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We were back!  After an absence of two and a half years we finally managed to coax our teenagers out of their bedrooms (I am sorry to say that they didn’t really emerge from their cocoons as the beautiful butterflies my wife had promised – I think they need to hibernate for a couple more years before that happens).

Given the gravitas of the occasion, various members of my family turned out in support.

And was the sun beaming to match our moods?  Erm…well…no, not really.  It was a little on the damp side.

And a little on the muddy side too.

This wasn’t the true Coastal Path.  We were still walking alongside Chesil Beach, having opted to take the inland route through fields rather than walk along Chesil Beach itself.  This is because parts of Chesil Beach are inaccessible at various times of the year due to firing ranges, nesting birds, etc.  As we could not guarantee when we would come back to continue our walk we saw the best option as following the official South West Coast Path.

Still, despite the rain and the mud nothing could dampen our high spirits.  Indeed, when I put my first full foot into a an unexpectedly deep and muddy puddle, and when the water spilled over the rim of my boots and soaked my socks, all I could do was smile at the sheer pleasure of being back on out Coastal Path – oh, how I had missed boots full of water (it really doesn’t take much to keep me happy).

Even better, as we got back to the cars there was a man with a pressure hose cleaning his caravan  – this very kind gent agreed to give B of the ABC’s a free hose down!

Points on this walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth)

  • Australia Road, Charlestown (start of walk):  N 50° 36.853 W 002° 29.915
  • Buller’s Way, Abbotsbury (end of walk):  N 50° 39.561 W 002° 37.425

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Christmas.  Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy the time of year.  But there is a certain part of me that wishes I were somewhere else on Christmas Day.  This feeling tends to occur at around 3pm.  Christmas Lunch is over.  The extended family have settled around the TV.  The windows are closed to keep the chill air out and slowly, but surely, the Queen’s Speech becomes obscured by a moist fog of satiated body heat as we all settle into a collective slump to waste away the final days of the year.

It’s not really my thing.

For several years we had endured the fog of Christmas and then fled to the coast on Boxing Day – to inhale the fresh air of freedom granted to us by the Great British Countryside.  In 2015 we couldn’t make Boxing Day, but the 28th was available and so in the early morning we fled down to Weymouth.

2015 you ask?  But I’m writing this in January 2018!  Yes, for that was our last Coastal Walk.  By 2015 our kids had grown into teenagers.  They had also grown tired of giving up every weekend to coastal walking.  I can’t blame them, and I am proud of what they have achieved – 700 miles from Southend to Swanage.  But they were at that time of their lives that I remember well when I was their age.  My wife puts it best: they are cocooned in their bedrooms like chrysalids, but one day their bedroom doors will open and they will emerge as beautiful butterflies.

But until then they need to be in their rooms and not down at the coast.  So today, 28 December 2015, was to be our last coastal walk for a while.

We left early – around 5ish (do you begin to see why there were objections in our household).  We arrived at Chesil Beach in the early dawn.  The lights of Portland called to us, but we were headed in the other direction, away from Portland and towards the wilds of West Dorset.

Our route today was the “inland” route following Chesil Beach.  Given I am writing this post some two years after doing the actual walk I hope you will forgive me my memory, which is mostly dictated by photos I took on the day.

I remember seeing what I assume were muntjac.

I remember our path was flooded, meaning we had to double back and navigate around fields.

I remember walking by Wyke Castle, built in 1865 and influenced by the Martello Towers of which we had seen so many during our travels.

And I remember the mud – the glorious mud!

But most of all I remember the beauty and warmth of the sunrise over Portland.

This will have to be the lasting memory for now.  As at January 2018 we are talking about going back for our next walk this Easter.  Will it happen?  I do hope so.  For now, there is one other thing I will need to remember:  Australia Road in Charlestown, Weymouth, for that is where we left off, and so that is where we will need to pick up.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth)

  • Wyke Castle:  N 50° 35.679 W 002° 28.876
  • Australia Road, Charlestown:  N 50° 36.853 W 002° 29.915

Walk #85 Statistics:

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The Coastal Path by Wingclipped - 11M ago

Pen-y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons is a place of outstanding beauty and at 2,907 feet is the highest peak in southern Wales.  It is famous for the gruelling “Fan Dance” stage of SAS selection which takes place here twice a year.

It seems strange, therefore, that there is a gentle path up to the summit that is perfectly suitable for a Sunday afternoon post-roast lunch stroll – I swear you could get a pushchair up it!

Given its ease of access, don’t expect to be the only person on the mountain, nor a tranquil and peaceful walk.  The world and his wife will almost certainly be joining you if you take this particular path up.  Once at the top, however, you forget the people and concentrate on the views.  The landscape below is laid out for you like a carpet.  It’s beautiful!

The vistas are amazing, at any angle you care to view them from.

A word of warning, however, for those wishing to get summit photos.  Photobombing is rife up there.

