Part of the reason I wanted to walk the South West Coast Path was to explore a part of the country I didn’t know at all. But Dorset is one place I have been before and today’s walk took me past a number of sights I vividly remember, though I can’t quite believe that family holiday was over 20 years ago now!
The path east from Burton Bradstock ran beside Burton Mere: or, more precisely after all the rain we’ve had, through it. Splashing through the wetlands was the muddiest part of the trip so far and by the time we got to West Bexington our legs were liberally coated in dirt. But at least the Coast Path remained passable: at least one track leading deeper into the area looked like it might require a swimsuit – or a boat!
After all that mud the pebbles of Chesil Beach were a refreshing change – for about a dozen steps, until I remembered how much hard work it is walking on shingle.
Fortunately for me the Coast Path turned inland shortly afterwards, both to protect migratory birds from disturbance by walkers and to protect walkers from becoming targets for those training on the MoD rifle ranges at Chickerell. The inland route comprised a pleasant stroll along a ridge line, then down around the inland edge of the Fleet lagoon. It would be a wonderful place for bird watching and I made a note to come back at some point with my binoculars and more time, to explore it more thoroughly. Even a quick walk past gave good views of herons and egrets, black-headed gulls and terns, and a variety of waders: all a nice change from the relentless herring gulls that have been my near constant – and not always welcome – companions on this trip. But there were not many swans at the Abbotsbury Swannery: as a teenager I remember being amazed at the number crammed onto the water there, while from my viewpoint today I could hardly see any.
But while it was fun reacquainting myself with places I haven’t seen in so long it was a particularly long day (around 18 miles) and I was tired and cold from walking under grey skies in a freshening wind. Thankfully it stayed dry for once so I counted my blessings, but I was happy to finally work my way round the east end of the Fleet and reach the shelter of the tent. I’m sure I remember it as warmer and sunnier here…