arches have formed and eventually the entire band will give way.

A mile further west is Man O’War Cove which, compared to Lulworth Cove and Stair Hole, could be considered middle-aged.

Man O War CoveThe harder rock has fallen and the sea has won the battle.  A narrow foundation of linear rocks stands out to sea, marking the line of the old coast where the struggle was fought.

At the end of this post are a series of co-ordinates which can be copied and pasted into Google Earth.  This will show a satellite view of Lulworth Cove, Stair Hole and Man O’War Cove.

At Man O’War Cove there are more impressive sections of folded rock strata, although they are not as impressive as the Lulworth Crumple one mile back in the direction from where we had come.  Can you see them?  Just to the left of the path?

Man O War CoveIt is quite an impressive headland, don’t you think?  One of the best parts of this stretch of coastline, and one of the main draws that attracts some 750,000 tourists here each year, is what lies behind it – Durdle Door.

Durdle DoorDurdle Door is a huge natural limestone arch.  The name “Durdle” comes from the Old English word “thirl”, meaning a bore or drill; according to the Jurassic Coast Trust the name suggests the arch has stood for at least 800 to 1,000 years.

If you look closely in the rock above the arch it is possible to make out a number of large holes.  These are the fossilised remains showing where Cycad tress once grew, 147 million years ago.  The hole shown inset in the next photo stands above the arch at approximately 11 o’clock.  If you look closely (double-click on the photo to enlarge it) other fossilised holes can be seen.

Durdle Door with Close-Up of Cycad Tree HolesPoints on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Lulworth Crumple:  N 50° 37.065 W 002° 15.090
  • Stair Hole:  N 50° 37.070 W 002° 15.140
  • Man O’War Cove:  N 50° 37.300 W 002° 16.380
  • Durdle Door:  N 50° 37.270 W 002° 16.620

Walk #80 Statistics (of which this post forms the third part):

Map

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80b – Leaving Lulworth

The path heading west out of Lulworth diverts inland slightly, leading up in a shallow arc to reach Hanbury Tout 440 feet above sea level.  It then leads back down to rejoin the coast again half a mile or so later.  Here we are, at the foot of Hanbury Tout:

The Path out of LulworthI say “we”, but you will see that there is only Deb in this picture.  I am taking it and that makes two.

Ben and Catherine, however, are conspicuous in their absence.

This is because after walking from Southend-on-Sea to Lulworth, across some 6 counties and 670 miles, they have decided to hang their boots up and say “enough”.

We had seen this coming for some time.  When we first started this undertaking they were 8 years old.  We were not naive and realised that they wouldn’t be with us all the way.  As they grew in age we saw the moment of their departure loom closer and closer.

Who can blame them?  At age 13 walking the coast of Britain is not at the top of their priorities.  Nor would it have been at the top of mine at that age.  We had seen the crunch point coming for about a year.  As we got further and further away from home, with longer and longer journey times, we saw less and less desire in their eyes and less and less committment in their hearts.

As I say, we anticipated this.  At age 13 they have their whole lives ahead of them.  They have school, and homework, and growing up, and finding a career, and falling in love, and finding themselves to do.  That’s a huge amount to be getting on with.  Why walk the coast of Britain on top of all that?  What’s the point?  It’s all a bit too much.

The point for Deb and I, of course, is to want the very opposite of “too much”.  We have “too much” already in our day-to-day lives.  The point is to do less in life and in so doing get more out of it.  But why should our 13-year old children be expected to know that yet?  At 13 they haven’t even started to want the “more” out of life yet, yet alone the “less”!  Give them until their 40th birthday and they may suddenly realise that the “more” they want is best achieved by concentrating on the “less”.

But for now, as is only right, they no longer want to go on their parents’ mad-cap walk around the coast of Britain  They will continue to join us from time to time, but our Coastal Clan has now slimmed down to a hardcore of two.

I really am proud that, at by age 13, they have walked 670 miles in a continuous line around the coast of this country.  When they have told their teachers they have generally been met with reactions of awe, incredulity, and yes – respect.  The meaning of those reactions have gone a little over their heads at this age, but I hope in years to come they will realise the value of them.

This is the first photo I ever took of their particular Coastal Path, at the Broomway in Essex, on 9 October 2011.  Two diddy children, dressed in whatever casual clothing we could find in their wardrobes to make the walk as comfortable as possible.

BroomwayAnd here is the last picture, taken on 23 May 2015.  Two rather taller, hardened walkers, clad in walkers’ gear, capable of walking the entire country, although they do not realise it yet.  Maybe they’ll finish it one day.

Entering the Lulworth Range Walks

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

  • The Foot of Hanbury Tout:  N 50° 37.242 W 002° 15.330

Walk #80 Statistics (of which this post forms the second part):

Map

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80a – Lulworth

The Lulworth Crumple – a strange name, don’t you think?  It is a peculiar name.  Before we got to see it there were many theories as to what it might be in our household.  What was it, this Lulworth Crumple?

Something you do after a long, hard walk through the Lulworth Ranges?

A locally-made cider of particular potency?

A Dorset dance?

No!

The Lulworth Crumple is one of the finest geological examples of its type in the world, and is quite simply spectacular.  Here it is (you can click on the photo to enlarge it, and this is really is recommended as only by doing this do you really get a good idea of the scale of it):

Lulworth CrumpleThe Lulworth Crumple is the result of a minor prang some 30 million years ago, when Africa collided with Europe.  It was at this time that a mountain-building period occurred and the Alps were formed.  The pressure pushed all the way back here, folding the rock strata into the pattern we see today.

Lulworth is the perfect place to see this crumple, because its rock is of just the right sort to expose it.  The Lulworth Crumple is found at Stair Hole, about 150 metres to the west of Lulworth Cove.  Stair Hole is another Lulworth Cove in the making.  The sea has broken through the harder limestone rock and is now in the process of hollowing out the softer rock behind it.  The Lulworth Crumple has been exposed in the process.  You can see the caves and sea arches in the next photo, as the sea continues to wear its way through the harder rock.

Stair Hole and the Lulworth CrumpleThe Lulworth Crumple – amazing!  A lot of people visiting Lulworth Cove don’t actually go to Stair Hole, despite its proximity.  Don’t be one of those people!  It is well worth the effort of walking west 150 metres – that’s all it takes to get there from Lulworth Cove itself.

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

  • Lulworth Crumple:  N 50° 37.065 W 002° 15.090
  • Stair Hole:  N 50° 37.070 W 002° 15.140

Walk #80 Statistics (of which this post forms the first part):

Map

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