Brighton to Goring on Sea
"I can't use this card - it's out of date" With these words the annual walk suddenly lurched a tad out of control. The previous week I had lost my cheque book, now my cash card was out of date; and we were in Brighton waiting to set off. With no means of obtaining more of the folding and jingling stuff I was going to have to rely on Brian's goodwill more than ever. The cashier in the building society was obviously a good judge of character however, and believed that I was who I said I was. With pockets a little heavier, and a bank account a little lighter, we were off!
Of course we were forunate to be off at all. Since February most of the countryside had been closed because of foot and mouth disease. Most frustrating of all was that West Sussex and Hampshire were closed although there had been no outbreaks there!
Our journey to Brighton had been very good; car to Guiseley and then on to Swindon. Overnight at Brian's parent's place, then to the station and train to Brighton, changing at Reading. We travelled in some of the oldest and newest of the railway's toys. All in all a very speedy and comfortable journey.
Having sorted out the finances we worked our way through the crowds thronging the streets to the sea front, turned right and set off along the prom. The crowds gradually thinned as we progressed towards Hove; past a small army of technicians building the Channel 4 road show stage on the beach. The huge TV screen clearly showing the test match play despite the bright sunshine. Australia were 234 - 3.
It is very hot but we are pressing on at a cracking pace past mainly deserted beach huts. We reach Shoreham harbour and are surprised to find it is a working port, we had expected a marina. The main trade appears to be timber and aggregates as well as a small oil terminal. We also spot a number of Customs cutters moored opposite a large collection of sheds full of timber.
The heat has been more intense than we think and we are both grateful to fall into a pub for the first of the week's many orange squashes. The next mile or so is a rather boring trek along the main road towards Worthing. The tedium [and noise] is releived when we cross a footbridge, and walk past some houses to the sea front at Shoreham Beach. The sea breezes bring some welcome relief to the heat of the day. There is less traffic noise but we are still near civilisation. Near Lancing we take a break on the biggest bit of green we've seen all day and can see Lancing College on the hill in the distance. We are also entertained by light aircraft climbing away from the nearby Shoreham Airport. The cloud base has gradually become very low as the heat built up and the aircraft are soon lost to sight. A large tower block in the distance kept appearing and disappearing in the mist. There were lots of small fishing boats on the beach with all the tackle to be launched and recovered. We both nod off for a few minutes - it has been hard work.
As we enter Worthing we pass a few B & B's and yet more fishing boats on the beach. They look so frail that I would have doubts about taking them out on the boating lake never mind earning a living on the deep wide sea. The sun breaks through the clouds as we near the tourist information office near Worthing pier. The conversation goes something like this:
"B & B please, preferably at the west end of town"
"You'll be lucky! There's the Festival of Speed at Goodwood. Everything is booked up all around here"
Eventually we get booked into a place at Goring on Sea, about 2 miles down the coast. This will be just about perfect as we will be stopping at the time we had hoped for. As we get further away from the pier the town becomes more and more residential. By West Worthing the prom is full of rather nice houses, but not a B & B in sight. We pass a sign erected by Worthing council 'This stand is reserved for public speeches and sermons'.
Although it is late afternoon/early evening the temperature has been steadily rising and it has become very hot again. Our digs are 2 miles down coast but just under a mile inland. We would never have come across them if we had not pre-booked. The welcoming sign on the front door says go to the back door where we meet the landlady who asks us to go to the front door! Despite this bit of farce we have landed on our feet. We have a pleasant room in what was the old court house. The pub over the road does meals and the supermarket for tomorrow's lunch is about 200 yards away. The meal in the pub was pretty good, but the service was slow considering there were so few people in the bar. We soon realised that the world and his wife were in the beer garden with their assorted off-spring and all had ordered their meals about 5 minutes before us [or so it seemed]. All in all a pretty good start to the week. The downside being the rather boring walking along the prom; Brian still breaking in his new rucksack and Roger has a blister - the first on day one for years!
Goring on Sea to Bognor Regis.
