Good Friday – 25th March 2016
14.00 has passed. My stomach was growling and I still had a distance to cover before I would reach Kimmeridge Bay. I was close to the halfway point on my route, if not slightly beyond it.
At around 14.30, it finally crept in to view.
Ahead of spotting the bay, I could not ignore Clavell Tower. Although it may look quite new, it’s worth reading that the tower was moved 25m inland from cliff edge, between 2006 and 2008. 25m doesn’t sound like a lot when it comes to threat of erosion… I’m no geologist but, to me, I can only imagine they might have to move it again in another hundred years or so…
From what I’d read ahead of my walk, the tower (a folly) was de-constructed, brick by brick; each one labelled and then, basically, reassembled once they had moved it inland. Sadly, I doubt you’ll find a timelapse video of this process online anywhere.
Speaking of timelapses; as I sat down and rested for lunch, high above the cliffs and overlooking the bay, there was a girl down to my left, lost in her book beneath the sunshine, while the camera clicked away, every few seconds (as if recording a timelapse of the Jurassic Coast). To the right, I’d passed a young guy flying some sort of device, which I’ve since learned was a drone-camera. When I got home that evening, I soon learned that the girl was in fact someone I mutually follow on Instagram and that her friend, with the drone, is one there as well.
Social media can help to make this world feel very small, sometimes!
I took my time and sat for a good half hour, with my back to the sun and the deadly drop below. Kimmeridge Bay was quite active, as I’d expected and the car park was reasonably full.
It was a fairly steep drop down the steps towards the cliffs that surround the bay. Reaching them via a road and the car park, I decided not to head down to the beach. Partly because the South West Coast Path continues along the higher ground but also, as I wasn’t sure of a way both down and back up again (plus, my knees were shot after a morning of cruel ascents).
There was an abundance of dog-walkers heading towards me from the west. A popular day to be beside the coast, indeed. I look around but couldn’t see any signs dictating a tariff for car parking.
Could it really be free to park here?
It was almost time to turn inland. I was headed towards the Lulworth Range Walks, when I spotted this working oil well beyond fencing to my right. It’s also known as a “nodding donkey“, for the way in which it operates.
Then, I arrived at the somewhat familiar entrance to the Lulworth Range Walks, albeit from the opposite end from which I last visited this space in July 2014. I had already checked the opening times in advance of my visit. I would, of course, always encourage you to do the same, if you’re contemplating a walk through here.
A detour area this section for anyone continuing their coastal walk, on a day where the ranges are closed to the public, just looks to be exhausting and highly avoidable.
At this end of the firing range, I found the landscape to be far more ‘agricultural’ than the ruggedness I’d previously witnessed close to West Lulworth. My path continued uphill, immediately after passing through the intimidating gates and up alongside the right-hand boundary.
You’re required to walk only along paths highlighted between pairs of yellow markers. I don’t know how true the threat of stepping on something dangerous really is as there were plenty of sheep about and I didn’t notice any bloody or dismembered carcasses on my walk.
As I reached the top corner of the fourth field up from the coast, I arrived at a point my map implied I should have been able to pass through… But the yellow markers were leading me left and not through unmarked trees ahead (even though, someone before me had clearly fought their way up through). I didn’t fancy a risk of ‘trespassing’ or having my right leg catapulted towards Swanage. So, I followed the markers left on a path that wasn’t given on my map…
At the next corner of this field, I realised you could turn back on yourself, climbing a steep and rocky track, to reach the same point and leave the ranges via the north-eastern corner. A small group of walkers who’d followed the brow of the hill above me were also headed the same way.
Here, I joined a series of footpaths following a ridge line across fields that still provided good views of the distant coast down below.
My eastern return route route take me casually past the north of Kimmeridge village and on towards a free car park and site of a former quarry (I noticed from a YouTuber I follow that they installed height-restriction bars here last year, preventing vehicles from stopping overnight).
I struggled to find the footpath from the quarry. There was an unmarked track or bridleway, bending around the south but, my map suggested it would’ve been the other side of the quarry… Regardless, I walked a bit further up the side road and was able to join this track leading up and over Smedmore Hill.
