17. Portland

I had been looking forward to doing a circuit of the “isle” of Portland for some time, although I had previously visited Portland on a University field trip back in 1973. I parked close to the Ferrybridge Hotel and set off on the footpath along the A354, the only road linking Portland. The road was very busy with early morning traffic going in both directions.

The footpath soon merged with the fabulous Chesil Beach or Chesil Bank, a tombolo of shingle running for 18 miles, parallel with the coastline. I climbed up onto the bank, but walking over the shingle was very hard work and so I reverted to the footpath. The bank eventually joined Portland at Chiswell, where houses first appeared. The path climbed up a steep path behind the houses and eventually emerged at the old Tout Limestone Quarry, now a sculpture park. I was fascinated by the animal sculptures strewn about the quarry. I could see work already in progress – a fantastic use of the quarry. The view back down and along Chesil Beach was amazing.

I continued above the limestone cliffs of the west coast, passing through old quarries and gradually descending towards the southern tip of Portland Bill. I passed above rock-climbers honing their skills on West Cliff. I passed the  first of three lighthouses on this part of the island and rounded Portland Bill.

Looking back down towards Chesil Beach from near The Tout Quarry
Sculpture in Tout Quarry
Heading along West Cliff
At Portland Bill

The path continued north hugging the shore. The east side of Portland is low-lying and was extensively quarried for its valuable stone. There were many industrial remnants of the previous quarrying, including large wooden winches for moving the stone. After passing through the Southwell landslip, the land rose to form steeper cliffs. Most of the NE part of Portland is still given over to MOD and I missed a SWCP sign instructing me to go uphill. When I did find my way up the steep side of the hill I emerged close to one of a small number of quarries still operating on Portland. The path continued onto HMP The Verne, where I walked around the high perimeter security fencing. I walked on towards Portland Castle and followed the road back to Chiswell to rejoin my earlier route. As I had already walked out to Portland I caught a bus back to my car at Ferrybridge.

Lifting gear at old Quarry workings
At HMP Prison The Verne
Working quarry near Fortuneswell
Looking towards The Citadil High-Angle Battery

Distance today = 13 miles
Total distance =   275 miles



16. Poole to Kimmeridge

It is almost 5 years ago when I decided to begin walking the South West Coast Path and was quite apprehensive at the time whether I could complete the 630 mile route. Little did I envisage that two years later having just completed the SWCP and already walking around the Wales Coast Path, I would decide to go the ‘whole hog’ and walk the entire coast of Great Britain.

Ok so back to 2013 and an overcast, but dry and muggy day. I drove to and parked in a quarry just above the village of Kimmeridge in Dorset. I had arranged for a lift from my sister’s husband who live close by in Swanage. Dave had kindly agreed to drop me off at South Haven Point opposite Sandbanks where the ferry comes across over Poole Harbour.

After watching the ferry come and go I set off along Shell Bay. The beach was not very busy as I made my way around the headland and then along Studland Bay. I passed a couple of warning signs advising me that the southern section of the beach was frequented  by Naturists. Thankfully, no one was baring all today. I left the beach and passed through the small village of Studland. The path soon transferred onto a broad common area and I soon arrived at the superb Old Harry’s Rocks, a collection of chalk sea stacks with internal arches. The common land continued along Old Nicks Ground and onto Ballard Down before dropping down into Swanage. I called in at my sister’s house in Swanage to say hello and get a cuppa.

The official start/end of the South West Coast Path at South Haven Point
At Old Harry’s Rocks
Old Harry’s Rocks
Approaching Swanage

Determined to try some of the local fish and chips on offer in the town, I bought a portion and continued to eat them as I slowly make my way out to Peveril Point. I rounded the Point and continued onto Durliston Head. I desisted from exploring the folly that is Durliston Castle and continued onto Anvil Point where there is a lighthouse and the Tally Whim Caves, long since closed because of structural instability. I continued along the coast and noticed large patches of sea fog drifting ashore. The temperature dropped and I heard a tannoy sounding as though giving out information. Then out of the mist came, much to my surprise, the paddle steamer Waverley. Frequently seen in the Firth of Clyde, this last remaining sea-going paddle steamer does cruises along the Jurassic Coast during September.

I passed a number of old quarries on the cliff edge, including one called Dancing Ledge. I arrived at St Alban’s Head and had a quick chat with one of the coastguard Officers on duty. A few hundred yards away is the old Norman St Aldhelms Chapel and a row of old Coastguard Cottages. The site was used in the James Blunt music video “I’ll Carry You Home”.

With James Blunt still ringing in my ears I descended  a very steep set of steps only to have to regain the height through a another set – it was quite a punishing set of Down and Up with hundreds of steps to descend and climb and not appreciated at this stage of the walk! I approached, high above, a  tranquil Chapmans Pool and pass The Royal Marines Memorial.

After descending off West Hill the path contoured around a couple of hills before ascending Houns-tout Cliff. However, a recent cliff fall had meant a lengthy detour inland. The diversion went along a road into the village of Kingston, before turning left and following a road then farm track to a quarry above Kimmeridge. By this time the light had begun to fade on a long and tiring day. I drove to Corfe Castle where I had booked a room for the night in one of the local pubs.

Tally Whim Caves
Near Dancing Ledge
The paddle steamer Waverley
Coastguard lookout at St. Albans Head
Steep Down and Up near Chapmans Pool
Chapmans Pool

Distance today = 21 miles
Total distance =   262 miles