Day 030: Worth Matravers to West Lulworth
Distance: 21.11 miles
Ascent: 3963 feet
Weather: Sunny Spells
Accommodation: Lulworth Cove Youth Hostel
I left Worth Matravers early, after depitching in the rain and headed back down to Winspit Quarry, disturbing two deer in the process. Almost immediately the paths became incredibly muddy, and the path rose steadily up to the coastwatch hut which is situated right next to St Aldhelms Chapel. This chapel appears very unusual perched on the top of a high cliff at the end on a headland, and to my surprise on entering what I had assumed was an empty building it is still in use with a few pews inside and by the looks of it no electricity, so services must be completely candlelit. It has had a little bit of a chequered past being built in the 12th century before becoming derelict by the 17th/18th centuries, before a new estate owner decided to restore it in the 19th century.
The rain had stopped, and the sun was trying to come out, but up on the cliffs I was extremely exposed to the winds which though not really strong were strong enough. The muddiness from St Aldhelms chapel became even worse and actually became a fairly serious issue, as the steepness of the ascents and descents also increased, with some areas stepped. With at times on the downhills it becoming an attempted controlled slip when the ground just would not take a step without the mud giving way and on the uphills when there weren’t steps sometimes having to use pigeon steps, and when this became too difficult using bushes, fence posts, or even carefully barbed wire to help you get up. Though at a significantly slower speed than normal I made it over to the Kimmeride Ledges.
Well at this point I suddenly panicked when a few hundred meters ahead I could see people in camouflage, slowly crossing a field with what looked like bright orange flags, and a load of gunfire started going of to my right. I assumed for a second I had gone further than I thought and entered the military range. I consulted my maps and I hadn’t so I continued. I suddenly realised it was a pheasant hunt (triggered by several pheasants flying overhead) and that the people with orange flags must be some sort of beaters. I in fact met 2 other pheasant shoots of varying scales throughout the day.
At the Purbeck Marine Nature Reserve there was a sudden 10-minute torrential downpour, I was fortunate to just be passing the toilets so sought refuge in there. This turned out to be the only rain of the day. My next obstacle was the Lulworth Ranges, which I knew were shut due to firing today as I had googled 2 days previously but from their information I could not work out which bits were open or closed and they had not returned my emails or calls, so I knew I had a diversion but I had no clue how long. I could also hear the bombs and rapid fire weaponry going off which was quite a disconcerting sound.
This diversion was a right annoyance as there was no clear path and it turned out that pretty much the whole range was shut. So I had a significant inland diversion with a lot of road/lane walking. The route was not unscenic (and very few muddy areas), and I did pass various estates, but it was annoying and added at least 8 miles onto the distance. What was more annoying was the ranges unclear signage, and there failure to respond via phone or email to the public as they are meant to do.
This extension meant that I would not make it to my scheduled stop of Osmington Mills, but instead I stopped at West Lulworth where there was fortunately a youth hostel and even though I booked a dorm room, unsurprisingly I was the only one in it.
Today was a strange day, that felt more like a battle ground with all the shooting and bombs going off only a short distance away as well as the really thick mud. It was also the first time during the morning when I actually thought how the hell am I going to do this walk, but by the afternoon I just got my head down realised that I was still covering a good mileage today even if I would not reach the scheduled point. So all in all a successful day, if not a little annoying.