Welcome back to the blog formerly known as WalkingOEngland, now re-christened StillOEngland, recording my exploits walking the coastline of England with added Hadrian’s Wall Path and Offa’s Dyke Path, which although not coastline, square the circle. If I’m honest, never really understood what that means ,but it feels appropriate, if not impossible, which I s’pose is the point…
…if you study the map by kind permission of Natural England there is a perceptible change from Episode 58, 31 miles in fact. Clue – it’s on the S W Coast Path Crimson Worm,stretch 10-11.
Dear Rosie, Lauren, Stanley, Jake, Rowan and Maisie,
I hope you are all enjoying half term -seems it was an intellectual wet one, judging by the pictures of the water fight and the exercising on the Hay Festival Sign. You were so lucky, and brave, to meet The Gruffalo, I think it was BOJO in Brunette mode.. Book up all six of you for next year. Donald and I are no wiser about Europe despite listening to a volatile panel making up more fairy stories about should we stay or should we go.
Hay Festival, will never be the same after your visit.
This last thirty one mile walk, took place on the 167th and 168th days of walking, last Saturday and Sunday, 28th and 29th May, 2016. Other numbers that exercised this Episode were First Buses 9 and 9A, replacing, I thought, Jurassic Coaster Buses X51, X52 and X53. But I could be mistaken, as I was, when I wanted to board one of them and the driver did not share the feeling. The First shall be last. More later!
But sadly Terry Osborne who wanted to come on this particular venture around Lyme Regis had been knobbled by knee trouble. In retrospect, he couldn’t possibly have attempted any of these steep roller coaster hills and he made the right decision in going for a kneemassage in Budapest instead.
Branscombe Airfield Campsite, friendly , pleasant site on a very early misty Saturday morning view from the tent, and Sunday morning breaking camp before pulling out. Everything was saturated by condensation. The camp appeared to double as an airstrip and was a short walk to the South West Coast Path. Next time I’ll fly here
The plan was to join the S W Coast path heading East towards Lyme Regis, and maybe even Bridport, West Bay, if things went well. The weather was good with a pleasant haze keeping the sun from overheating me. Shirtsleeves, light trousers, three pairs of socks, walking boots with daysack full of change of clothing, food, water, milk and wet weather gear. For the curious I also carry, torch, compass, whistle, batteries, re-charger, phone, two white sticks, maps, Elastoplast, sunscreen, sunhat, gloves, gizmo and guide book. And last, but definitely not least a bogroll.. If you see a tap, fill your bottles; if you see a toilet do the reverse. Without fail.
Daysack food, is any combination of berries, welshcakes, sultanas, muesli bars, dried meat, cheese, pork pies. Apples. It is a large daysack. I graze every three miles. If I’ve previously bloated myself on Nanny’s cooking prior to leaving home, then I can go several days without what Nanny would call a proper meal. A proper meal takes too much time, equipment and organisation. If necessary, emergency scampi and chips provide extra sustenance . If available McD’s provide emergency hook up to power supply, wi fi, toilets, coffee , but the downside is the necessity to buy fast food and no spaces in the carpark for a tent pitch. I’m sure my diet is frowned upon, but I have given up the beer. Very nearly. Mainly through lack of a sponsor. When I get home, I immediately revert to a Proper Nanny Meal again.
Heading off the lane through Branscombe to the South West Coast Path and the view of Branscombe from the Path. The gently rolling hills are deceptively well signed until I got lost..Again.
Gentle rolling gives way to abrupt drops overlooking Branscombe mouth.
At Branscombe Mouth, I meant to have a Full English, and at 9ish I was their first customer, although the Chef couldn’t decide if he was open or not, while he berated the waiting staff. To make it easy, I abandoned full English and instead, I opted for an ice cream and latte . Subsequent customers got their full Englishes, subject to scrutiny of the chef; maybe my face was unbefitting. I departed disgruntled but full of overpriced caffeine and sugar; outside interesting old bangers were gathering, just before the ford. Back on the coastline..
Walking round Beer Head the path is Frightening, but I took time to send a picture to Terry Osborne, saying there was no way his knee could have got up here. I gather he sought expert opinion from a Budapest Masseuse that he needs a new knee. This is the most original excuse yet for not joining the walk.
But every silver lining has a black cloud – I managed to miss the proper track but not the caravan park . I walked three sides of a large field trying to avoid said park, when one would have done.
