A couple of weekends ago I took the opportunity to get out for a walk. I had a few hours and needed the exercise so I headed for a stretch of the SW Cost path. No particular end point in mind, I set off, the weather good for walking. A few dark clouds patterned the otherwise blue sky. It was relatively busy; I saw a dozen or so people in the first half hour with the expectation that the further east I walked towards Lulworth Cove, the journey would become more crowded. A naked walk seemed unlikely.
Within minutes I felt a few raindrops so I wrapped my T-shirt around my phone as protection. The dark clouds were few and far between so I had no doubt that this situation would improve before too long. I made good progress in my running shorts and soon I had done the easy part of the walk past White Nothe and across the next headland to a low point on the cliff tops. One more headland and I would be at Bat’s Head, just west of Durdle Door. The coastline and view around was stunning and risky in places where the path goes within a few feet of a 100ft shear drop with no barrier to stop anyone from going over the edge. The other side of the path was of course protected by a fairly substantial barbed wire fence to prevent anyone from accidentally falling onto a grassy meadow. I took the opportunity on a few occasions to stop and appreciate the view, the sound of the birds and of the sea washing up on the shore and the feeling of the breeze wrapping itself around me. The lightweight material of my shorts did little to impair the pleasure of being in that environment.
I’m not great with heights. The sight of Bat’s Head, a pointed outcrop of vertical cliff snaked with cracks foretelling the future outcome of this geographical feature, was best appreciated from the path closest to the fence. I climbed the next headland and was presented with the sight of the stone arch that is Durdle Door. There were people taking photographs, picnicking, marines using the headland to train (with backpack) and a few walkers in search of a slightly less populated area away from the main tourist venue.
The path disappeared from view down the steep descent to the unusually named Scratchy Bottom. I was aware that a few people were staring a bit. I’m used to this as pretty much everyone else was wearing proper walking gear and in some cases, coats, I would probably be considered under-dressed in just a pair of shorts. As expected, the crowds were very evident as I approached Durdle Door. More than I had imagined given the now worsening weather, but then the good old British spirit demands that the beach be visited even if it is an endurance rather than a pleasure. I stopped only for an obligatory photo of the arch and with time not pressing I decided that the village at Lulworth Cove could be achieved. If anything, the village was even more crowded and there was a very strong tide of people traversing the peak between the village and Durdle Door in both directions.
I had run out of water so called in at one of the shops to replenish. Whilst they were unable to sell me any, they filled up my bottle for me – full marks for saving the environment. On leaving the shop, my phone announced that I had just completed 5 miles and with a few more dark clouds becoming apparent I decided to waste no time in setting off back the way I had come.
I was on the first hill out of the village, catching my breath briefly, when I was approached by a very jovial character. “My friend, I should have stopped you earlier when I saw you; you have forgotten your trousers and shirt! Had I spoke earlier you wouldn’t have had so far to go back for them.” We both laughed and then continued our separate journey in now opposite directions.
On reaching the top of the hill, the wind had whipped up and the less hardy were abandoning the beach in search of cars and holiday accommodation. There were a lot of friendly people though, smiling and a few exchanged greetings. My happy friend’s comment however was starting to resonate as the smiles (and a few laughs) increased as the wind tried to relive me of my last item of clothing. My options were limited. Four miles left to walk, the weather was getting cooler and I knew the five mini-sausage rolls I’d had for lunch were not going to keep me going forever. I was starting to feel the effects of the undulating coastline; what would be a walk in the park for some people was a definite level-up from my recent activity level. I was spurred on by the fact that no-one seemed to have a problem. Quite the opposite in fact as, like my jovial friend, people appeared to be happy and smiling as I passed by. True there were a few individuals that walked by with head firmly fixed forward but eyes trained on my shorts, perhaps thinking they or I had had one beer too many. But no ill comments or negative attention even in the most populated sections of the walk.
I made it back to the car just as the clouds could hold on no longer and began to shed their load in large droplets. Thank you God! On the whole a beautiful and really enjoyable afternoon. Ten miles, with overall ascent/descent 2140ft and 1500 calories burned should make the next time easier.