Sunday 24 July 2016
Worth Matravers to South Haven Point
Andrea and Steve’s house, near Wareham
It had been a cold night; the first one for several weeks where I had to zip my sleeping bag right up. That meant the tent was soaking wet in the morning but it didn’t take long to dry. Getting up early meant I avoided the queues for the portaloos, which was a good start.
Time for a cup of tea and a bacon and egg bap while I waited for my tent to dry and the mist to lift. I was looking forward to seeing friends, washing my clothes, a bed and finishing the SW Coast Path. For some reason finishing this path feels like a big achievement. Perhaps it’s because I met so many people doing bits of it on the way around?
I set off for St Aldhelm’s Head, which has a funny little 800 year-old chapel near the Lookout Station. It was a beautiful spot and there was a strong tidal race. I popped into the Lookout Station to get a weather forecast: sunshine and showers.
There was a WW2 memorial to vital radar research that was secretly conducted here 1940-42.
It was a lovely walk along the cliffs to Anvil Point and Durlston Head.
The cliffs here often have flat ledgesand there was one in particular I was looking for: Dancing Ledge. I had been here before and there was a small tidal pool hewn out of the rock. These cliffs are a favourite place for coasteering and, sure enough, Dancing Ledge had lots of people about, which always puts me off going for a dip. The tide was high anyway and the pool half covered by the sea. It is a lovely place.
There are lots of sea-side caves on these cliffs and, just before Dancing Ledge, I had passed Winspit and Seacombe. Both were small, stream-filled valleys and there were a couple of tents pitched on the cliff ledges. I supposed the occupants had been to the Square and Compass last night and were free camping for the sheer hell of it (wilfully ignoring the ‘no camping’ signs).
I rounded Anvil Point, past the lighthouse, and into Durlston Country Park. It is a shame you can no longer go in the Tilly Whim Caves; old limestone quarries dug into the Durlston cliffs. They looked impressive.
Also impressive, and odd, was the large globe that had been given a position of importance, just below the small and silly-looking Durlston Castle.
There was another strong tidal race at Durlston Head and the path turned North, curving around Durlston Bay, to Peveril Point and Swanage.
Swanage was packed with people and I was hungry. I found a fairly empty Italian restaurant and stopped for a very nice pizza and coffee. I was due to meet Andrea at 1pm to walk the next part so I made the most of my break.
I found Andrea, dumped my bag in Steve’s car, and we set off around Swanage Bay. It was great to catch up with Andy after a long time, even if she did bring the rain with her (there was a slight drizzle going on but not enough to need waterproofs – anyway mine were now in Steve’s car!).
We had lots to chat about as we headed out of Swanage and climbed up Ballard Down.
We met Karen, Andrea’s mum, at the top of the Down and the 3 of us walked to Old Harry, at the Foreland Point. From here we should have had commanding views of Poole Harbour and Poole Bay, but unfortunately the mizzle put paid to that. Old Harry’s Rocks looked good though.
We walked down into Studland. Studland beach was another site of D-Day practice. This one had the distinction of having Fort Henry observation post built by the Canadians so that Churchill et al could watch the live firing practice in relative safety. This was also where the amphibious tanks were tested; they were not successful as 27 of 29 sank off Omaha Beach.
The tide was in and Studland Beach had been reduced to a thin line of sand, every bit of which was filled with people. Andrea and Steve have a beach hut so we met up with the rest of the family and there was time for tea and biscuits.
At the end of the afternoon Steve, Max, Amelie and I set off along the beach, walking the last 2 miles of the SW Coast Path to South Haven Point. It was nice to have company for the last section. I was amazed how pleased I felt at completing this particular path; it had been my favourite long walk. We reached the small entrance to Poole Harbour, opposite Sandbanks, and posed for photos next to the signs. I was quite elated at my achievement.
This time I didn’t need to catch the ferry as Andrea picked us up in the car and we went home for a celebration BBQ. It had been a lovely day.