Welcome to Beer- I don’t mind if I do! A delightful fishing village that values its allotments over other land use – commendable – and the RNLI Giftshop which is a compulsory stop for me, crewed by Brian and Annette; the seashore serves as boatyard, boathard, fish sales and start point for fishing trips
Greetings from Seaton; the white notice warns of major slips and road closures; the red notice says I really mean it; the diversion is unclear and people ignore the signs but the rockfalls and mudslips are very dangerous. With an outgoing tide I had room to hop along the beach from rock to rock, surmising whether it’s better to be on the top or at the bottom when the cliff moves. The reddish brown area viewed from both sides has slumped into the sea. As I passed close by I could see the very unstable nature of the cliff, and I moved on smartly not wishing to delay by taking close up photos. I was glad to get to the relative shelter of the boat house guarding the entrance to the River Axe.
Crossing the River Axe and entrance to Axmouth Harbour are two bridges, the new one cunningly disguised as the B3172 modern road, and the other closed to other than pedestrian traffic is the old bridge opened in 1877, the oldest standing concrete bridge in England. The pleasant wheat field with grass track taking me inland away from cliff edges, was the best and safest way outa here, heading for Lyme Regis.
Axmouth-Lyme Regis Undercliffs – National Nature Reserve
This whole stretch of several miles of Undercliff reaching to Lyme Regis is constantly undergoing transformation. Landslips become wilderness, grassland and scrub, then woodland which provide diverse habitats now home to many plants and animals.
Unfortunately Here begins a series of unpleasant occurrences that proved the Undercliff a serendipity free zone. And spooky.
Firstly my gizmo packed up – I rely on this heavily for distances and pacing myself,- but I carry a re-charger and within twenty minutes gizmo was up and running, but not before it had lost current data. Then my phone and camera followed suit. Re-charge. Should do, but no cable. Ok don’t panic – send final message to outside world that communication now difficult, sadly no coverage. No message. And no back up cyber maps.
Preoccupied by this telecommunication failure, I failed to notice as I walked along I was on the wrong track. This became apparent when I popped out of the Undercliff and hit the beach. That should not have happened.
Oh well the tide is going out , there is plenty of room at the cliff base to dodge falling cliffs and my dead reckoning estimates I’m halfway to Lyme Regis. After the next headland and about another mile, I don’t see Lyme Regis, but yet another headland, by which time the gizmo has given up again and the re-charger needs re-charging. Time for a review.
And then I remember, a picture in the RNLI Gift Shop, showing a teenager being plucked off this beach before the tide came in by the Lifeboat. It was their last rescue this month. All systems now down, and probably 13 miles spent was not a good time to be retracing my footsteps. on the unwelcoming Undercliff. I was in retreat mode. And then I found the S W Coast Path, just 50 yards beyond where I had erringly turned off over a gate which quite clearly warned me not to.
The punishment was probably an extra three miles walked, which meant I got to Lyme Regis bus stop ten minutes after my bus had departed for Branscombe.
So I started walking back, intending to hitch a ride from these wonderful holiday makers. I must admit up to now, I had viewed all these interlopers as crowding my patch.. go away.. too many people. But now I needed outside help.
At the city limits, I noticed another bus stop with different buses on it, sadly there were no X 51,52 or53’s, but there were 9 and 9A..I didn’t know the time , so I wondered off and found a carpark payment machine which told me, and, miraculously, a 9A was due in a few minutes, and, even more unbelievably it was going to Branscombe Cross, apparently a mile from my tent.
I spent some time checking the map, and at maximum disruption with wind doing what it does to an unfolding O/S Map – we’ve all done it, or laughed at other people ineptly folding it incorrectly, the 9A was here, asking if I wanted to get on. And I bundled everything on the bus, sticks, rucksack and still wayward map. I questioned the driver closely about going to Branscombe Cross and he wasn’t sure, but another off duty First employee thought it ok. Seated comfortably, I followed the route on the map , its every move for about three quarters of an hour while we visited most towns ,villages, hamlets and isolated outposts, and wondering if I was being taken ever further from my camp.. The two First Bus employees continued their chat about was it or wasn’t it the right place, right up till I recognised my stop.
As I got off, I noticed a small notice “As from May 4th the x51,52 and 53 will renumbered the 9 and 9A” . But I never worked out why the previous bus stop still said otherwise and that I’d missed the last bus .. It was downhill all the way to the tent, so I practiced the conga, not easy with two sticks and gave up after falling over twice. Overtired?
Slept well that night. Serendipity still exists but not in the Undercliff. Spooky.