Trappings of wealth will dominate the first part of the morning. There were lots of big detached houses with large gardens on either side as we walked back to the sea front, we turn right along the coast past Kingston Gorse & West Kingston. We have passed big, expensive houses before, but the cliff top belongs to the private housing estates that back onto the succession of hedge lined grass swards on the cliff top. There are large signs saying residents allow us to walk through if we behave [no camping / playing games / picnicking / riding horses etc]; and there is no public right of way through the estates. That said it is quite a pleasant walk and we are but two of many taking the air or walking the dog. The hedges effectively screen what breeze there is and so it is more than warm & very humid - our packs soon feel heavy. We pass yet more private estates and private greens before Rustington where some low rise flats break the monotony of the large expensive houses.
We are back on a prom at Rustington and are both ready for a cuppa. Unfortunately this part of town is residential, but after a while we pass the Sports Centre. They do not have a cafe but there is one in the park immediately behind. We have a welcome break as the sun starts to burn through the mist & low cloud.
As we approach Littlehampton we start to meet more and more people. A large ornamental garden and amusement park separate the town from the sea front. The whole sea front area is a pleasant contrast to the hustle and gaudy bustle of say, Brighton. By the time we approach the amusements there is quite a resort atmosphere [without the tawdry noise of some places]. We pass lots of kids and others on the prom. The beach has been mainly shingle since Brighton and there have been no cliffs at all, but here we spot some sand just before the breakwater protecting the river mouth. This is well populated by more kids complete with buckets and spades and other seaside paraphenalia.
We swing right & head towards the town with the river on our left. We see a sign advertising a cross-river ferry. Unfortunately the ferry is closed for safety reasons. So it's another mile to the footbridge in town. After the bridge we cross the golf course to get back to the sea. After the endless houses that have gone before this could be called rural, but civilisation is only half a mile away.
At Middleton on Sea we have to leave the sea and follow the road for a while. We miss a path to get back to the sea front and so have to put up with a bit of a detour along the road past more houses and shops and houses and cars and lorries and houses, and just to relieve the boredom, the occasional buses and houses. We are both tired and hot and eventually find a pub and have 3 pints of squash each! We also receive some bad news, the British Lions have been beaten [and the Test Match news is no better].
We feel better after the rest and set off along the road again, the noise is a drag but we make steady progress to Felpham. Here we can get back to the sea front, turn right past Butlins and on into Bognor. It is that time of day so we keep an eye out for digs, and like last night we would prefer to stay in the west part of town rather than the centre. The Tourist Information Office is closing and has no vacancies on their books because of .....the Festival of Speed at Goodwood!
Acting on some local advice we come off the coast a little and start looking for somewhere to stay. We see quite a few guesthouses etc and what seems to be even more "No Vacancies" signs than B & B's. We pass a rather scruffy pub in the town centre that has vacancies, but it looks more then a bit rough so we pass it by. Everywhere we ask is full except for one place with a single and a second with a twin and a single free but they wouldn't let it for one night! We carry on westward towards Pagham without success as the area becomes more and more residential. In amongst our searching we notice that our glimpses of the beach reveal many more small fishing boats.
About 6.30 we stop at a pub and after perusing the yellow pages and getting a sore finger dialling, the only vacancy we find is a bridal suite at £150 a night. I was tempted but Brian wouldn't wear the white dress. We continued towards Pagham; Brian surveying various bus shelters whilst I was refusing to believe we wouldn't get digs - a belief founded on blind faith in the face of reality. As we went we received odd looks from the locals as they drove past. Just to add to our pleasant thoughts we hear thunder echoing in the distance. About 7.00 we reached the Lion at Pagham. We decide to eat and review our situation. We have a lively and humouress conversation with the locals discussing the possibilities; but no one offers a floor, let alone a bed; and stables weren't even mentioned - still it wasn't Xmas.
