Estimates of the distance varied, and my Fit Bit needed to be charged so we had no independent distance calculator. But never mind, the morning was bright and beautiful. We started off in high spirits, wandering along the promenade. Our first challenge confronted us at the end of the promenade. Because of so much serious, and ongoing erosion to the cliffs, the SWCP was not safe along the coast. We had to detour inland, so we back tracked, and followed one of the only roads leading up a steep hill out of town. We got to a car park and were puzzling over the SWCP signs, when a very nice couple came along and offered to lead the way, through some woods, back onto the road, up again, me huffing and puffing like a leaky bellows. Then a right hand turn onto the Lyme Regis Golf Course.
Across the golf course, and down the hill, again on a macadam road into the lovely little town of Charmouth. The nice couple whose name we never found out, invited us in for a coffee and a “comfort stop.” We thanked them, declined their offer, and headed on down into town, looking for the beach cafe, and the Charmouth Heritage Coast Center, selling lots of fossils in a crowded touristy stop, and some insipid coffee.
Back we walked into town, looking for Stone Barrow Rd. Up Stone Barrow Hill. Up, up, up we climbed on the narrow, macadam road. It was shady and quite windy, so fairly cool. But the road was steep, and much longer than either of us thought. It must have taken at least a half hour to get to the top, where we found an enormous car park, and wide meadow. We crossed the meadow and regained the SWCP. The coastal views began to unfurl, ahead to our third big hill, the highest point on the SWCP, the Golden Cap. Lyme Regis to our right.
Down we went, over some stiles, and past a lovely old stone barn, and even lovlier stone cottage. This was Westhay Farm. My ideal for a summer retreat. We passed some very contented cows, and their calves, who had no interest in us at all. Over a footbridge, and through a copse of trees. Then we started up through a meadow filled with buttercups. Somewhere along this stretch of coast was the setting for the dramatic scene from Far From Madding Crowd, when the sheep are driven over the cliff by the crazed dog.
Now we are coming to the really challenging climb, up the side of the Golden Cap. There were steps dug into the path. Thank goodness for the walking poles. It was really windy, and the poles provided anchorage. My hat blew off, so I took it off and put it in my backpack. We sat down under a gnarled old apple treed and drank the last of our water before the final push.
Toward us, down the hill, came a stream of walkers of all ages, who scampered past, while I huffed and puffed, counting forty steps and then bending over my poles to catch my breath. Jennifer walked steadily ahead. At one stretch, we had ropes to hang onto as we climbed, and there were steps cut into the path to help with the footing. Just below the summit, Jennifer found a bench, and sat down to wait for me. It was a beautiful view. The coast curving west toward Lyme Regis, and the farmlands, meadows, sheep, and lovely stone houses.
At the top we admired the little monument, and ventured cautiously to the edge of the cliff. Very windy, and not wanting to be blown over, we sat down. There were many people enjoying the view. We started down the other side of Golden Cap toward Seatown. Again the signs were bewildering, but we kept walking, over a stile, and through a meadow onto a macadam road, and into a camp site and a car park, right on the beach. There was also a nice pub, where we had a cider, and I had a sandwich. It was now 3:30, and I was well and truly knackered.
According to our guide book, West Bay was another 2.5 miles, over a final “bump” not quite as big as Golden Cliff. I voted to walk into Cheadock, about a mile away, where we could get the Jurrasic Coaster bus. We didn’t fill up our water bottles, which was a big mistake, because the road to Cheadock was of course up hill, and seemed more like 2 miles. The road was so narrow that we had to spring back into the nettles when cars passed. Not at all pleasant. We found the bus stop on the main road with no trouble, but it was in the blazing sun. A middle aged couple was waiting too, and said we had probably missed the bus. Another wouldn’t be coming for an hour.
Jennifer went off to a little store up the road for some drinks, and I wandered up and down looking for shade. I didn’t think I’d pass out, but I have rarely been so totally wiped out. After an hour, I got so desperate, I went into the little store to ask if I could use their phone to call a taxi. But just then the bus came. All was well, and we arrived at West Bay Hotel at 6:00. Thought of all the synonyms for knackered – wasted, beat, done in, ground down, dead tired, dog tired, exhausted, run into the ground, used up, drained, wiped out, over done, pooped, fried. That’s about how I felt, but also so happy to be here!