We swapped the sounds of the sea for the sounds of the A35 last night but to be fair, once I’m drifting off, as long as the noise is steady my brain can’t differentiate and it lulls me to sleep anyway. I slept so fucking well too! It helps being tucked away and not on a slope, and it’s so much warmer in the trees.
The good thing about waking up next to a golf course is that you can brazenly stroll across the course to bag a trigpoint before golfers have even got out of bed. To be fair though, given that golfers gonna golf regardless of hour or weather I don’t think I’d have been taken aback if there were one or two people belting their balls about. A couple of greenskeepers were milling about, I rehearsed my “we just want to look at your trigpoint without disturbing the golfers” speech in my head in case they got arsey but they didn’t even notice us.
We walked through an absolute stunner of a bluebell forest this morning too. I mean like, seriously , what a fucking treat! I’ve never seen so many of the little blue buggers before, if I didn’t need to shit so badly I’d have spent a lot longer taking photos, probably sprawled in the dirt for that perfect angle, muttering something about f-stops, pretending that I actually knew how to use the £800 photographic device I kept slung around my shoulders.
But nature wasn’t just calling, it was hammering violently at the back door so we strode towards Lyme Regis with the intention of heading towards a café Google had assured us opened at 7am. Charmouth Road car park though, you utter legend with your 24 hour bogs, thank god you exist. I’ve never waddled across a car park whilst clenching so quickly before. I understand why toilets need to be closed at night, especially in areas with high incidences of vandalism, but yay for Dorset and its smattering of all night facilities so I don’t have to shit myself.
Crisis averted, we had breakfast on the beach, taking advantage of what would apparently be our last day of decent weather if the Met Office was to be believed. Always best to believe the country’s leading authority on weather I think, no matter how much you don’t want it to be true. Ignoring them whilst saying things like, “Oh but I simply can’t imagine it raining any time soon!” will not stop you from getting piss wet through when the clouds inevitably roll in. We figured we should do some tent maintenance too as we’d very much like it to not leak and/or collapse.
We taped up some tiny holes in the tent footprint too which possibly happened when camping on brambles, but also definitely when Tarrant dropped the scissors on it. We also picked up some Gorilla Tape from the hardware store because two of our three tent poles had started splitting at stress points and we’d been splinting them for the last couple of nights. After recharging our power banks for a couple of hours at Costa, and applying caffeine to our general beings, we headed back to the beach so Tarrant could carefully tape each joint on each pole, and I could smile like a massive creep at everyone’s dogs.
We basked in the sun like big, pink lizards for a while longer before finally, reluctantly, we tore ourselves away from Lyme Regis. I’m sure it’s an absolute hellscape in the summer but at this time of year, with this level of tourism, it’s fucking lovely.
Something else that is lovely, it turns out, is the Axmouth to Lyme Regis Undercliff. You say “undercliff” to me and I think of the flat, wide, concreted undercliff that runs between Brighton and Saltdean. But you’re in Dorset now, bitch! Nothing about the next four hours of your life is going to be considered flat! There’s even a sign warning you that once you’re on it you’re on it, you can’t get inland, you can’t get to the sea. It will be arduous and it will take between three and a half and four hours. That seemed optimistic by our standards but hey. Challenge accepted. Terms and conditions apply.
You feel like you’re in the jungle. The humidity in the trees helps with that jungle vibe too. The smell of wild garlic permeated the air and we often found ourselves walking through corridors of the stuff. I’d love to do foraging stuff but given my track record I’d probably kill myself because I thought a berry that turns your blood to sand or some shit was something completely different and tasty.
We just cruised along, really enjoying ourselves, stopping to chat to people, and one couple did tell us we had some obnoxious hills in our immediate future, but after the Lulworth Ranges I figured I could handle any hills the undercliff could throw at us. They were alright in the end, lots of slightly-too-tall steps, plenty of the up-to-come-down-to-go-up hills we’d become accustomed to, but all very manageable and didn’t detract from how fucking awesome this section was.
We resupplied in Seaton and headed to where the trail split into two routes; one for low tide and one for high tide. We looked at the beach, the tide didn’t look too high, low tide was only a few hours ago, but we had no idea how far along the shingle we’d have to plod before we turned off. Probably best to not chance it, we didn’t fancy being swept away by the tide, or worse, having to do the last few miles of the day with wet feet. There was a couple sat on a bench, I noticed them looking over at us as we discussed our options so we asked them what they thought. The bloke pointed across the beach,
“See those signs over there?” he asked. We did.
“You’ve only got to go as far as those then you turn off and go up.” Oh. Okay then. Even we can make that, even on shingle. Thank you, local man.
They told us the higher route wasn’t very nice either, and it was quite long, so I’m pretty chuffed we managed this way even if my calf muscles strongly disagreed with any manner of beach walking. When the trail gets to Beer it takes you right past the Anchor Inn and its lovely beer garden. A beer in a beer garden in Beer you say? Don’t mind if we do because, when all is said and done, we are massive fucking tourists first and long distance hikers second.
Yeah so I don’t know who needs to hear this but having a beer to fortify yourself before climbing up a particularly unfriendly hill does not work. In fact it has the opposite effect to what you hope it would. We dragged ourselves up and up until the road became trail again and we started keeping an eye out for somewhere to chuck a tent up.
Fuck me, am I glad we only had one motor impairment beverage before we carried on, the trail hugged a cliff edge which was fine until the fence ran out. Not for the first time this trip, I listed to the right and tried to pointedly ignore whatever was happening to my left until we were safely back to sea level or thereabouts.
By the time we got to Branscombe Beach we still hadn’t found a campsite so we decided to take advantage of the fact the beaches were pebbles and not tiny particles of evil and pitched a little way up the beach, probably directly underneath the posh chalets we’d walked through on the way down. Oh well. We did have to check a few fire rings to make sure they were cold whilst choosing a pitch and one of them was still lava hot, they’d just covered it with stones.
Seriously, people. If you’re going to have a fire on the beach, put it out properly, don’t just cover it up. A child or even worse, a dog, might step in it and really hurt themselves. We doused it and moved a little further up so I didn’t trip up and faceplant it whilst going for one of my midnight nana wees.
Lyme Regis, Dorset to Branscombe Beach, Devon, England
Stayed at: Wild camp on Branscombe Beach
Useful shit to know…
- There are toilets at Charmouth Road car park, next to the hardware store at Cobb Gate in Lyme Regis, and more further along the promenade. There are more toilets in Seaton, Beer, and at Branscombe Beach.
- There are water refills outside the toilets on the promenade at Lyme Regis, in Seaton, and Branscombe Beach.
- I don’t think the tide for the Seaton to Beer section needs to be very low. It’s not far at all, just look for the signs on the other side and you can easily see whether you can make it or not.