Early on in the conversation we were asked if had we tried the Berkeley in Bognor. From the description of its location it sounded like the rough pub we had shunned. Eventually desperation forces our hand even though ditches and bus shelters sounded more welcoming than the garish exterior of the pub we had passed. The Berkeley has vacancies and we book with a little trepidation. We get a cab back to Bognor - & maybe it is Xmas - the pub is not the one we thought it was! It is really quite pleasant. So we shower, change and go down for a few beers. There was a lock in [as foretold by the locals at the Lion] but we declined as we had had a trying day and would be busy tomorrow - the sacrifices we have to make.
Bognor Regis to West Wittering
We have a super breakfast in the morning and take a cab back to Pagham. We have a little road walking then we are into real countryside for the first time this year. We have to use our maps more in next hour or so than in last 2 days. We cross the fields & reach Pagham harbour where we take a break.
The harbour is a largish natural inlet fringed by mud flats and is designated as a nature reserve. Presumably some time in the past it was a haven for shipping but we see no sign of that today. We take a rest on the bank, and from our vantage point we see rabbits dodging through the grass; lapwings feeding on the mud & marsh and even cows in a field nearby. There are lots of butterflies flitting about and the air is full of birdsong. We meet a number of people out for a stroll including a lady carrying a dog in a rucksack. Our chat reveals that she is old & blind - the dog that is!
After 10 minutes or so we shoulder our packs and set off round the "harbour". When we reach the visitor centre the steward apologises for the lack of a cafe! We follow tracks & fields towards East Beach where we rejoin "civilisation" and the coast. During our sojurn in the country Brian suddenly comes out with a crie de couer known only to well to gardeners. "Look at the stones in these fields. If my garden had as many stones as this nothing would grow - yet these farmers get crops from it!" My gaze was met not by two large fields full of luxurient growth but quite the stoniest soil I've ever seen!
At East Beach we turn right and head along the prom towards Selsey Bill. Many, many people are out enjoying the summer sun. The sea is very blue - it is starting to get hot & breezy. The local lifeboat is holding an open day; and there are many boats bobbing up & down just off-shore. We stop in Selsey for some more orange squash. After a short rest we set off along the prom once more and round Selsey Bill. As we approach the "Bill" the sea becomes choppier & choppier and as soon as we turn the corner the pleasant breeze becomes a very strong wind and the sea is covered with white horses.
We have to go inland for a half a mile or so, before turning left through the housing estate that blocks the direct route along the coast. Then through a caravan park to regain the coast. A huge shingle bank forms an impressive sea defence between Selsey Bill and Bracklesham. We climb to the top and once again are blasted by the wind and have a spectacular view of the sea. The beach is all shingle and if there is one surface we both loathe it is shingle. We decide to walk along the fairly firm earth and shingle track at the base of the bank on the landward [and lee side] of the bank. The bank gradually peters out within 200yards of Bracklesham and we realise what we have missed i.e. walking on shingle into a gale & are grateful. We start looking for digs but there are no signs. We pass the holiday camp where Brian's Mum & Dad have gone dancing in years past. We leave the coast and enter the village centre and go along the road to East Wittering without passing a single B & B. We stop at the pub in the centre of East Wittering for more squash and local knowledge which is supplied by a Yorkshireman. We phone ahead to West Wittering and find digs in the Old House at Home pub.
The price is bit higher than we normally pay but not outrageously so. It's back to the sea front then along the coast before going inland to West Wittering. When we get there we have to clamber around the men digging a large hole in the road. The pub only has double rooms although they confirmed a twin when we phoned ahead. As a compromise we end up with a double room each! We also find out why the men are making holes in the road. There is no electricity and the men have been digging since the morning. So we have to sit in our rooms unable to shower [no hot water] and unable to watch telly and wondering if we'll get a hot meal. The landlord assures us that the electricity should be on "soon". We eventually get showered and have a super meal - steak & salad washed down with several pints of Old Speckled Hen - great! We could have stayed all week! Today has been a lovely day but for the wind. We have been off the roads for most of the time; the sun has been shining and we have been sheltered from the strong wind most of the day. For the first time we have been able to see the South Downs in distance now that the low cloud & mist has cleared. We can see the Isle of White in the distance and 1 - 2 large vessels steaming along the coast towards the Solent.
