Abbotsbury to Dorchester Walk (Day 7)

On Day 7, Pete caught the bus and train back home, but I had an extra day before flying back to Geneva.  My plan was to walk part of the South Dorset Ridgeway then turn north to Dorchester.  But it was soon obvious that the weather and, more importantly, the state of the paths, (see pic 3), would determine the best way forward.   I figured, after all, I was there to enjoy myself and not slip and slide ankle deep in mud.

A quick look at the map showed a very direct route along quiet roads and paths and so that became Plan B – especially as it went through the delightfully named Martinstown or Winterbourne St Martin, where there was a pub. 😊  I arrived there a little early so I explored the church before spending an hour or so drying out in front of a roaring fire and chatting to the locals.  That included a 95 year old gentleman who walked in shortly after me (completely unaided by an stick or other support) and quipped “You’ve got to get up early to be the first in this pub!”  He was a great character, who’d been in the RAF. He told me his home was flooded just before Christmas and he was living temporarily in a rented cottage nearby.  He hoped to be back in his house sometime during April.

The route also took me past the Hardy Monument on the top of Black Down, where there’s a 360 degree viewpoint – on a clear day of course.  (See pic 8).   I should explain that this ‘Hardy’ was not the Dorchester writer, Thomas Hardy, famous for his Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. (I’ve never read any of these by the way, Pete told me… You can learn all sorts of things on these trips…!)  The monument was built in memory of another local hero, the Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy (1769 – 1839), who was Captain of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805).  Almost any British school boy or girl will tell you, as Vice-admiral Horatio Nelson lay dying, he uttered the immortal words: “Kiss me Hardy”.

That brings us to the end of my UK trip.  I hope you have enjoyed the series.  The sun is now shining brightly in the Val d’Hérens, so I hope to bring you some more Swiss pictures in the next few days. 😊

 

South West Coast Path, Day 6, Weymouth to Abbotsbury

I mentioned on Day 1 that there were 2 reasons why Pete had chosen to do this part of the SW Coast Path and the second reason was that the first ever ‘proper’ book that he’d read as a young boy was called Moonfleet, which was set in this area of the country.  It was written by John Meade Falkner in 1898 and is a tale of adventure, smuggling and a search for Blackbeard’s lost diamond.  But overall it’s a story of loyalty and a great friendship between the two main characters, John Trenchard and Elzevir Block.

Pete had sent me a copy of the book just before Christmas for me to read as ‘homework’ before our trip and I’m glad he did, as it really added to the enjoyment of our walk.  The Old Fleet church is featured in the book, as is the Moonfleet Manor.  There is even an Inn in the book called the Why Not? (and Why Not? indeed, I always say 😉).

Pete and I also met up with two of his old University pals, Jacky and Alan, who now live in Dorchester.  We met them and their dog at the Moonfleet Manor and they walked a section of the route with us.

South West Coast Path, Day 5, Isle of Portland

On day 5, Pete and I had the pleasure of walking without our rucksacks as we did a circular route around the Isle of Portland.  As you can see from the map (pic 22), the ‘Isle’ is not really an island, because it’s connected to the mainland by a causeway, created by a rather incredible coastal formation called Chesil Beach.  The beach is 18 miles (or 29 km) long and is up to 50 ft (15m) high and 220 yards (200m) wide in places.  It’s made up of shingle or pebbles, which increase in size from north west to south east.   Behind the beach is a shallow tidal lagoon, called the Fleet.

South West Coast Path, Day 3, Worth Matravers to Lulworth

The pictures in my previous post were a bit dull and grey for a ‘Sun’day, so I thought I’d improve the mood with a few brighter (& almost comical*) images from Day 3… 😊

I’ve never stuck my head out of a car travelling at 70mph, (and I wouldn’t recommend it), but I now know what it must feel like.  We had been warned of winds of over 50mph but some gusts must have been stronger than that.  Luckily it was coming from the sea, otherwise we would have been in grave danger of being blown off the cliff.   We would take one step up a hill then a gust would take us 2 to the right.  Our next 2 steps would aim to get back on track, only for the wind to drop, or be even stronger and we’d either topple left or go even further right.  So it was that we zig-zagged our way up many of the slopes.

*You can tell how strong the wind was from pictures 9 and 10, where a waterfall was being blown back up and across the path.  We both got soaked!  The windsurfers (pic 11) were very happy though and the shower in pic 19 came and went in less than 2 minutes.

Please note, if you ever consider walking this section of the path, the route goes through the Ministry of Defence Lulworth (firing) Ranges which are only generally open at weekends and some public holidays.  Otherwise a 30 mile detour is required.  For more information on opening times and weekend closures, please check here.

