My final challenge before my #50Challenges – Day 7


2017-09-10 10.50.52.jpgThere are ferocious winds and rain predicted from lunchtime, so, despite 18 ‘severe’ miles and a very late finish last night, we get going earlier than normal.  As our B&B host summarises: “My best advice to you today is to get going quickly and don’t hang around”.

From the village of Worth Matravers it’s a quick 1.25 miles down a stony track to rejoin the South West Coastal Path at Winspit.  As we head East towards our final destination, we are glad that we inadvertently did more miles than planned the day before; during the evening, the views had been bathed in gorgeous warm autumnal sunlight, but today we have relentless dull, grey skies.2017-09-10 11.58.49.jpg

It’s easy stomping along the low cliffs, punctuated by disused quarries, and we make swift progress – despite the claggy mud weighing us down in places – past the quirkily named Dancing Ledge and Blackers Hole to the lighthouse at Anvil Point.  Just round the headland are the Tilly Whim Caves, named because the quarried Purbeck stone was lowered by early cranes known as ‘whims’ into waiting boats.  Part of the Durlaston Estate, the path from the caves becomes more manicured and we begin to pass growing numbers of young families and people out for a Sunday day trip, rather than only occasional, determined ramblers.

2017-09-10 12.14.18The path round Durlaston Bay takes us between houses before sending us onto the grassy slopes that lead to Pevril Point, from where the Coastal Path becomes a tarmacked descent into Swanage.  There appears to be a festival of morris dancing underway, with different groups shaking their bells and clashing sticks at intervals along the seafront, so we decide to stop for coffee and cake – although we are not sure if later we will be grateful that we enjoyed a break while the weather was still holding off or regret that we didn’t push on to make progress before the storm arrived.

Fortified, we follow the Coastal Path signs away from the seafront, through rows of bungalows and up a gentle ascent along Ballard Cliff to Old Harry’s Rocks, chalk cliffs and stacks.  As we’re making the easy stomp towards Studland, the promised rain arrives.  Although not too strong at first, by the time we are a third of the way along the flat sands of Studland Beach, decorated with mounds of seaweed, fierce winds are whipping up the sand around our feet and driving the rain into our backs. As the rain begins to drip from our hoods, our consolation is that we are not walking into it.

2017-09-10 15.19.38By the time we arrive at the end of the Coastal Path at South Haven Point at 3pm, we are saturated, with sand stuck to our clothes and skin. But we have made it: 93 miles in 6.5 days of walking.  And we are only a ferry ride and a bus journey from a hot shower and a cup of tea.


And that is the end of my final challenge before launching #50challenges on 5th November.  The week away has enabled me to get in practise for the final section of the South West Coastal Path, which we will undertake next September as one of the challenges that I will complete in my first year of my decade of completing 50 challenges; challenges that will be a balance between hard – such as the South West Coastal Path – mentally enriching and physically stimulating, as well as challenges that simply take me out of my comfort zone.  The week has also given me time to think about #50challenges, and how we promote it to help inspire, support and celebrate other people facing this milestone, so they can get the most of their mid life and Do More, Achieve More, Be More.

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My final challenge before my #50Challenges – Day 5


2017-09-08 12.13.20.jpgThe weather is scheduled to turn.  The last three days of our walk are all predicted to have heavy showers, with the first front due to arrive at 9am.  As we haul our packs downstairs, the rain arrives.   By the time we get outside, the rain and the wind are competing in fierceness.  During the quarter of a mile walk from Wyke Regis back to the coastal path, we are walking headlong into both of them.

I am beginning to think that I don’t have enough resolve to battle like this for seven or eight hours when we turn left onto the Coastal Path and both wind and rain are instantly behind us; suddenly, the challenge ahead seems more manageable, although keeping the rain out of my eyes means that my view narrows to the back of Catherine’s waterproof trousers, framed by the dripping edge of my hood.

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Missing Coastal Path signs mean we walk the two miles into Weymouth largely along the Rodwell Trail cycle way, sharing the flat route with cyclists and local dog walkers.  The seafront is signposted at the end of the trail, taking us past a clock to mark Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, rows of terraced B&Bs decorated with bunting, beached pedallos named after local landmarks and dignitaries and curious beach huts that have neither back nor sides.  A short climb over a grassy hill takes us along to Fantasy Island with its abandoned rides forlorn beneath the leaden skies and the faded Art Deco ambitions of the Waterside Holiday Park and Spa.

2017-09-08 14.20.35The low cliffs hang dark in front of us, but as we continue along the four miles to Osmington Mills the rain ceases, much earlier than expected.  We had promised ourselves a stop-off in the pub in Osmington to have some respite from the rain, but it proves unnecessary.   However, the thatched Smugglers Inn looks so inviting we decide to stop anyway.  We calculate from the 100 or so tables in the tiered gardens to the front that the pub is very popular; if so, it is popularity that is well justified.   The welcome is warm, the interior as delightful as the exterior – also decorated with verses on the walls, but with additional finishes such as a rusting cannon – and the carrot cake and coffee delicious.  We take our wet packs and coats off and collapse in deep sofas for an hour.

By the time we climb back out of Osmington, the temperature is rising; combined with our wet clothes we become humid and uncomfortable, so we change out of our waterproof trousers and into our normal walking trousers, lower legs removed to make shorts.  Picking up the pace in shorts and shirt sleeves, we marvel that the day is turning out much better than anticipated.  Although we have a couple more brief showers and grey skies for the rest of the day, every half hour without rain comes as a blessing, given the forecast, and we feel pretty blessed.

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Beyond Osmington the terrain starts to get tougher – a shock after the easy walking around Fleet Lagoon and the Island of Portland.  For the first time since Lyme Regis we need two walking sticks each, the cliffs rising and falling without respite.  After a few climbs we are rewarded with two of the iconic landmarks of the Dorset coast: Bat’s Head lies immediately ahead of us, with Durdle Door visible a couple of miles away.  We choose to have a late lunch by Bat’s Head before continuing to Durdle Door.

2017-09-08 17.17.47Very few people venture the extra hour to Bat’s Head, so we enjoy our lunch in complete tranquillity; by the time we get to Durdle Door there are dozens of tourists.  It’s a beautiful and inspiring sight – it’s easy to see why it attracts visitors from around the world, including Bollywood fans who come to pay homage to the backdrop that features in many of their favourite films.  As we make the steep descent on the stone-lined track into Lulworth, the size of the car park gives an indication of how many visitors there are in peak season.

2017-09-08 17.37.23Our B&B is up the hill in West Lulworth. It means an extra half mile walk, but the picture-postcard perfection of the village makes me glad of the detour.  It’s an English rural idyll that is too delightful to miss; manicured thatches hunker down on golden stone cottages in patchwork gardens still punctuated by flashes of colour.  Our B&B is the idiosyncratic Tewkesbury Cottage – wonky stairs, low ceilings, sloping walls.  The bathrooms are shared, but there is a choice of a shower or a bath.  When I peel off my sock to reveal that the hint of a blister on one of my toes has become a swollen mass that has doubled the size of the toe, I opt for a bath.

Our landlady tells us that the pub one minute up the road has “Ok food, but it’s only pub food” and that we’ll get more choice if we walk back down to the smarter hotels in the Cove.  Our muscles are seizing up, so we opt for trying our luck up the road.  We are rewarded with one of the best fish pies ever – with huge chunks of fish and a delicious sauce – and a long conversation with the Australian barmaid about the Camino de Santiago, which she completed with her sister, even though she “hates walking”.  Taking more than 5 weeks, I make a note of it as a challenge for when I have retired.

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