I stop in the churchyard to take photos and, in this deserted setting, I nearly have a heart attack when a woman walks through the gate carrying polished brass candlesticks. My surprise is only matched by hers.
It is the Saturday before Easter Sunday, and there will be some sort of service held here.
From the shore I can see across to Chesil Beach. The tide is high and the Fleet lagoon is full of water. On the shingle bank I can see fishing huts and the checkpoint for the firing range. Is that a red flag flying?
I wonder if the range is in use this weekend? I am glad I am past that particular stretch of shoreline.
There is a farm just inland from here and I wonder if this is a working stables and if they keep race horses. I do see a man out riding a horse. It does not appear to be either fast or dangerous.
I come to Gore Cove. There is a hotel here and it looks very attractive. Along the water are small boats and I suspect they are used to row across to Chesil Beach, where I see more fishing shacks.
The hotel is hosting some sort of open day or activity day. There is a sign up saying “Toddle and Waddle” with arrows pointing along the course of the South West Coast Path. I am not sure if I want to be classified as a toddler or a waddler. But I see neither and further signs direct any would-be toddling waddlers back towards the hotel grounds.
Beyond the hotel, the coastal path leaves the coast. I am amazed how many times the famous “South West Coast Path” detours inland. Perhaps it should be re-named “The sometimes Coast Path”. This misses out a little peninsula. Later, I realise I could have walked around this piece of land. Although there is no official footpath, there is certainly a path and people are walking round it. By the time I realise this, it is too late and I have missed the chance.
I walk alongside a field of rape. The flowers look bright and cheerful and I am grateful that I don’t seem to have any hay fever problems this year. I remember my walk through pig farms in Suffolk two years ago and how I ended up sneezing and wheezing.
Across, on Chesil Beach, I see a substantial shed and fishermen are out. As I continue, someone starts rowing back from the shingle bank.
I wonder what the fishing is like. And do you get a different sort of fish in the Fleet lagoon to those you catch in the sea on the other side of the shingle? And are there people fishing in the ocean? I can’t see the far bank.
The Coast Walk leaves the coast again and I know, from my OS map, I will be walking inland until I get to just beyond Abbotsbury, where the Fleet lagoon ends and the pebble bank of Chesil Beach merges with the pebbles of the mainland beach.
I walk along a footpath and end up trying to climb over a stile into a field of cows. I don’t like cows much. They are big and can be aggressive if they have calves with them. These cows stand on the other side of the stile and refuse to move, even when I say “shoo” politely and add “please”.
I walk up a steep little hill and alongside a wooded area (Wyke Wood) on my map. I disturb lots of rooks or crows. They make a great noise overhead and the ground is thick with their droppings.
The path is narrow and will get overgrown in summer with nettles. I meet nobody else coming this way.
Then I negotiate another field of cows and begin walking by the side of a narrow road.
There is a footpath in the field alongside the road. I follow it but, when I reach the end of the field, the path simply disappears. My map suggests it rejoins the road. But the stile (if there is one) is lost in an overgrown hedge.
I ease myself between two strands of barbed wire and get onto the road again.
I take this photo of a farm building set on a rise and against a dramatic sky. The sea is just the other side, but invisible from here.
The road is traffic free and I make good progress down the hill and into Abbotsbury, where there is a huge ‘swannery’. I had never come across the term before – it implies swans need some kind of looking after. I gather they feed them and there is an entrance fee if you want to get close up.
There is a pub in Abbotsbury, but I never make it into the village. I stop at the ‘swannery’ and have lunch in a surprisingly nice little cafe – full of visitors enjoying a trip here on this bank holiday weekend. The sun is shining now and it is warm enough to sit outside, but I choose to be inside. I need a rest from the fresh air.
Amazingly, this path leads through a field full of sheep and lambs. Some of the sheep are clearly in labour and I pass by this ewe and her very newly born lambs. They are stained yellow from uterine fluids and just struggling to get to their feet.
I see a few ewes with tiny lambs in this field and really enjoy watching them.
Once beyond the field, I walk towards the beach. The bank of Chesil Beach is above me and there are people walking along it, making great crunching noises in the shingle. It looks hard work and I am really glad I didn’t attempt the walk over this difficult terrain.
When I pass by this particular family, I hear one of the children call out “are we nearly there yet?” – although where the “there” is supposed to be isn’t clear as there is nothing for nearly 10 miles along Chesil until you reach Ferry Bridge at the far end of the Fleet Lagoon.
I reach the beach. There are many people here, walking and sitting on the shingle, fishing, or just standing and looking at this remarkable geographical feature. I take a photo along the length of Chesil. The high ground in the distance (to the right in the photo above) is the hill of Fortuneswell on Portland.
Sometimes I meet other walkers. Many people are just coming to the sea to look at the beach and don’t walk far.
I walk up a steep path to the car park and wait for my husband to arrive.
This has been a great walk – easy-going and gentle countryside compared to some of Dorset – with the wonderful Chesil Beach for company. I have enjoyed it very much.
Tomorrow I hope to get to Charmouth and, if I am making good progress, I might press on as far as Lyme Regis. Then I will be finished with Dorset and about to enter Devon.
Miles travelled = 12
High Points = Abbotsbury and the swans and lambs
Low Points = none