81. East Fleet to Cogden Beach

old Church, East Fleet, Ruth walking the South West Coast Path East Fleet is a tiny village but it has both a ‘New Church’ and a ‘Old Church’. I start my walk from the ‘Old Church’, a delightful little chapel set just back from the coastline.

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?

Chesil Beach and warning post, Ruth on coastal walk round Dorset

I wonder if the range is in use this weekend? I am glad I am past that particular stretch of shoreline.

fast horses, sign on South West Coast Path, Dorset. Ruth's walkOn my side of the Fleet, I come across a different sort of warning sign. Now, among the very many different notices I have come across, this is a new one: “Danger – Fast Horses!”

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.

horse, South West Coast Path, Fleet, Ruth walking round the uk.
Further along, I come across a sandy track designed for horses. More warning signs ask walkers to keep off the track – horses only.

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.

hotel, West Fleet, Ruth walking round the coast, South West Coast Path.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.
 Rape field - South West Coast Path, near Langton Herring, Ruths walk.

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.

Chesil Beach and fishing boat and hut - Ruth's coastal walkThe path returns to the water’s edge and I approach a place where a track comes down to the shore. There are rowing boats and sheds on both sides of the water.

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”.

footpath and cows - Ruth walking round the coastline, DorsetI end up climbing over the far side of a gate instead and, once a safe distance away, I take a photo of the non-shooable cows.

footpath through Wyke Wood, Dorset, Ruth's coast walking.Beyond the field, I take a footpath that strikes off left from the main South West Coast Path. This public footpath keeps closer to the coast than the official path does.

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.

mland walk, Ruth taking short cut around the coast of DorsetThere 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.

Abbotsbury Swannery, Ruth walking around the coast of Dorset
Just beyond the ‘swannery’, you can see the shingle bank of Chesil Beach joins the mainland and the wonderful Fleet lagoon comes to an end.

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.

new born lambs, in fields near Abbotsbury, Ruth in DorsetAfter lunch, I walk along a ‘permissive’ footpath. This follows close to the water and saves me a climb to the top of the hill.

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.

Chesil Beach, family walk, Ruth walks around the coast, Dorset
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.

looking back along Chesil Beach, Ruth's coastal walk around the UK
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.

looking back to Portland, Ruth on South West Coast Path, UK
The next five miles of walking will take me to a National Trust area called Cogden Beach, where my husband is going to pick me up.

looking ahead to Golden Cap, Ruth walking the coast of Dorset
There is a track that follows the edge of the beach and I walk along here. I walk past a place called West Bexington where there is a car park.

 Sometimes I meet other walkers. Many people are just coming to the sea to look at the beach and don’t walk far.

South West Coast path behind shingle bank, Dorset, Ruths coast walk
The track becomes a path and it is shingly in places, making the going difficult. I realise I am getting tired.

Cogden Beach, Dorset, Ruth's coast walk along Chesil BeachWhen I reach Cogden Beach, I am somewhat disappointed to find there is no ice cream van or refreshment stall. But this is a lovely unspoiled area.

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


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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7 Responses to 81. East Fleet to Cogden Beach

  1. Cows are usually all right unless they’re feeling spooked (bulls of course are quite another matter). I find the best way to not spook cows or sheep is not to stare directly at them. As herd animals, they tend to treat anything unfamiliar (such as a person they don’t know) watching them with binocular vision as a predator sizing them up for a snack. Which is fair enough, binocular vision is generally a trait associated with predators.

  2. Connie T says:

    Love the pictures and the furry sheep and babies.

  3. Anita Rigler says:

    Walked this stretch today. Confess not as enjoyable as the others due to the inland diversion. Met some walkers along the way who explained that the lady of the manor would not allow the path to go through her private stretch of the beach! But a necessary link in the chain so to speak so looking forward to the next walk. Starting to get a long day with the driving now. Will soon have to start staying overnight. I think our fitness levels are just about to the limit for walks this long. The walk on the shingle was certainly hard work!

  4. Karen White says:

    Abbotsbury Swannery is amazing, seeing so many swans (usually quite territorial birds) all living tand breeding in close proximity is an extraordinary sight. I visited back in 2009 ans was able to actually watch, photograph and video a hatching.

  5. D Stedeford says:

    The “old church” at Fleet is the chancel of the original church -the rest of the church was destroyed during a storm in 1824 and a new church built further inland. The Hotel is the Moonfleet Manor Hotel and is named after the novel Moonfleet by JM Falkner, a tale of smuggling in which the liquor is kept among the coffins in the crypt of the old church! A good read!
    The swannery at Abbotsbury was founded by the Benedictine monks of the monastery in the 11th century in the days when swans were food (listen to the swan song in Orff’s Carmina Burana in which the swan sings while being roasted on a spit.). There are now 600 swans and they are protected rather than eaten. They are not caged in and can fly away if they wish but stay there by choice. The best time to visit is May/June when the eggs hatch and out pop the cygnets or “ugly ducklings”! All that is left of the monastery (thank you, Henry VIII) is the magnificent tithe barn.

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