Walking The South West Coast Path
It is February and Ann and I are on the South West Coast Path. It is warm, butterflies abound, the gorse is in bloom and primroses flowering. For certain, drifting along the clifftops, the sun reflected back from the sea, is so relaxing. Waves form parallel lines with the beach and surfers ride them. Walking the South West Coast Path is sheer joy.
We saw the good forecast so booked four nights in Bridport. We parked at our hotel in the morning and caught the X3 bus down to Lyme Regis. Dorset is poor at maintaining the coastal path and, sadly, the slumped cliff route east is closed. We took the alternative route inland, over the golf course and along the road round to Charmouth. Here, we sat, looking out to sea, eating marmalade sarnies. A meadow pipit joins us and I feed it breadcrumbs. Both its feet are contorted and it walks with difficulty. For us, three more coastal climbs loom, the biggest over Golden Cap. My photo shows the spectacular path back to West Bay. There, we turn inland to Bridport. It was 12 miles walked overall and 2,500 feet of climbing.
Two buses to Seaton in order to walk back to Lyme Regis. We start along the ugly concrete seafront followed by a climb west to the wind scoured golf course. Then, it’s down into the undercliff. This massive coastal area broke away in Victorian times. It included fields of turnips and corn, all of which dropped below the cliffs. A sign warns that the next 5 miles is tough, full of steep steps and with no escape route. The fields have become wooded, full of ferns, mostly harts tongue. No sign of the sea but the waves can be heard. Ravens and peregrine falcons call from the white chalk cliffs. Catkins abound, on the hazels, which were once coppiced (harvested on a rota). The finish is a steep path down to the Cobb in Lyme Regis. Bus back to Bridport with 10 miles walked and 1100 feet climbed.
The buses to Sidmouth were slow, picking up pensioner after pensioner, all going shopping in Exeter. We stride the Sidmouth front eastwards for Seaton. Its a 500 foot grind up the first hill, then down, then up, down, up, down. Three major hill climbs within three miles. Exceptional views under a strange light, misty and yet bright. The cafe at Branscombe is to be our fuel stop – it’s closed. Another climb takes us to Beer for a much needed coffee and cake. An attractive walk through a park and along a neat path to Seaton. Two buses back to Bridport with another 10 miles walked.
We drive ourselves to Sidmouth and then bus to Exmouth. The driver says to elderly woman, “Do you have a bus pass?” “Yes, it’s on the dining room table!” After having to pay, she said, “How will I know when we get there?” He replies, “I will tell you – if I am not asleep!” The prom at Exmouth is easy walking, then it’s red soil paths on red sandstone cliffs. The masses of caravans spoiled Sandy Bay and Ladrum Bay. The big climb is the wild Peak Hill before the descent to Sidmouth. We have another 13 miles in the bag but we are tiring.
The Walking Cure
In the weeks before our break in Bridport, I walked a lot. Aware that walking relaxed me, I tested this with a brisk walk to Highcliff Medical Centre to check my BP. As I anticipated, it was low, as was my pulse. Using the legs, especially on the South West Coast Path, is the walking cure par excellence.