West Wittering to Cowes
Today we cheat a little. We catch the bus to Hayling Island, which is about two miles away - unfortunately the entrance to Chichester Harbour is in the way. Although the entrance is only a mile wide there is no bridge or ferry and it is 15 - 20 miles round its many creeks and inlets. So it's on the buses to Chichester [change]; to Havant [change] to Hayling Island. We don't miss a connection and have no long waits either, so by mid-morning we are walking at the eastern end of Hayling Island.
Hayling Island is a low lying inverted T shaped mass of land that the sea somehow forgot to flood when it spread its tentacles up to Chichester, Bosham and Havant. There is a small town that looks quite prosperous set back from the sea, a few attempts at holiday amusements by the long shingle "beach" and a golf course. We trek through the car parks and along the footpaths just inland from the low shingle bank that hides the shingle beach from our view. We have to take to the road for the last mile to the ferry to Portsmouth. We pass scores of small boats as we approach the ferry and get a clearer view of the two huge, mysterious masts that have been in view since we got off the bus.
The ferry has to be one of the most expensive we have ever used considering the distance involved [£1.60 for a few hundred yards]. We are able to get a most welcome cuppa from a mobile burger bar when we land. We have to follow the road for a mile or so and we can now identify the two towers. They are some sort of communications masts at Fort Cumberland - they look very military.
Just short of an hour later we reach the sea front at Stokes Bay and start a long steady and relatively boring walk towards Portsmouth & the Isle of Wight ferry. We see few people as we head west, but we can see some shipping traffic as well as the IoW and the old sea forts. Today we are blessed with good walking weather - cloudy & breezy and cooler than previous days.
We gradually meet more people as we pass the Marines headquarters and approach Clarence Pier and the amusement park. The ornamental gardens are very colourful. To reach our immediate goal of the Isle of Wight ferry we walk along the Millennium Promenade through the old city walls towards harbour. We find the ferry terminal and buy our tickets for Fishbourne. We are both ready for the rest as we have a pleasant crossing, sipping cups of tea & watching the mainly weekend boats in the Solent. Fishbourne ferry terminal nestles at the mouth of a steep sided river valley. It is quite attractive in its way, but we shall come to loathe this bit of geography in the next hour or so. Dis-embarking from the ferry we have to cross mats soaked in disinfectant - a reminder of the Foot and Mouth epidemic. We are faced with a very steep walk away from the terminal towards the main road. As soon as we get there we drop down almost as steeply to Wootten Bridge, to cross the river we just left. Just to make us feel good we have a tremendous slog uphill on the other side. Several hundred yards later we are grateful to turn right into housing estate where the slope is less steep. We ask a lady for directions, as the route out is not too clear on the map. We collapse on a grass verge and get curious glances from the kids coming out of school. After a 10 - 15 minute rest we stagger to our feet and load up. We walk about 10 yards and our lady informant asks us if we want a cuppa! Sadly we have to decline - if only 10 minutes earlier .....
The next stage is on a minor road through the countryside. Even the steep down and up as we crossed a wood enshrouded stream didn't seem to matter after the rather boring urban landscapes of earlier. The woody smells and quiet brought a good deal of pleasure after the noise & bustle of the traffic. We had hoped to use a track that passes Osbourne House, just visible in the distance, but it is marked "Private".
It's back onto the main road for the long slow descent into East Cowes. We take the chain ferry to West Cowes and find some digs. After a rest we find a chippy and munch contentedly outdoors. Afterwards Brian pops into the near-by off-license and returns with a couple of cans - we must look a right sight. We decide to do our laundry and Roger realises that he does not have enough smalls for the rest of the week - some shopping will be needed in the next day or so. We have good views of the River Medina; marina and Solent from our room window.