South West Coast Path, Day 2, Swanage to Worth Matravers

UK readers will be well familiar with the huge amount of rain which has fallen on Britain so far this year.  I believe February may have been one of, if not THE, wettest on record.  So it was no surprise that we were ‘blessed’ with rain on Day 2.  It had been forecast after all.  This made for some slippery conditions over and above the already boggy ground in many places.

We took brief respite in the café at Durlston Castle, where we were advised to take the slightly less muddy higher path along the Priest’s Way, rather than the coastal path.  It took a little finding after a wrong turn, but we soon reached the very welcome haven of the Square and Compass in Worth Matravers.   The log fire was burning brightly and we very quickly dried out, on the outside anyway. 😉

Thankfully, the next few days proved to be much brighter, if a little windy… (that’s Yorkshire sarcasm for 70mph winds).

 

 

South West Coast Path, Day 1, Poole to Swanage

I’ve just returned from a week in the UK, walking the first (or last) part of the South West Coast Path with my very good mate, Pete.   The full route is around 640 miles (1,030 km) long and goes from Poole in Dorset to Minehead in Somerset (or vice versa).  Long time followers may recall that the 2 of us and 4 other friends did the other end of this long distance path in 2015.  (Though I now see that nobody ‘Liked’ that post, so maybe I should call a halt here… 🤔 … Er, no way…!)

With 6 days available, our ultimate destination would be Abbotsbury, though I had an extra day before flying home, so I also walked ‘back’, away from the SW Coast Path, to Dorchester.

Pete had selected this particular section of the path for 2 reasons*, the first being that he had spent 4 of his summer holidays as a child in Swanage and he was keen to re-live those happy memories from the past.  So it was with great excitement that we set off on the short ferry crossing from the Sandbanks area of Poole to Shell Bay, around 1pm, to walk the 6 or 7 miles (10 or 11 km) to Swanage.

*I will divulge Pete’s 2nd reason later in this series.  (Oh, the suspense…)

Logistical footnote: Pete had travelled down that morning from York , by train, London Underground and train to arrive in Bournemouth (rather miraculously, on time) around 12 noon.  By contrast my journey had been by Postbus, train and plane (by the wonder that is Easyjet to Bournemouth airport), again arriving around 12 noon.  I then caught a taxi to Sandbanks, picking up Pete on the way.   As George Peppard, or ‘Hannibal’ Smith, if you prefer, often said in the A Team “I love it when a plan comes together.” 😊

 

Trip to Bettmeralp, Valais, Switzerland

A few years ago now, Jude and I had promised ourselves that one day we would go skiing in Bettmeralp, or rather the AletschArena, as the lift system also links in with the Riederalp and Fiescheralp ski areas.  So, with some free time last week and the weather set fair, we did just that.

After several weeks of sunshine, we were pleasantly surprised at the depth and quality of the snow and the huge width of some of the ski pistes.  We were also very taken by a very picturesque Victorian style building, which turned out to be called Villa Cassel. (See pic 6).

Further research revealed that it was built for the German-English banker, Sir Ernest Cassell, who used it as a summer residence until the First World War.  Cassell had an interesting life.  He was born in Cologne and, at the age of 17, arrived penniless in the UK. However, he went on to become one of the richest men in Britain and was a good friend of King Edward VII, Prime Minister H.H. Asquith and Winston Churchill.  He bred race horses and had a famous art collection.

The Villa itself could only be reached on foot or by mule.  But, when the inhabitants of the town said they were going to make a better road to his property, he answered: “If you do, I’m not coming here anymore.”

After the War, the Villa was used as a hotel, but was sold in 1970 and is now run as a nature conservation centre by Pro Natura, the oldest environmental organisation in Switzerland, who take care of about 700 nature reserves of various sizes throughout Switzerland.  I’m sure Ernest would have approved.

 

Fun in the snow

Firstly let me wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful new year.

My brother, Steve, has been visiting us this past week with his wife, Beverley, and their two sons, Gabriel and Sebastien.  Last Friday didn’t get off to a good start with snow falling all morning, but it did mean the boys could get to build a rather large (6ft/2m tall) snowman in the afternoon.  I say ‘boys’, but as you can see from the first few pictures, it was mainly Steve who built it, while Seb and Gabe did what brothers do – throw snowballs at each other.

From then on though it has been blue skies all the way and we’ve been out walking, cross-country skiing and downhill skiing.

With the sun shining brightly, as each day went by, the snowman started to tilt more and more.  Picture 29 below was taken on new year’s day (looking a bit how I felt!) and, even today, it’s still defying gravity by leaning at around 45 degrees.