Eyeholes: “Oh my fucking god will you JUST LOOK AT THAT VIEW?! I can’t even <3”
Camera: “Meh. S’alright.”
Brain: “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING SO CLOSE TO THE EDGE ARE YOU INSANE?! That’s it. Sit down. You’re not going anywhere.”
In an absolute stroke of fluke more than planning we were close enough to Lulworth that we could make it through the firing ranges today. It was only because we were ahead of the already vague and arbitrary schedule we’d knocked together. Neither of us had even realised Lulworth was so close to Poole. We’d discussed timing it to get there on a weekend when they were open but it was a distant future that we’d work out closer to the time. Suddenly that distant future was two days away so we made an extra special effort on Saturday to get as close to Lulworth as we could so we could get through the ranges on Sunday.
It had rained last night but it was also windy as fuck this morning so at least we got to pack away a lovely, dry tent before we headed off along the trail. Turned out if we’d managed to drag ourselves a further twenty minutes up the path there would have been plenty of flatter options away from the trail as evidenced by the four tents still pitched at Seacombe Bottom. I envy their chill. Rationally I realise that most people give no fucks if you want to pitch up for the night as long as you’re respectful, but I’m hyper aware that it’s illegal resulting in broken sleep and 4.30am alarm clocks. Hopefully as we progress the anxiety will ease.
We wanted somewhere sheltered from the ridiculous wind for breakfast and you can see the caves at Winspit from the trail. That’d do assuming rocks didn’t fall on us mid-Mug Shot. There also seemed to be someone doing yoga near the edge which didn’t seem like the most sensible idea. We detoured down there, and what a cool little place! There was a group of people who’d obviously been there all night, they had a little fire going, a few tents set up, playing a bit of music, having a nice time. We tucked ourselves away in another cave so we didn’t bother them, enjoyed a princely breakfast assuming royalty gives no fucks about nutritional value, then headed off.
Shit got really hairy this morning, we had to contend with clifftop walks, the path snaking terrifyingly close to the edge. On a normal day this would make my bumhole twitch but the wind was hell bent on scooting us further towards the edge. Ohhh fuck fuck fuck. I jammed my poles into the ground and listed to the right, grabbing onto the less spiky parts of the barbed wire fence, pointedly trying to ignore whatever was going on to the left of me. I’m sure it was stunning but the stunningness started too soon after the path. I like a bit of tangible ground between me and my eyehole fodder.
We made it to St Aldhelm’s Chapel though and that’s really cool. It’s a tiny little 800 year old chapel and I’m hopelessly enamoured with old buildings. There’s also a National Coastwatch Institution hut. Apparently, at some point, the government decided to save some money and got rid of all the Coastguard lookouts. They figured technology was sophisticated enough to do the job. It was only when a yacht went down and two lives were lost that local people reopened a Coastguard lookout. NCI volunteers now staff 57 lookouts, keeping an actual eye on the sea for distress flares or anyone in trouble.
I swear, mate, the wind just got fucking worse. It felt like it was whistling up my nostrils and coming out of my eyeballs. Then there were the hills. Fuck me. All those little bumps along the South Downs Way that we thought were hills? How naive we were. Just after the chapel a set of steps took you aaaaaall the way down a steep slope, then immediately aaaaaall the way back up again. The proximity to the edge, the brutal wind and the steep down hill combined got the better of me, my brain decided it had had enough and my feet froze to the floor. Bollocks. I sat down.
This is not a new thing, this is a thing that happens when I get scared because I’m really fucking high up. Tarrant coaxed me down, I bumped down on my arse step by step until I felt confident enough to stand up again. This was knackering but we really, really wanted to go through the ranges so we pressed on until it was definitely nap time. Just ten minutes should calm my nerves enough.
It was just gone midday when we got to the very popular Kimmeridge Bay, and the firing ranges start just after this. You know when you’re not welcome because there’s a fuck off big fence and a gate covered in barbed wire and I would imagine it’s very much shut and locked on live firing days. A sign advised us the range walks were open and encouraged us to enjoy our walks. Why thank you, innocuous green sign. I will indeed enjoy my walk. Dear reader, I had no fucking idea what was in store.