Cowes to Lymington
We head out through old West Cowes onto the sea front. For some reason we are slow into our walking as we go through the interesting old streets. The weather is a little overcast but not too windy, until we turn Egypt Point, where the full force of the wind hits us. We continue along the prom and can see England over the water with the stacks of the Fawley oil refinery stabbing the air like monstrous bayonets. There are no large boats on the Solent, just pleasure craft. The prom runs out at the west end of Gurnard Bay. We are planning a route inland but a local tells us that the state of the tide makes the beach passable. So for the first time this year we take to the beach, In fact this could be the first beach walk for at least two years. At Cliff Farm we should take a path along the coast. However we spend the best part of 5 minutes looking for it. Just as we are about to give up we stumble across a sign that is totally invisible from the east. We begin to climb onto the cliffs and are rewarded with even better views across the Solent. There is fair bit of coastal erosion and in a couple of places narrow wooden bridges have been built to cross some small but deep looking streams. Roger slips on one that was still damp from an earlier shower and was lucky not to go arse first into the stream below. Then the rain, which had been threatening on & off all morning, started to come down in earnest and it is on with the waterproofs. This time we really needed them because minutes later, after the shower had passed we were soaked. The visibility was dramatically cut as the shower made its way up the Solent. At its height we couldn't see the Hampshire coastline just a few miles away.
The path leads us into Pilgrims Holiday Park and as we leave the coast we see a canoeing class for a bunch of kids taking place in the shallows off the beach. Even though it's Summer we hope the water is not as cold as it looks, we get goose-bumps just watching. We head off into the park feeling somewhat be-draggled after our earlier drenching and see the site's cafe. Two cups of tea and twenty minutes later the day seems perfect!
On our return home after the walk I find a website about the IOW Coast Path, which says that walkers should be careful going through the park as it is easy to miss the correct route out - well it's true - we got lost & missed the path. After 10 minutes of wandering back & forth through a couple of fields that had been chewed up by horses hooves we eventually find the correct route. The path follows the field edges and in the corners the stiles are overgrown, presumably due to the walkers staying at home during the Foot & Mouth crisis that has blighted the whole country since February.
The last mile or so into Porchfield is on the road and we happen to pass the village pub just as we are due a break! The next stage into Shallfleet is almost totally on minor roads, only the last mile is on unmade tracks. We decide to miss the short diversion via Newtown, although it could be an interesting little village. Once again we pass the village pub as we are due to stop. So we sit outside with our orange squash and munch on our lunch. Several groups of walkers leave and arrive at the pub while we're there.
Our onward path takes us down the main road for mile or so then up a track towards the coast at Hampstead. It is uphill all way through woodland - quite pleasant really. We have an option of swinging away to the right about three-quarters of the way up. The detour will take us to the Newtown River estuary. In the end we miss the turning so our deliberations were somewhat academic. At the top of the hill we turn left and continue through fields. The path is well back from coast & we only catch glimpses of the sea. We enter Bouldner Forest and the path is now much closer to the cliff. There are several diversions because of erosion. The gaps in trees provide us with some really pleasant views across the Solent.
We make steady progress through the forest and eventually lose sight of sea all together. Then we nearly fell in! One second we were surrounded by trees and bushes - the next - sea weed! The path had been steadily falling for the last mile or so, what we didn't realise was that it had dropped to sea level and was getting closer and closer to the coast. Erosion & high tide meant that the path ended in the sea with the waves lapping at our toes.
We have to back track a bit and find another path onto the road into Yarmouth. We are both very tired. We reach the Lymington ferry and after a short wait we are enjoying a cuppa on board. Once again we are aware of the strength of the wind. Whilst in the forest the trees had effectively eliminated the wind. Brian and I take bets on how long the hardy souls sitting on the deck will stay there. Brian reckons that as soon as we clear the headland about a mile to our left they will be inside. I think one or two will stay out for the whole crossing.
