This morning I am walking parallel to the coast but some way inland due to the closure of the coast path. The website however assures me there will still be sea views. My route starts with a footpath off to the left just outside Kingston and soon I am striding up a wide grassy path following signs for the tumulus, a Bronze Age burial mound. In the distance I see a man walking towards me with a couple of dogs and his passing remark makes me chuckle “nice and benign this morning isn’t it?” I feel like saying “yes vicar” but don’t of course.
The views from the top of the tumulus are wonderful, craggy limestone cliffs to the far left and wide deep sweeps of countryside behind them – and yes the sea. It is very quiet.
After a brief conversation with a few sheep I turn right onto a very muddy path which leads me over the ridge and eventually down to Kimmeridge.
After a while the trail turns into a track and I can see a 4×4 approaching. A man gets out of the car and stares into the distance, he then turns to get back in, sees me, stops and goes back to where he was previously standing. I pretend to be fiddling with my boot and wait for him to get back in his car. I walk quickly past not making eye contact – I am aware of how alone I am out here. I hear the car start up behind me so I move onto the verge to let him pass. As he does so he winds the window down and asks if I want a lift, in what I hear as a slightly lascivious tone, “no thank you” I say, politely but firmly…………………………
A tad rattled I arrive at a crossroads where I see a signpost to Kimmeridge – only according to my map it is pointing the wrong way! Fortunately, another walker appears and assures me that I am on the right track – she is wearing gaiters, sensible woman. Together we try to turn the signpost round so it doesn’t confuse future travellers, but it is too heavy for us. I head off downhill to the village, coming out past the churchyard and right in front of a pub with a pretty thatched roof – I go inside for a cup of tea.
Looking at my watch I realise that it is 12 o’clock and I have already reached my destination. I can go no further as the next bit of the coast is MOD country and the public are only allowed at the weekends. Luckily, the young girl behind the desk tells me her mum is a taxi driver so I am soon on my way to Lulworth Cove to make a start on the walk I was planning to do tomorrow.
The taxi driver is a born and bred ex-army man, extremely proud of his home county. I am treated to a lecture on different land formations, military manoeuvres and local history -he even stops the car to show me where he used to abseil down a cliff to tag young peregrine falcons.
Eventually we reach the car park at the foot of the wide footpath leading up and over to Durdle Door.
I realise I’m hungry so I head for the fish and chip shop for a quick fish cake and chips. Feeling energised I walk briskly across the car park which is criss crossed with small overflow streams and suddenly find myself sinking in smooth, liquid, light brown mud up to the hem of my trousers. I screech with horror waiting for the slow wet trickle to seep through my socks but it doesn’t! My feet remain dry, so without looking back (as I was sure someone somewhere was having a laugh) I started up the path.
….and five minutes later the well-known front view.
The sky is now threatening rain so I stand and dither at the base of a very steep slope wondering whether it is wise to carry on, or leave the rest til tomorrow. If I continue I will have to come back along the ridge which would involve another three miles of extra walking in the wrong direction but it is still quite early to stop. I decide to be brave and soon I am quite alone, puffing and panting up Swyre Head, the steepest of the three “bumps” I will have to climb today. The path is muddy and slippery and runs parallel to another narrower one, closer to the cliff edge – I think this must be the original one but due to slippage people are keeping well away – big piles of chalky rock have crumbled down onto the shore.
Up and down I go, squinting through the fine rain, I meet no-one apart from a group of cheery walkers who have just come from the beacon I am heading for and can give me some idea of how much more walking I have to do.
After a while I start to see the beacon in the distance – this is where I will turn around and come back to Lulworth walking along the ridge through an area called The Warren and on to Scratchy Bottom (where did that name come from?).
Feeling triumphant I turn from the beacon and follow a very narrow path back in the direction of Durdle Door. The walking is easy on the flat, the path well marked and I feel a a little smug looking down on a couple of walkers struggling up the steep coast path – but as they say “pride comes before a ………………” and then it happens.
Entranced by what look like narrow corn rows in the landscape I take my eye off my feet and end up on the ground, my ankle twisting to a nasty crunching soundtrack. Hurrying to my feet to test the damage I am pleased to feel no pain just shock – so on I go. Wet and tired I arrive back at my hotel, tear off my boots and hurl myself into a hot shower. Later on I go down to dinner and half way through the sea bass my ankle starts throbbing a little and then a little more and when I finally try to get back up the stairs I need help. Fortunately the waitress is an ex-army nurse who sets me up with an icepack but no painkillers (health and safety) and then contacts my partner Damian (there is no mobile signal in my room) who heroically agrees to come and pick me up the following day. I am devastated that I cannot finish my planned walk but when I wake up in the morning to the sound of lashing rain and howling wind I almost start counting my blessings.