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.” 😊

 

Tour du Wildhorn, Switzerland (Day 4 of 4)

We awoke to see the nearby mountains covered by what can only be called a smattering of snow and we were buoyed by the forecast, which said no wind and no rain. 😀

When I’d organised the trip, I’d read that there was a ridge towards the finish, called the Arete de l’Arpille, which was not good for people with vertigo.  But, having seen some of the pictures, where it looked quite rounded, I convinced Pete, everything would be fine.  (He’s so trusting!)

However, whilst talking to a mother and daughter in the hut, who had done this section 4 days earlier, they told us about a series of ladders and ropes, which they found pretty challenging (aka scary) – though possibly no worse than what we had already done on Day 3.  Phew, we should be OK. (At least that was what I thought, but I’m not sure what was going through Pete’s mind… 😣😜😖😨😱🥶?)  But then we didn’t consider that the forecast might be slightly wrong…

As we approached the Col des Audannes and said series of about 6 or 7 ladders, each with 11 rungs, the weather gods decided to have a little fun and sent some more of the white stuff falling from the sky.  Thankfully it was short-lived, but at least this tells you that it was cold.   Pete had some gloves, but silly Mike thought he’d lost his somewhere the day before and I went down those wet, potentially slippery, rungs and snow covered ropes with my bare hands.  Gosh, it was cold.  One slip and we were gonners (see pic 15).  But, we survived. 😀

A little further along, there was another drop down a gully on a thick blue rope (see pic 21), followed by a much thinner climbing rope (pic 22).  Oh, the joy on Pete’s face was something to behold!  But we still had that last ridge to look forward to…  As it turned out, Pete’s new trainers had a much better grip than mine and he had no issues at all.  I was the one who slid a couple of times on the greasy surface.
(For the record and sake of completeness and safety, in case anyone is thinking of doing this route: The ridge goes away on each side at around 60 degrees and on 2 occasions the narrow path drops down to the side for about 50 m/yards each time, with no ropes or other form of protection.  So you have to be sure footed).

I’d like to show you some more photos of the final kilometre, but as you can see from the last few pictures, we finished in mist, with visibility down to around 25m/yds.  So, we skipped the final few kilometres and Jude picked us up at the Col du Sanetsch.  We returned home for a much needed bath and shower – not to mention a few beers and a superb chicken curry with poppadoms and dips (all prepared by Jude of course)! 😋

I hope you have all enjoyed this series of posts and our little adventure.  Clearly this route is not for the elderly or infirm… (Oh, sorry Pete! 😉)

As before all Pete’s pics are watermarked.

 

 

Tour du Wildhorn, Switzerland (Day 3 of 4)

I should mention at this point that my mate Pete suffers from vertigo.  He also currently has 2 bad knees (as you can possibly tell from his knee supports in the photos) and, as Monsieur Alfonse used to say on ‘Allo ‘Allo, a dicky ticker.  Plus, he will tell you that he only has one lung.  (Of course, if this were true, he would never have been able to run a half marathon in around 76 minutes, but we have to humour him…)

That said, our route for Day 2 looked simple enough on paper – a descent back down the path we had climbed the day before, a casual stroll along the valley floor, over the Col du Rawil and then up to the wonderfully (and as it turned out appropriately named) Col des Eaux Froides (Cold Waters), before dropping down again to the Cabane des Audannes.  It’s a distance of no more than 7 miles and around 750m (or 2,500ft) of ascent.  Simple.

However, the forecast was for rain by mid afternoon and what we didn’t know, was that there was a huge area of limestone to cross, which involved scrambling up and down over the sharp rocks.  Apart from the danger of falling down one of the many gullies, one slip and you could have been cut to ribbons.  This was not ideal with rain imminent.  So we pushed on, very carefully of course, foregoing our lunchtime picnic and we managed to reach the Col des Eaux Froides just as the clouds were gathering.  A flurry of white stuff started to descend, the wind got up and the air was increasingly cold.   Somewhat different to our previous 2 days.  (New readers to this series, please see the images from Day 1 and Day 2).

Even once inside the mountain hut, all was not as cozy as it might seem, as the toilets were in a small building outside.  This is just about visible to the right of the main building in some of the last photos.

As before, Pete’s photos are suitably watermarked.

 

Tour du Wildhorn, Switzerland (Day 2 of 4)

Although we had only 18km (11 miles) to cover, Pete and I knew that, with over 2,000m (6,500ft) of ascent, our second day would be the toughest (at least in terms of effort*).  Most people stop at Iffigenalp, but we chose to continue and do the Wildsrubelhutte variant.  So an early start was called for.

After a morning of lush green meadows, we had a short climb up to the Tungelpass and into the Iffigtal, passing the impossibly turquoise blue Iffigsee (pic 17).  We then stopped to catch our breath and a quick drink at Iffigenalp before setting off on the 1200m (almost 4,000 ft) climb to the hut.  As you can see from the pictures below, the terrain changes quite dramatically once you get above 2,500m (8,200 ft).  The only thing spoiling the views were the stanchions which supported two cable car lifts, which ran from Iffigenalp to the Wisshorelucke.  From what I heard, these were not for skiing as you might expect, but for use by the Swiss military.

*Days 3 and 4 would have their own challenges, but I’ll get on to them tomorrow… 😊

Again, Pete’s pictures are suitably watermarked.