As soon as we clear the headland about a mile to our left there is pandemonium. The ferry is tossed about like a cork, the folk outside come staggering back inside. Brian makes a rapid movement and catches our tea tray before it shoots off the table. I look out of the window and see nothing but sea, five seconds later I see nothing but sky. People scream; we laugh; all to the background of cups and saucers greeting the floor with a crash. The ferry comes to a halt and slowly backs up prior to turning round and resuming its crossing. With the other end facing forward the tossing and turning is less severe, more a steady pitch & roll with both sea and sky always in view through the windows. At Lymington there is train waiting to run up the branch line to the town proper across the river & on to Brockenhurst and connections to London. I speculate that we ought to take the train but we decide to walk and so add 2 miles to our daily total as we walk up to the road bridge and all the way back. There is glorious sunshine as we walk round giving the impression that the weather had a personal grudge against our crossing - mid channel it had been black as night and raining cats and dogs - never mind the wind!
We walk through old Lymington looking for digs and enjoy the attractive buildings. We find some digs above a restaurant close to the river. We ask for breakfast at 8.00am but the chef doesn't start work until 9.00. We get £10 off the price for Room Only terms. That evening we stroll around the town not only looking for supper but also likely places for breakfast. The only fly in the ointment is that the main street is on a steep hill. Despite this we both quite like Lymington.
Lymington to Southbourne
After a good breakfast in the town we head back to the riverside past the marina and head out into the country. The wind has not dropped overnight and is playing a high pitched dirge to the accompaniment of slaps as it whistles through the rigging of the moored yachts. We soon leave the marina complex and are out onto the sea dykes and pass by the mudflats & marshes of the nature reserves on our way to Keyhaven. In the near distance Hurst Castle on its shingle promontary, and the Needles on the Isle of White, stand as silent sentinels guarding the western entrance to the Solent. We pass various people out for their morning strolls, some out to see the wild life on the marshes and mudflats, others just walking the dog and others just there for the pleasure of it all - like us [eh?!]. The wind seems to be getting up to gale force as we get closer to Keyhaven. Grey clouds rush past and the sea is looking more and more like a boiling cup of creamy coffee. We reach the landward end of that narrow finger of shingle leading to Hurst Castle, turn right and gradually start climbing up to the cliffs by Milford on Sea. There is now no protection from the wind as it knifes across the sea. Our views improve as we gain height onto Milford. It is fascinating to watch the clouds racing over the Solent with their shadows rapidly changing the colours in the sea. The wind has been in our faces all morning & looks set to continue that way. The path is close to the cliff edge between Milford & Barton and the force of the wind literally blows us to a stop in places. The wind was so severe that it nearly blew us over a couple of times. By mid-afternoon the wind eased but the sun still shone. Our faces are burning after the combined effects of the sun and the sandblast treatment -courtesy of the wind. The clouds continue their beautiful shadow dance on the waves.
At Barton we are relieved to retire to a cafe for a welcome cuppa and shelter from the wind. The path disappears here and we may have to go inland to the main road. The locals say we can go through the caravan park that blocks the direct coastal route. When we reach the caravan park there are lots of signs saying the park is private. Roger wants to follow the advice of the locals and march straight through; Brian is less keen. We decide to detour around the park, but just before we reach the main road we change our minds and go through the caravan park anyway.
We cross a "ravine" at the far end of the park and suddenly we are on the prom at Christchurch. The wind has dropped away to a gentle breeze and we enjoy some wonderful late afternoon sun. There are fewer white horses and although we are further from the Needles than before we get the best view of the day through the clear blue sky. As we march [?] down the prom we debate where to spend the night. It is only 16.30 and Brian wants to go on to East Bournemouth as he sees an opportunity to reach Swanage a day early. Roger is keen to stay in West Christchurch as it makes the daily stages shorter, with the last day being about 10 miles. As we plod on through Christchurch the B & B's thin out and rather than turn round and go back Roger agrees to go on to Bournemouth despite his feet hurting; legs aching; and having a strong desire to crawl into bed and stay there a week.
To reach Bournemouth we have to catch yet another ferry, this time across Christchurch Harbour to Hengistbury Head. The harbour is a large bay used by weekend sailors and has a narrow entrance. On the Christchurch side there is a lively bustle at the end of the prom with a few seaside shops and a pub. Hengistbury Head on the other side is largely undeveloped with the bulk of it a nature reserve. There are several dozen beach huts and a restaurant by the ferry landing. We decide to take to the road off the Head as we will be out of what wind there is and we will avoid a long walk on the beach. We have good views across the harbour until we reach some woods. Roger is beginning to feel better - getting a second wind which is good for him but will cause Brian some concern later. We complete our 2/3 mile walk to habitation and start our evening ritual of spot the B & B.