There are three sod off great big hills that the South West Coast Path follow through the ranges. The first one, whilst knackering, was pretty much just more of what we’d been tackling for most of the morning but not quite as life-threateningly close to the edge so I was able to put a lot of views into my eyeholes. The wind had also dropped significantly so there was little risk of it relocating me to the sea below. We stopped, had some lunch and gazed at what lay before us. Hills, obviously, but they looked doable albeit slowly.
The second hill can, quite frankly, fuck right off. You know how sometimes a hill that looks steep in the distance doesn’t look so bad when you’re stood at the bottom of it? This one looked worse. I swear it looked vertical at the top. The worn path up was made up of rough steps so, slowly slowly, we made our way up. I leaned forwards onto my poles which I used to haul myself up. I felt like someone had taken a blow torch to my calf muscles. Then, when I wasn’t a huge distance from the top, I became acutely aware of how high up I was and how much steep hill was behind me. Irrationally, I decided to not trust my grip and my feet, again, froze to the floor. Bollocks. I knelt where I was, grabbed whatever I could with my hands and called up to my long-suffering girlfriend.
You know, it’s a bloody good job she loves me isn’t it? She finished her climb, left her bag then made her way back down to me and took my bag off me so I could crawl to the top on my hands and knees whilst trying not to cry. It was only when I was well out of view of the bottom that I finally could sit down and stop shaking.
Hill number three wasn’t as bad going up. From the bottom it looked hideous, the trail swerving butt-clenchingly close to the edge, but it did have proper steps rather than the sloping, dubious patches of mud steps of hill two. I just took it one step at a time, staring intently at nothing but the step directly in front of me, with Tarrant behind me offering words of encouragement. Going down the other side definitely involved at least one fuck-this-I’m-sitting-down incident, and I did have to slide down some of it on my arse.
Eventually you come to another high fence with a gate marking the boundary of the firing range, then you swing a right to the beautiful Lulworth Cove. Make sure you enjoy the view and have a nice little breather here because when you see what you’ve got to get up next you’ll probably have a minor nervous breakdown.
We’d intended to push through past Durdle Door and find a wild camp but this had taken a long, long time. My nerves were shattered and spread out unceremoniously along the trail. We were both exhausted, physically and emotionally, and you know what? Fuck it. The YHA in West Lulworth will let you pitch a tent, so that’s what we’ll do. What’s more, we’re taking tomorrow off. Why not hey? We’re on holiday.
Day on South West Coast Path: 2
Distance walked today: 16.3 miles
Total walked so far: 197.62 miles
Weather: Blowing an absolute gale for half the day, then got hot but with occasional chilly wind.
Coldest temp last night: 9.63°C inside / 8.44°C outside
Trigs bagged: 0
Trigs to date: 22
“Have you read ‘The Salt Path?'” (Running Total): 2
Jump to “Useful shit to know…”
Dancing Ledge, Dorset to West Lulworth, Dorset, England
Stayed at: YHA Lulworth Cove (camping)
Useful shit to know…
- There seem to be good wild camping opportunities at Seacombe Bottom and also at Aldhelm’s Head, though the latter is quite exposed to the wind. There’s a sign at Winspit forbidding fires and camping but that doesn’t seem to stop people.
- There are public toilets at Kimmeridge Bay and it has proper taps so you can wash your socks and fill your water bottle.
- The firing ranges are open to walks usually at weekends and some holidays but do check online for the published days.
- At the time of writing the YHA in West Lulworth let you pitch a tent for £15 per tent per night. They only have a very small space for tents though so call ahead.
- There’s a campsite at Durdle Door but it’s very expensive.
- Lulworth Stores is open until 8pm daily but it’s not great for dried goods such as Mug Shots and Super Noodles. The bacon, however, is from a butcher and is sublime.
BUDGET for one person (based on two sharing)
Accommodation, camping at YHA: £7.50
Beers at YHA: £10.50
Grand Total: £26.37