Yesterday, when walking up to Chideock to get the bus to Bridport I had noticed a sign to Golden Cap, so today I retrace my steps and turn off the road, following a wide grassy track winding gently upwards.
This gentle slope then turns into something a little more challenging so I stop to catch my breath by the side of the only tree in the near vicinity – I wonder why this bent old specimen has been spared.
Ahead of me are a family with young children, their squawking disturbs the peace – I realise I am turning into a grumpy old woman. It is warm today I am already peeling off layers with the exertion of getting to the top and when I get there the children are playing on the cairn so I wait a while, taking in the view.
Coming down the other side is painstakingly slow – the slope is steep and I have to take small steps, using my pole. Stopping to rest not far away from a bench full of local people I overhear the explanation of why the hill is called Golden Cap. Apparently the top used to be devoid of vegetation and was just golden earth – this would then glow in the light of the setting sun. Nowadays, the top is much greener.
From here the path carries on through fields and meadows full of beautiful wild flowers – daisies, dandelions, meadow grass, red campion and buttercups. I take no pictures because I know they will not do them justice.
After a while I can see Charmouth below me but just when I think I can roll down the hill to the town I come to a stop in front of a sign that tells me the path is closed and directs me off to the right. Hoping it’s not going to be too much of a detour I follow the path which brings me out to a car park and a narrow tarmac road leading down to the town. I walk past expensive looking houses and every two minutes I am forced to stop to let equally expensive looking cars pass – they all give me a friendly wave. On either side are woodlands with the last of the spring bluebells.
Coming down into the town I approach a field full of cars and lots of people milling around. It’s an open air market so I decide to take a look around. I do not stay long – the smell of cooking fat and candy floss turn my empty stomach and there is nothing of any interest.
I am now very hungry and thirsty so when I reach Charmouth beach I make straight for the cafe. Taking my lunch with me outside I find a place to sit on a bench overlooking the beach and watch fascinated by the small groups of fossil hunters. Wielding hired hammers they break up the stones, some have masks on.
So time to move on, I have to get to Lyme Regis and further today. Again the coast path is closed so I head upwards through residential streets trying to follow the plethora of footpath signs. Some end in dead ends and this one leads me down to a point where the path disappears over the edge of a cliff, the ground has fallen completely away. I walk back, thinking it would be nice to buy some quail eggs but how on earth would I carry them?
The path is now through some lovely woods and after a while out onto a golf course. Walkers are instructed to follow the white stones placed at intervals right across the middle of the course – I realise there are golfers waiting for me to cross before they send that ball travelling at 150 mph down the green.
Arriving at the seafront is a shock. I have been here before but I cannot remember it being so geared up for tourists, it verges on the tacky – even the majestic Cobb cannot raise my spirits.
I quickly head for the Tourist Information Office where my suspicions are confirmed – the path along the Undercliffs is closed. “Are you sure?” I ask the pert little woman who with a flourish of her biro draws two firm lines to indicate where the slippage has happened. I scowl , “Don’t look at me like that”, she says, pursing her lips. I adjust my face and walk dejectedly out the door.
I am tired now and the detour is a wide loop to the north of the town – I am beginning to wonder if I will make it to Beer this evening. I decide to try.
Heading off past the bowling green I see a sign pointing up to the right. A couple of locals with dogs are coming down the path so I stop to ask them if they think I can get past the slippage. It is an academic question really because the thought of trying the gruelling seven mile walk to Seaton with no accessible path inland is daunting and I may have to come back halfway. They hum and hah so I make up my mind – no.
I walk upwards through woodlands in the direction of Ware. Coming out onto Ware Lane I walk past a lovely little wagon behind the hedge. I used to live in one a little bit bigger than this in Denmark and have very fond memories of life with a wood stove and no running water.
I am now following a footpath over a few stiles and through fields until I reach a gate where the ground dips sharply down and I am treated to an amazing sight – Cannington Viaduct. The pale yellow stone makes it look surreal against the lush green of the countryside.
On I go, over gates, through two farmyards, holding my breath waiting for the sound of snappy farm dogs but no, all is still and it is a lovely evening.
Eventually I reach a main road and ignoring the signs I decide to walk down the road to Seaton. I am exhausted, have walked far further than I intended and developed a healthy respect for the rigours of the South West Coast Path. I think wistfully of the flatlands of Essex and Norfolk but I know I will get used to this and it is very, very good exercise. From Seaton I get a taxi to Beer and collapse into bed. Tomorrow I will make up the shortfall. I am now in Devon!