Despite the forecast arrival of the first big storm of the season later in the day (correct as it turned out) I was excited to get this adventure underway. After being dropped off by Lea and posing for a few photos next to the steel structure that marks the start/finish of the South West Coast Path. I set off from South Haven Point in good walking conditions; bright, cool and breezy. The first couple of miles were an enjoyable stroll along the golden sands around Studland Bay, I kept close to the waters edge to make the most of the firm sand. At Studland where the beach ran out I moved to the cliff-top path and made my way to Old Harry Rocks, a very pleasant spot. The chalk rocks here mark the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, which I intend to walk in it's entirety this week. While at Studland I came across the first of many path diversions I expect to encounter on my journey due to coastal erosion.
From Old Harry Rocks to Swanage the going started to get quite hilly for the first time and the wind was already picking up noticeably. Swanage looked like a pleasant place, there were plenty of visitors in town, many of them there to cheer on runners in the Purbeck Marathon that was taking place that day.
Swanage was the only town (or village) I walked through today. The next 10 miles to St Aldhelm's Head were rugged terrain with the remains of many limestone quarries to seen. The wind strength continued to build through this section and was beginning to make progress noticeably more difficult than it otherwise would have been. Unfortunately due to an unexpected complication and the absence of any mobile signal my lunchtime meeting with Lea at St.Aldhelm's Chapel didn't happen. I rested for a while, ate the emergency back-up snacks I'd been given by my Mum and pressed on. I took this short video clip soon after leaving St.Aldhelm's Head a few minutes before the rain arrived, it gives you an idea of the wind strength I walked into all afternoon;
When I reached West Hill the well-forecast storm hit and the rest of the day would prove to be very tough. Winds were up at gale force and in my face most of the time. The rain was of the stinging horizontal variety that penetrates through even the best of water-proofs. Visibility was very poor, no more photographs could be taken and I was unable to enjoy the scenery. Soon after West Hill a 4-mile section of the path was on a long-term closure due to land slides. I followed the diversion route as well as I could, but it was poorly sign-posted and I ended up taking an improvised route that went through a muddy smelly farmyard and the grounds of Smedmore House.
Despite the horrendous weather I was determined to make it through the Lulworth Firing Ranges today. It was a Sunday, after today they would be closed to the public until the following Saturday. My intention is to walk the South West Coast path in sequence if possible, I don't want to skip bits which I'd have to go back and walk later.
I made my way back down to the Coast Path again after entering the firing ranges on a ridge. The wind remained very strong and made the going a real battle on the more exposed sections, it was hard to stay standing in places. The final three miles from Worbarrow Tout to Lulworth Cove were the toughest of the lot. By now I was getting exhausted and de-hydrated due to the aborted lunch meet-up. The last two steep hills were very steep, a real challenge, I stopped to rest every 20 metres or so. It was a big relief when I finally sighted Lulworth below me when a mile away with darkness falling. It was all downhill from there, I chose the Radar Station path. It was a great relief when I met worried Lea, who was waiting in the car park with much needed food and drink.
The South West Coast path threw everything it had at me today; high mileage, more climbing than an ascent of Ben Nevis, ferocious weather. My missed lunch meeting and lack of fluids was a further complication that made the day even more challenging. I'm very pleased I managed overcome such a tough test on the very first day of this journey, I hope I won't face anything worse between here and Minehead.
After such a tough test on my Day 1 I decided to make Monday an unplanned rest day to recover, the walking to resume from Lulworth Cove on Tuesday morning.
Distance Walked Today 30.06 miles (48.38 km)
Cumulative Distance Walked 30.06 miles (48.38 km)
GPS Track; https://www.strava.com/activities/533694950
South Haven Point, the journey begins here
Old Harry Rocks, the eastern end of The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site
The large globe at Durlston Castle
One of the many disused limestone quarries
The terrain starts to get hilly west of St. Aldhelm's Head. Shortly after I took
this picture the storm hit preventing any further use of my camera .