Brian has stayed at the Southbourne end of Bournemouth before and tries to recognise where. We pass several B & B's and Brian is getting keener to stop, but Roger has got the bit between his teeth now as well as a second wind. After all each mile tonight is one less tomorrow. Brian is getting most anxious as Roger keeps going on & on - a surprise to him as well as Brian. Eventually we stop at about 18.21 in the middle of Southbourne & find a B & B just off the promenade. Once again we find some very good lodgings. We have a long walk around Southbourne looking for somewhere to eat and Brian finds the street where he stayed once upon a time
Southbourne to Swanage
We have a choice as we set off from Southbourne in the morning. Which prom do we use - the one at the top or the one at the bottom of the cliff? Such weighty matters are decided in a flash so we start on top in gorgeous sunshine and lovely light breezes. The gales of yesterday are a distant memory. Today will see us take the last ferry of the week as we will need to cross Poole Harbour some six or seven miles away. We will be going through urban sprawl all the way. After a short time we forsake the better views afforded by the top prom and take to the lower prom where we are sheltered from the traffic noise. We are soon in beach hut territory and we will pass hundreds [if not thousands] of them before we reach Poole. Roger's sartorial needs are becoming quite desperate now so we head off into Bournemouth town centre to find some undies, phone cards and sandwiches for lunch. After 40 minutes or so and a cuppa in BHS we start our trek along the prom. Yet more beach huts to our right and the beach to our left. This is a real beach with sand; not the pebble monsters further East. The walking is quite boring now, if easy. One bit of excitement was to see the ferry from France pass the entrance to Poole harbour some 2 miles away. From our place on the prom the entrance is well hidden and it appears as though the ferry will be ram raiding the beach huts and ice cream stalls on the prom. We have to leave the sea front at Poole Head and go inland for a couple of hundred yards - some soul has built an hotel right on the sea front. The diversion does enable us to walk along the shore of Poole Harbour, one of Britain's largest natural harbours. It had a key role in the D-Day landings of 1944. We are subject to a short but violent shower, so it's on with waterproofs, and the rain stops before we have walked more than 300 yards. To reach the ferry we have to pass through the prosperous looking suburb of Sandbanks - we find out later it is the 3rd highest location for property prices in England!
We have yet another rather pleasant crossing on the ferry. This one drags itself across the water by pulling on a fixed chain. It is quite large with room for a couple of dozen cars and buses as well as foot passengers. We have used a variety of ferries this week. The one from Hayling Island was a small open boat with room for perhaps 10 or 12 passengers. The ferries to & from the IoW were proper inshore boats capable carrying dozens of cars; lorries and buses. The ferry at Cowes was another chain ferry carrying cars. The ferry at Christchurch was another motor boat but larger than the Hayling one.
Studland is the next place on our line of route and we choose to use the road rather than trek through the dunes. We walk past the nature reserve and Studland Heath. Once again we are due a stop as we pass the village pub in Studland. This pub has the most expensive squash to date. The path out of Studland leads us onto the cliffs and a meeting with Old Harry, a rock stack off Handfast Point. We have a clear blue sky with fluffy clouds; super views in all directions - such a contrast to the urban sprawl of the morning. We can see Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight.
We continue along the cliffs to Ballard point and see Swanage across the bay nestling into the surrounding hills. We make a steady progress along the cliffs before dropping down to sea level for the walk into town. We just need to find digs and we have reached our objective with a day to spare. We find some good digs just off the town centre. Brian buys the next map & is talking about walking onto Lulworth in the morning. Roger, being more practical and mindful that we have walked over a hundred miles since Saturday, 31 of them in the last two days, starts working out distances. Eventually we decide to go along the coast past St Albans Head & get the bus back from one of the villages eg Worth Maltravers; Kingston or even the steam train from Corfe. We will do anywhere between 8 & 12 miles depending on where we end up.
