A few days family camping offered an opportunity to fill-in a long-standing gap in the South West Coast Path, and was well-timed as a warm-up walk for this year’s main SWCP trip the following weekend. We headed down to Somerset, along a road we’ve travelled so many times that our car has its own special groove in the tarmac. A moderately empty camp site offered a reasonable choice of pitches, so we went for one in the wooded area, picking the most secluded spot we could find.
An emergency trip to GoOutdoors for a table, when we realised that we’d lent ours out to friends that were currently away on holiday, also yielded the impulse purchase of a portable barbeque. Something like this has been tempting me for a while for static camps, but this was the first time I’d seen one that was fully foldable and (if I was prepared to carry the 2kg it weighs) carryable on a backpack even. Couldn’t wait to try it out, and the lazy Sunday that always seems to happen at these camps saw us venture only as far as a local farm, where we picked up some meat to cremate.
With us down to our last of 3 battery lanterns that still works, I also took my Uco Micro candle lantern. It didn’t give out much light but added a bit of atmos.
We spent Monday at Montacute House, a National trust property, but you probably don’t want to read about that. So onto the walking.
Tuesday was designated walk day, based on the dry weather forecast. Mrs Hillplodder and the mini-Hillplodders mooched around the seaside places while I headed for the cliffs. When I’d bailed out on a really windy and dismal day in 2009, I’d stopped at Seatown, but decided this time to redo the bit from West Bay as well.
I climbed out of West Bay and after half a mile or so, recognised a dip in the ground that we’d stopped for coffee in last time – mainly on the basis of shelter from the wind. No need today, and only 15 minutes into the walk, it was too early to stop anyway. Plus I’ve given up coffee. Plus I didn’t have any with me anyway.
Over the clifftops and some familiar type views arrived of the slightly yellow cliffs ahead. There looked like quite a bit of up and down too.
From Eype Mouth, I climbed up onto the cliffs and Thorncombe Beacon. All was serene in comparison to last time when photographs involved much clinging onto the beacon itself.
I began the descent down to Seatown, spotting some wacky-shaped trees quite common along the coast path.
Instead of the escape route into Seatown though, I hugged the coast, and Golden Cap came into view.
I stepped onto the path up out of Seatown and entered terra incognita. Despite being the highest point on the south coast, the climb wasn’t that bad, consisting of a series of reasonably gently sloping grassy sections, rather than the lung-busting short sharp shock that is quite common on the SWCP.
I reached the top and enjoyed the views back from the trig point, making my stay long enough for Social Hiking to record the bag. Just to make doubly shore I found a convenient rock against which to sit for lunch, despite the cloud of flying ants that called the summit home.
It was quite busy though, and it wasn’t the place to sit for a long time in a reverie, so I choked down my food and got on my way. The descent was a lot steeper than the ascent, so on this section I was glad I’m doing the SWCP backwards.
As I descended, I could make out Charmouth in the distance, and could now gauge how far there was to go. I got on with the walk, now starting to pay closer attention to the time as I had a rendezvous in Lyme Regis to make.
Charmouth was just the place for a final pause while I gathered myself for the inland slog over a big hill to avoid the landslips that have closed the coastal route itself for many years. A rhubarb and custard flavour ice cream was called for.
I climbed out of Charmouth, following the main route up to the A35 before turning for a short woodland stretch and, the highlight of my day, a golf course. Walking the London Loop recently has delivered such a volume of golf courses that I’m now quite sick of them.
I descended down the road towards Lyme Regis and then the final sting in the tail of today’s walk presented itself. The path left the road to make me climb back up through a wood, then down again, just so I could cross 3 uninspiring fields before rejoining the road. It really didn’t add anything to the walk – might as well have stayed on the road for the few hundred yards. This detour also had the impact of delaying me, so urgent texts had to be sent advising of a new eta.
Finally, I arrived on the seafront and then began the longer-than-it-looks walk around to the Cobb, the designated rendezvous point. We sat and watched the lifeboat being launched and then headed for what turned out to be the most expensive fish and chips I think I’ve ever had.