From the back of our BnB theres a hazy view of Corfe Castle – “but that’s not in Wales” I hear you say and you would be right – it’s in Dorset, and so are we, joining up a few dots I left hanging loose last February.
We start our walk just south of Kimmeridge, where I finished almost a year ago and took a taxi to Lulworth Cove where I continued my walk (and twisted my ankle). It was a weekday so I was forced to hop over 8/9 miles of MoD land only open to the public at weekends. It is a beautiful day as we head down the rough track which will take us to the entrance to Lulworth Ranges.Just before the gate we stop to investigate what Damian tells me is a “nodding donkey” – pumping oil up from the underground shale. Apparently, this donkey has been nodding since the 1950’s and is the oldest working oil pump in the UK. Another claim to fame is that in 1858, the company who owned the land were contracted to supply gas, extracted from the shale, to light the streets of Paris. The French, always a sensitive lot, were not impressed, they could not stand the foul smell of the burning gas – bof!Anyway, after another photo opportunity for Damian, we walk onto the ranges following lines of yellow posts with signs warning walkers not to stray from the path. After a mile or two the iPhone tells me that we are nearing the abandoned village of Tyneham which lies half a mile inland. As this walk is going to be a short one we can afford to deviate so we follow the extremely muddy path down to the right. Half way down a woman wearing trainers comes tottering up the path on platform soles of caked mud and warns us that there is worse to come. So we hop gingerly from clod to clod, I am very glad I have my pole with me for balance.
Tyneham and the land surrounding the village were taken over in 1943 by the then War Office – to use as a firing range for troops. Just before Christmas (nice timing) two hundred and twenty five people were given notice to leave their homes as part of the war effort and the buildings were left to crumble. This was supposed to be a temporary evacuation as this hand written note, found on the church door implies:
“Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us have lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.”
……..but when the war ended, a compulsory purchase order was slapped onto the area and no-one came home.
I took a shine to the metal hen………In the barn we read that this was where the children would put on plays for the grown ups – I have a Dr. Doolittle moment……Back to the coast again we walk along the top of the cliffs in the sunshine – to our right a rusting shell of a tank peers menacingly in our direction.Down below the grand sweep of Worborrow Bay……. ………and ahead a sprinkling of small rocks break the surface of the scalloped edged seersucker sea.
Soon we start heading down to the perfect symmetry of Lulworth Cove….Standing on the headland looking across the cove makes me giddy and I politely refuse Damian’s suggestion to take a short cut down a very narrow track, winding down the steep cliff. Instead we walk along the stoney beach in the late afternoon sunshine, up onto the road and into the warm fug of the hotel for tea and cakes. There are now no breaks in my path all the way from North Norfolk to just outside Plymouth.