I opted and adopted my preference for camping on this trip, because of the flexibility afforded over hotels and b and b’s; and if necessary the facility for being able to pitch almost anywhere within reach of the coastline. Generally, I pre- book campsites through Pitch-Up, but often vary the booking duration afterwards, according to weather conditions and the variability of distance walked, prevailing winds and energy shortfall. Most campsites facilities are good, and if you accept the various notices telling you basically don’t do anything; and that campsites are generally only crowded at peak times, and even then if you get going by daybreak you miss the rush. It’s much better, and cheaper, than the regimentation of hotels, hostels, b and b’s , guest houses, camping barns and bunkhouses. I’ve used them all and, even nearly got right to the end of the chain, sleeping rough, on railway stations, trains and buses . But by no means have I got to either extreme of Glamping or the Doss house. Yet! I fully understand why Nanny is not totally taken with my project, and I probably haven’t necessarily fully explained the less pleasant experiences. Nanny’s out of range in Auckland right now so I’m safe from being rescued and reorganised for a little while. Shhhh! Don’t tell.
I’ve got an interesting logistical operation coming up- traversing the Wash. It looks quite remote and devoid of transport, and significantly outside my safe daily walking range without back up. I’m investigating the possibility of proper hiking and camping, whilst abandoning the car at a central base and striking out from there. Early days. This could only happen in Nanny’s absence. And I’m relying on, nobody actually reading this far into the blog….
Probably a good time to reveal my camping arrangements. After the great flood, which all but washed away my one man hiking tent, I replaced it with a two man tent. Needed the extra man to accommodate my bedding arrangements. And someone to talk to? During winter, I insured against waking up frozen to death, by having several layers of duvets and three separate grounsheets and bedroll, and a three seasons sleeping bag. Usually I got too hot. Through Spring and with Summer approaching I am starting to discard layers and my baggage can get lighter – but there’s truth in the saying “ne’er cast a clout till May be out “. And I always keep spare dry bedding ready in the car, which is completely adaptable to emergency sleeping mode should the weather drive me from the tent.
The next day Bank Holiday Sunday, 5-30am , I’m up out, and dismantling the tent , it was hopeless trying to dry out the condensation, with the sun only just peeping over the horizon. So everything in the car, fan on full blast, heading for West Bay, recharging batteries, gizmo, phone/camera, on the coast next to Bridport. Today I would be walking from West Bay to Lyme Regis to join up all the missing links.
Two things I hadn’t allowed for; the sun melted the mist and most of the day was spent in full sun; and the obtuseness of a First Bus bus driver. My planning was perfect; there’d been no bus stops for two miles ; I knew my particular bus was due; I waited by a layby on a long straight stretch. I hailed him with no question of halfheartedness with both white sticks. As he glided by at regulation 25mph staring through his Ray Charles Raybans I knew he wasn’t going to stop – ever. I had time to even dive in front of him , but that would have been kind of self defeating. He knows , I know. And a First Bus supervisor now knows. He called him a very rude word! Just didn’t need his jobsworth attitude making me walk several extra miles at the end f a long hot day. But the very rude word made me feel much better and the advice to go and get a beer whilst waiting for the catch up bus. IN defence of bus drivers normally they have been superb, and they know they have something strange on board the moment I fold my map, untangle my sticks, trip over my rucksack and hand over my overused bus pass. It’s totally worn. Indignity though, when they lower the platform and then wait for me to get to the old codger’s seat.
In a former life, I was a bus clippie. The worst thing I ever did was give a return ticket to a dog, for which I got a verbal warning. Oh! – yes and another dog incident – but that was my drivers overzealous use of the new fangled concertina doors, allowing the little old lady to get on but shutting the doors on the dog , who was left running alongside the bus still on the lead which said little old lady hadn’t released. It was the first and only time I got to use the emergency bell – three short sharp rings repeated until driver is deafened and stops.Opens doors.Dog hauled aboard, legs slightly shorter and little old lady revived. I think we got away with it.