This became a very tiring climb, after all I had previously experienced throughout the day. Willpower kept me going. To the distant north-east, I could admire the Purbeck ridge which, last summer, I followed west on my return from Old Harry Rocks and down towards my tent at Harmans Cross.
I was certainly leaving the coast behind, now.
It must’ve been somewhere around 17.00 now, as I approached Swyre Head. Beyond the trig point was a mound of some sort that gained the attention of a family who were approaching from my left.
Beyond that, was a pair of benches, where I took an opportunity to admire the early-evening sun and reach for my flask of tea, with the water now far below.
Once the ‘crowd’ had dispersed, I explored the top of the mound for myself, where there was a large stone slab.
I felt good being here at this time of day. There was a chill in the wind again and I was willing to revel in the fact that I might’ve been the last person to visit this space before night would fall.
Back at the trig, I set the timer on my camera and took a selfie, as two more walkers approached from behind. Yes, I was probably the only man in south of England wearing gaiters on such a beautiful day!
Taking in to account that I did this walk a few days before the Daylight Savings Nonsense kicked in; I reckoned, at the time, that I had no more than an hour of good daylight left. My headtorch was packed just in case but my legs were wary of doing many more miles.
Corfe Castle was in plain sight, with the bay of Studland, I believe, beyond that. It looked quite far away…
Before reaching the road that would lead me to a decision in this walk, I spotted this obelisk beyond the long grass. It is highlighted on the OS map but there’s no apparent right of way towards it. Quite an ominous sighting and I would soon read signs from each side of the road, warning me of private woodland beyond.
I saw several obelisks at Kingston Lacy last year. Is this another remnant of the Bankes family?
So, I arrived in the village of Kingston, as I had always intended to do. Before arriving here, I favoured the idea of continuing north at this point and on to Corfe Common, where I might have been able to look over the castle and its village, before returning south along the Purbeck Way…
A semi-romantic idea that my legs and knees were not in favour of at this moment. My submissive mind soon gave in, with a realisation that I’d experienced a great walk already and didn’t need to try and ‘up it’ any further. So, I took a more direct route towards Worth Matravers and shaved three-miles and one-hour off of my original walk.
In order to cut the corner at the next road junction, I passed through the available churchyard, with the low light cast over the building’s western features.
I would pass a final pair of walkers before leaving the road.
There was no waymark to encourage you in to the next field, where I would look to head south-east and then, steeply downhill. But the kissing gate was unlocked and, sometimes, you have to have confidence within your own map-reading abilities.
It continued well, as I soon encountered a waymarked post (perhaps a former gateway and boundary) directing me to a gate in the stone wall to the right.
From there, a clear “shallow trench” (I don’t know what you call these things but they’re often worked in to the ground to define a right of way) was easy to follow and I could almost hear that familiar sound of my car boot opening, ready for me to sit down and dismount my backpack.
Some of the scenery was amazing with this light. But that “trench” had led me wayway and down an awkward hill towards a fence with no exit. I contemplated jumping over but the landowner and his wife were nearby. I could hear them but I’m not sure if they spotted me, puffing my way back up the hill whilst scrambling beneath the branches of a tree…
I soon found the legal right of way on the opposite side of the field, where I’d missed a divide in the tracks. This would lead me to a brief encounter with the road I met earlier in the day, between Chapman’s Pool and Houns-tout Cliff. From there, I would climb up from Hill Bottom (signage is quite good, here) to walk through the yard of Renscombe Farm and on towards the car park.
Overnight parking is also prohibited here but I was able to capture this before leaving, thirty-minutes later.
It took me two days to physically recover from this one but I am so glad I made the effort to drive down and do it. There’s still a section of the range walks, between Lulworth and Kimmeridge, that I haven’t explored and I would like to see Tyneham village… Perhaps I’ll be heading down to Dorset again before the year is out!
Total distance of this walk: 16 miles
To see the route I followed, please click here.