Waking up in Beer for my third day of walking and despite the forecast it is still not raining. I walk up the pretty main street which has channels of water running down on both sides – I take pictures as I wait for the bus to Seaton. The bus is like a party for the over 70’s – there is chatting, laughing, everybody on first name terms, including the driver – I feel quite left out.
Soon we are in Seaton which is where I gave up the ghost yesterday – the roundabout at the seafront is unusual.
I walk west along the seafront until I see a sign indicating a short detour inland and after ten minutes walking along the main road I turn off into a wood along a path which takes me back to the coast.
Before I know it I am back to the white cliffs of Beer again walking up the tarmac road out of the village and on to the cliff path up to Beer Head.
The path is very close to the edge here and it’s a long way down – looking back I can see where I’ve come from, the unusual white cliffs of Beer contrasting sharply with the red earth of the rest of the Jurassic Coast.
On I go, it’s easy walking and not too many people about. I pass a desolate looking building facing the sea, the only one for miles around and have a little wonder about what it must be like to live there. Great views but not much else going for it.
After a while I see what I think is Branscombe Mouth – the path begins to dip sharply downwards through a field of buttercups. It is a very steep approach, I lean heavily on my pole for balance. There is music coming from somewhere and when I get to the bottom of the hill I am diverted through a camping site past some sort of fair with a loud sound system. Up to the left about twenty wooden summer houses are tucked in to the cliff with an unusual amount of space between them – the owners are obviously not that concerned about slippage.
It is time for a cup of tea so I find a table outside the beach cafe next to a couple with a beautiful sheep dog – it sits with its chin on the ground looking mournfully up at my cake.
Outside the cafe is the anchor of MS Napoli, the ship that was beached here in 2007 after running into difficulties. I remember the tales of an “orgy of greed” – hundreds of scavengers descending on the beach at Branscombe from all over the country, bent on looting the ship’s containers. Amongst the brand new motorcycles and cars was a load of bibles – these were burnt to keep the looters warm!
Out of Branscombe it’s yet another upward climb but the National Trust have been kind with their “ladders”.
The next part of the walk is beautiful, through lush green woodland and then up onto the cliffs.
At one point I walk past and almost miss a wooden wagon, camouflaged by its own careful planting of bushes and trees – the owner is obviously fed up with curious walkers peering through his/her windows.
Later on a field of beautiful black and white cows and a woman wearing a beekeepers hat and gloves – I don’t see any hives but with all these wild flowers it must be a favourite area for bees.
Later on the path begins to descend steeply, my progress is painstakingly slow. Eventually I reach the beach known as Weston Mouth – it is almost deserted so I look for a comfortable place to snuggle down into the shingle and have a rest in the sunshine, it is very peaceful.
Despite wanting to lie down on this beach forever I haul myself to my feet and prepare for the climb up the other side of the valley. The path is very narrow and I am concentrating so much on my breathing that it takes awhile before I realise there is someone quite close behind me. That someone is young man in camouflage with an enormous backpack. I stop to let him pass commenting on the speed of his walking and the size of his backpack – “Oh no” he says “it’s full of pillows really” – I do not believe him.
Off he speeds up the hill and when I get to flatter land I see him again in the distance, running!
From now on it’s cliff walking until I finally get to see Sidmouth in the distance.
Not before time but alas I have one more steep ascent from Salcombe Mouth through a field of the whitest cows I’ve ever seen. Reaching the top I gasp at the young couple sitting on the bench watching me that this is possibly the hardest ascent I’ve done for along time – they commiserate kindly.
And finally Sidmouth with its retirement homes, period hotels and crummy guest-houses – a town popular with an elderly demographic. I am not impressed.
In fact I can’t wait to leave.