Those were the days
MAYBE the driver was put off by my cocktail of creams demanded by the management; firstly the one inch layer of sunscreen; then the insect repellent which tastes like mosquitos boiled in paraffin; followed by the Ibuprofen gel (3 x daily) to numb the arthritis and finally the antihistamine when the insect repellent fails. And the beanie hat, white sticks and black gloves probably give off the wrong image. I’m after the sympathy vote. Or perhaps someone more sensible wouldn’t be walking round England? (gloves on a hot summer’s day? – one size too small – are very comforting – if your hands hurt). And then there’s the painkillers, blood pressure monitor, defibrillator, spare blood plasma, slings, bandages, manicure set and suicide pills. Only joking. The gloves ARE the right size, just my hands are swollen. The three pairs of socks repel blisters and the arch supports have cured the pains in the ankles and achilles. Trouble is I now have to buy boots three sizes too big. I’ve mentioned before how important it is to look after your feet and toenails and take time putting boots on. I now look like Gollum. But I AM enjoying myself. Really
West Bay to Lyme Regis – Back to the Coast
Starting on the beach again at West Bay, top left, with the harbour entrance in sight, I was last here exactly one month ago on 29thApril,2016. Top right, looking back into the harbour; middle left, the view down the coast towards Lyme Regis, the white scar on the first hill is the South West Coast Path – I chose to walk along the beach in bottom picture with Golden Cap the highest point on the southern coast in the distance – spot level 191 metres. Middle right, fishing boats in West Bay Harbour.
The shingle was difficult to walk on, so at the next opportunity, Eype House, I would have stopped for a Latte and swapped to the South West Coast Path aka Monarch’s Way. But the lady in the camp shop said”We don’t do fancy drinks here” and instead served me a tray of filter coffee with cream, milk and biscuits, and a variety of sugars . No argument. Much cheaper than Branscombe. I did then leave the ankle tapping shingle and join the unstable cliff top route via The National Trust Property at Down House Farm.
No aplogies – how could I reduce this view – still not quite full size – looking back over a mile to West Bay
The same but getting a bit on edge
And looking towards Lyme Regis at Thorncombe Beacon
Getting a bit crowded approaching Seatown
On Golden Cap, spot level 191 metres. The Monument from the National Trust to an earlier leader, The Earl Of Antrim; looking East to East Ebb; and looking West to Lyme Bay
Spanish guests. Thadius and Marie, not her proper name, my English tongue apparently, would never be capable of pronouncing it correctly. They wanted to know all about my walk, and the blog. They wanted to know where my next walk was. They talked of walking in Spain and how I should come over in the Winter; how all the villages would know I was coming and they’d be helpful and cheer me on. Lodging , food and drink would be no problem. Just like Laurie Lee and how he walked out one midsummer morning leaving the Cotswolds to walk to London , but ended up walking across Spain, and got involved in the outbreak of their Civil War. He chose Spain because he knew the Spanish for “Will you please give a drink of water?”
He took his violin and could busk his way around; I can’t even dance the conga without falling over. Enjoy the blog Marie and Thadius. See you in Spain. But not till I’ve finished England and then Wales. But not Scotland. Maybe John O’Groats to Lands End.
And so I got lost – all the ingredients – a long and interesting chat – a poorly signposted and long and uninteresting diversion – loss of concentration – and a blind bus. All this and it was very hot.
About to cross The River Char at Charmouth by the footbridge. The bay cliffs beyond Charmouth are very unstable so the diverted path makes you turn right , north, and skirt the higher ground , 177metres, a mile or so inland. You enter Lyme Regis alongside the A3052. But no signs and the desire for a bus meant I followed the main road all the way into Lyme.
Even traffic signs were difficult to read on the main road, this was supposed to tell me to turn left to Lyme. This is a mile or so from approaching the point where I unsuccessfully hailed a bus.
The cliffs are very unstable between Charmouth and Lyme Regis and the diversion takes you well away from the coastline following the bus route for the most part. They do not believe in bus stops, not one was seen on the side I was walking after Charmouth. The tradition is that you can usually hail a bus from anywhere reasonable and it will stop somewhere safe. I had now given up on the walk to Lyme Bay and was now ready to get back to the car and finish off next visit. I worked out the pattern of buses heading from Lyme Bay to Bridport and with the timetable estimated that one should come along just before 3pm. I arranged to be in a safe layby, traffic could overtake and I was quite pleased that I could see the bus from a long way off. It trundled along and carried on past despite my signals and protestations. The next bus was two hours. So I resumed walking Lyme Bay and waited for it there.
Once back in Bridport and following a chat with the bus supervisor, and his superb advice to go and get a beer while the connecting bus arrives, and his assessment of his bus driver, I felt much better. But very tired. I had walked three hours longer than intended and still had a long drive home.
The very welcome pub alongside the bus station and the River Brit, with excellent live band. And twenty minutes before my connection.
Otherwise an excellent weekend’s walking 31 miles and the next starting point on the South West Coast Path, will be a return to the campsite in Branscombe Airstrip.
But I will probably return to The Wash, it’ll be cooler and flatter, and no buses.