SWCP Day 38. Stonebarrow Hill, Charmouth to Fleet

Today’s distance walked – approx 34kms (21 miles).
Ascent – approx 728m (2388 ft).

I woke up at 5.30am and had 2 museli bars and a coffee for breakfast. I wanted to pack in another big day today – I’m way ahead of my original schedule, but I’m trying to shave off another day to get to Lulworth Cove while the firing range isn’t in use this weekend. I left at 6.45am. I was glad I’d put in such a big day yesterday, and I was feeling surprisingly good when I set off.

First hills of the day
First hills of the day
Going up
Going up!

I started with a downhill to Westhay Water, then a huge climb up Broom Cliff leading to Golden Cap. As I approached, I watched the first of the sun’s rays fall upon Golden Cap. It was 7.25 and really hot already. I reached the top just as the sun went behind a cloud – I could have done with that 30 mins earlier 🙂 but my goodness, what a view!! This is the highest cliff on England’s South West coast, and I could see all the way back into Devon to the West and to Portland in the East where I was heading. It was magnificent.

Heading East
Heading East

I walked down to the lovely beach at Seatown. In one of the fields on the way down, the barley had been cut and tied into little bundles, which were drying in the sun. The ground, was cracked and parched like a desert, something I’ve noticed a lot this past week.

Little bundles drying in the sun
Little bundles drying in the sun

I got to Seatown, and the Golden Cap Holiday Park at 8.30, and bought 2 pain au chocolate (one for now, one for brekkie tomorrow) and a hot chocolate. I used the loos on the beach and then headed off over the fluted cliffs to Eype Mouth and West Bay. I reached the top of Doghouse Hill at 9.30am, then it was up again to Thorncombe Beacon. It was cloudy again now, which I was grateful for, and the cloud formations were so beautiful I couldn’t stop taking pictures!

Thorncombe Beacon
Thorncombe Beacon

From here I could see the flat stretch of trail in the distance at Chesil beach, that I hoped I would get to this afternoon. I watched a paraglider flying off the cliffs at West Bay, and chatted to him when we both reached the beach.

West Bay
West Bay

At 10.30 I came into West Bay. Many of you will know this as Broadchurch, from the TV series. It’s a nice village – a mix of old and new – and has pretty harbour. There’s a seriously steep climb out of West Bay, and most people attempt it because it’s so famous I think. Shortly afterwards there was a deviation into Burton Bradstock site to a cliff fall. I walked this part with local lady Sally.

Cool beetles, I've seen loads of these
Cool beetles, I’ve seen loads of these

By midday, I had reached Cogden beach. By this time I was running away from the rain clouds that had been threatening for an hour or so.
From here there was a huge shingle beach stretching for the next 25kms or so straight, to Portland. The pebbles were the size of broad beans.

That's a long pebble beach
That’s a long pebble beach!

I’d finally reached that flat part of the trail is seen earlier! What a treat.

It was flat to West Bexington, with farmland one side, the huge shingle bank/beach on the other. I was walking in a dip, and it was super hot without the wind of the sea. But suddenly, the path finished, and for around a kilometre I had to walk on the beach itself. It was like something from a nightmare or horror film, where you’re trying to go fast, but your feet keep sinking into the little pebbles and you can only go really slowly! At around 1.15pm I met a walking group at West Bexington. One of the ladies gave me the news I wanted to hear, that the path came back in about 200m time – thank goodness!

Blue/green leafy plants growing on the beach
Blue/green leafy plants growing on the beach

I eventually got to the beachside cafe near Abbotsbury and had an ice-cream and an amazing piece of apple cake. I was now at the start of Chesil beach and the Fleet nature reserve lagoon behind it – a fascinating part of the coast path.

The Fleet nature reserve
The Fleet nature reserve

I left at 2.30pm, and 15 minutes later I started to cross the farmland near Abbotsbury. I saw the swannery (a swan rescue centre) below me. A little further on as I was crossing one of the stone walls, I looked back and saw Catherine’s chapel which had been on the hill above me about 15 minutes earlier. It would be well worth a visit. I reached a high point on the farmland and enjoyed the sun and the breeze and stayed a while for a break.

Crossing the ridge
Crossing the ridge

The farmland scenery was fantastic, and there was the sweet smell of sileage (not everyone’s cup of tea!) drifting across from somewhere. It took me back to my childhood.

Dry, cracked earth - we've had no rain for weeks
Dry, cracked earth – we’ve had no rain for weeks

The rest today’s walk to Fleet took me across more farmland, but none of the fields were rutted ankle breakers. By 4pm I was almost back to the beach again. At one point I was walking out a little coppice when a small deer with a white bottom shot out of the woods in front of me, which was a wildlife highlight today!

Little deer
Little deer

I reached my campsite Sea Barn Farm around 5.30pm. I had a shower and washed myself and my clothes at the same time. During the trail, my sports bra/crop top has served two purposes. It’s main purpose (which once would have been to hold my boobs comfortably) is now to collect sweat and hold it for the rest of the day – which is pretty horrible really. It’s been a sweaty six weeks, that’s for sure!

Fleet nature reserve near Sea Barn Farm
Fleet nature reserve near Sea Barn Farm

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