Hurst Castle stands at the bulbous end of a thin, curved finger of shingle bank, stretching a couple of miles into the sea. According to my walking rules, I didn’t have to journey down this narrow spit of shingle – it is a dead-end, after all. I could have simply walked across its neck, shaving a couple of miles off my walk today. But I couldn’t resist the Ferry ride out to the castle and I am glad I came.
I set off to walk back along the shingle towards the mainland, past groups of people strolling along the bank heading for Hurst Castle. The clouds are breaking up to allow occasional patches of sunlight.
To my right, I look across marsh and stretches of calm water to the moored ships at Keyhaven, from where I started my journey this morning.
Behind me, Hurst Castle begins to diminish in size as I make my way along the shingle.
Ahead of me, I see the houses and shoreline of Milford on Sea.
To my left is a wonderful view of The Needles with a great bank of cloud rolling over the high ground of the Isle of Wight.
No matter what the weather is like, The Needles always manage to look dramatic.
I asked Tim to produce a painting and emailed one of my photos to him. But Tim knows this area well and had already sketched and painted The Needles.
For more of Tim’s work, take a look at my Artist in Residence page. Here you’ll also find a page of his sketch book from which he made the final painting.
At the end of the prom, I find a stretch of crumbling cliffs. It may be possible to walk along the beach at low tide, I don’t know. Today the tide is high and I walk along the top of the cliffs, past fields of cows.
The sky has cleared and it is warm for the end of September. Below me I even see a man swimming in the sea.
I swing my camera up and take some shots. Then I walk closer. And closer.
At any moment, I expect it to fly off.
It stays sitting, completely unconcerned. I may have been able to get closer still, but I have managed to get some great shots and time is pressing. Also, I am growing tired and hungry. I walk on.
As I am going down the path, a hang-glider soars over the top of the cliff above me. He is noiseless and I jump as I suddenly realise there is a huge shape just above me.
Later, I look down and realise I probably could have walked along the path, if I didn’t mind scrambling over a few fallen stones. There are people below me doing just that. And I have walked over much worse terrain.
I cut through a private holiday estate, despite the signs telling me there is no through route. And I do find a way down to the beach. Luckily the beach gate to the holiday park is open and there is nobody to tell me off.
As I walk down to the beach, I see a cafe on the slope above me. I climb up there and have a nice cup of tea and a giant scone with cream and jam. (I know this is not a healthy lunch, but it did taste very good.) I notice the sign by the scones says ‘Dorset cream teas’.
Checking my map, I realise I have crossed over the county boundary, and I am now in Dorset. I feel I am nearly in the South-West. I am making progress!
Leaving the cafe, I make my way down to the sea. Here I find a newly constructed path, albeit rather wide and soulless, winding up and down and following the coastline.
The weather stays fine and there are joggers on the beach and families with young children.
I am growing tired as I approach Christchurch. The tide is going out. Groynes stretch across the beach. The sun is sinking in the west and the light is golden and hazy.
I reach an area where there is a car park and a quay. Lobster pots are piled up. There is a pub with people sitting enjoying a drink in the evening sunshine. There is a great view over Christchurch Harbour.
I find the sign for the ferry that will take me across the mouth of the harbour and to Hengistbury Head on the other side. It is a very narrow stretch of water. The crossing will be a short one.
But that is tomorrow. Today, I have done enough walking.
10 miles travelled by foot,
1 ferry crossing,
1 county boundary crossing.