Swanage to Worth Matravers
We head off towards Perveril Point after breakfast and the usual shopping trip for lunch. There is a steady climb out to the cliffs and we are rewarded with some lovely views back across Swanage Bay & on to Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight. We follow the cliffs on to Durlston Head but have to take a short detour on the road to get into the country park. The country park has made up paths and we pass most of the attractions as we take the paths closest to the cliff - the Globe [a large metal globe of the world] and the Tilly Whim Caves which have some nefarious episodes with smugglers in their past. We need to don waterproofs as a short shower passes overhead.
We are soon back onto the cliff top in open country. The cliffs are shot through with dozens of caves made a couple of centuries ago by quarrymen digging for the local grade of Portland Stone. The caves have a long abandoned air about them now as the workings ceased at the end of the 19th Century. We pass a lot of other walkers [and who can blame them - it's a beautiful area]. The natural features have some wonderful names: Anvil Point; Blackers Hole; Winspit and East & West Man. We have to negotiate a couple of gullies which come as a bit of a shock after the miles of prom and low lying land of the last two or three years. The cliff path is very close to edge in places; and some care is necessary because it's a long way down for any one wishing to try to imitate one of the many gulls wheeling above us.
We are both enjoying the country walking when after 6 miles or so disaster strikes. Just before St Aldhelm's [or St. Alban's] Head [must be important because it has two names!] Roger falls and twists his ankle. There was an ominous creak from the ankle as he fell accompanied by a few oaths that might have upset the noble Saint if he had been around. After a few minutes Roger manages to stand and hobbles on. We stop at the Head and have lunch. There is a small chapel built on the headland, and a short row of houses about a hundred yards away. Roger's hopes about walking the twist off are dashed to pieces as he tries to stand after lunch. The ankle is quite painful to walk on so we call a halt to the day's activities. We still have the problem of getting back to civilisation though so we set off down the track to Worth Maltravers at a slow hobble. Brian takes a quick look at the chapel and discovers it is still used. The few small windows make it a dark sanctuary - we both wonder why it was built here - it seems to pre-date the row of houses by a considerable margin. The temperature has become very high now as we, well Roger, hobble on into Worth Maltravers and have a more than welcome drink. Our enquiries reveal that the last bus of the day leaves in 20 minutes from a stop next to the duck pond. Bang on time at 3.00pm the bus arrives and we head off to Corfe Castle. We take the preserved steam train back to Swanage and our digs.
After easing my boots off we can inspect the damage. The ankle has already started to swell and a lovely technicolour bruise is slowly forming. As I bandage the ankle up and rest it Brian goes out into the town to find somewhere suitable for our end of walk celebration. The evening is very enjoyable. We dine in an upstairs restaurant overlooking the beach and harbour. There are wonderful views across the bay as the evening sun turns everything it touches a golden red or yellow. We return to the bar for our coffee and start to speculate about two other diners. They are obviously related, I think they are sisters but Brian is not so sure. As they leave the bar to enter the restaurant I ask if they are sisters. The younger one gives us a funny look [understandable I suppose] but the older one gives a big smile as she informs us that they are mother and daughter - ah well we made someone happy!
The Saturday morning sees Roger hobbling around and wondering how we are going to get home. We take the bus to Bournemouth; catch a local bus to the station and then await our train to Reading; [change] and on to Swindon. I try to press the clutch on the car and that is so painful - Brian will have to drive us back to Guiseley. In my innocence - or is it wishful thinking - I still harbour thoughts of driving myself home the next day. In the event Brian has to drive me home. I have a week off work before the ankle's swelling goes down and mobility is more or less normal. In mid-September in response to continuing aches I go to the quack and have an X-Ray done. Apparently I've chipped the bone and the physio gives me some exercises to do to strengthen the ankle. We were quite fortunate I suppose to have had the accident on the last day. It would have been terrible if it had happened at the start. Now back to these wretched exercises - must be ready for next year.