By the way, it’s only a short hop over to the adjoining peak, Cribyn, and well worth the effort.  And there are further peaks beyond if you really want to walk that roast lunch off.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth)

  • Pen-y-Fan:  N 51° 53.042 W 003° 26.190
  • Cribyn:  N 51° 52.910 W 003° 25.175

Walk Statistics:


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The thing I remember most about the west coast of Portland is an arch.  It was fashioned from blocks the size of people, as if giants had been playing with Lego bricks.  Although most were placed in exact positions, there were a few stones that appeared to have been dropped in almost haphazardly.  This gave the impression that the arch was safe to walk through, but that something might just dislodge and flatten you in the process.

Just beyond this arch is the Tout Quarry Sculpture Park and Nature Reserve, an old abandoned quarry which is being reclaimed both by nature and local artists.  There were many sculptures to see, including some very ornately carved pieces.  The one I was particularly drawn to was not one of those that had carved an entire rock into something new.  Rather, it was a large rock that kept its natural form, but into which the artist had carved something that its size and shape had clearly suggested to them:

Having made a small detour through the quarry we got back to the coast.  And then, all of a sudden, the ground began to fall away from us and we were starting our descent back to Chesil Beach, its long and beckoning arm stretching away into the distance.

 I am going to repeat my introduction to Chesil Beach which I gave a few posts ago:

Chesil Beach is a natural tombolo, the exact origin of which is disputed to this day.  It is 18 miles long, running from Portland in the south to West Bay in the north.  It is a pebble beach; its pebbles are fist-sized at Portland and gradually get smaller and smaller, ending up pea-sized at West Bay.  It is said that if a local fisherman landed on Chesil Beach in thick fog then he could tell you exactly where he was just by looking at the size of the pebbles!

As the pebbles were at their largest at this end of Chesil Beach, they made for easy walking.

The further north you go, however, the smaller the pebbles become and the tougher the walking becomes.  Even walking to the car park a mile and a half in we noticed that the walking became slightly more difficult.

Although I would like to walk the entire stretch of Chesil Beach one day, it was the wrong time of year for us today.  Parts of it are both firing range and nature reserve (a strange combination when you think about it) and the entirety of the beach is only accessible at certain times of the year.  We were at the end of our walk today, and by the time we would be back we wouldn’t be able to walk the entire length.  The inland route, which runs broadly parallel, would be our only option at the start of our next walk.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth)

  • Arch: N 50° 32.855 W 002° 27.002
  • Tout Quarry Sculpture Park:  N 50° 33.175 W 002° 26.770
  • Chesil Beach Car Park and Walk’s End:  N 50° 34.700 W 002° 28.150

Walk #84 Statistics (of which this post forms the final part):


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The western side of Portland is the less favourable for walkers when compared to the eastern side.  There are no cliff paths down to the shoreline; no wild goats; no hidden coves or ruined churches.  The western side is a clifftop walk passing some bleak looking concrete buildings and, for the most part, not much else.

Whilst the western coastline of the island does not have the interest of the eastern side, it was here that we were lucky enough to see something that I had never seen before – a pair of hunting kestrels.  When I spotted them they were some distance away.  I fixed my zoom lens on my camera and took a number of pictures, but even the best was fuzzy and disappointing.

I felt sure that they would fly off before we got to them, but whilst they separated and started hunting from different spots both continued to move along the coastline in search of prey, allowing us to get close and observe.

They hovered on the air currents, allowing these to take them slowly down the coastline.  After a while they would fly back up the coast to their starting point and start the process again, ever alert for movement below which would signal prey.

Then, all of a sudden, one of them dived – almost too quickly for me to react.

It shot down to the scrub below, where it suddenly fanned its feathers out and hovered a few feet off the ground, clearly searching for whatever had made the sudden movement that had attracted it.

It suddenly veered towards a clump of plants which obviously offered more protection than the open grass.  It hovered again and then pounced into the thick of it.

Again, it was all so quick I hardly had time to react.  Had it caught anything?  I was unsure; it was shielded from view by the greenery.  It stayed there for a few moments and then flew out again, returning to the higher ground to begin its patrol once more.

Walk #83 Statistics (of which this post forms the final part):


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When you arrive, the mosaic gives it away.

The Falls of Shin, in the middle of the Scottish Highlands, are a fantastic place to watch salmon trying to pass up river during the summer months.

About five miles north of the falls is Loch Shin, a large body of water some 16 miles long and covering an area of over 30 square miles.  The entirety of this loch discharges at a single point, at its southernmost extreme, into the River Shin.  In terms of water dispensed, it is said that the River Shin is the largest in Sutherland.  It drops some 300 feet during its short 7-mile journey to the Kyle of Sutherland estuary before it flows out to sea at the Dornoch Firth.

Most of the river’s descent is in the last mile or so.  At the Falls of Shin the river narrows to a few metres in width.  It is here where wild Atlantic salmon can be seen leaping out of the water as they try to fight their way upstream to the safety of the Loch and feeder rivers to spawn.

I wasn’t sure what we would see when we arrived here, so all I told my wife and children was that we were here to see a waterfall.  However, within seconds of our arrival there were the salmon, leaping to the very extent of their ability against a torrent of water which looked to slam them back down to their starting place.

The salmon in the picture above, I am sure, didn’t make it – it’s angle of attack seemed wrong.  However, within seconds another one leaped from the churning, seething waters to make its bid.  We watched as every few seconds salmon threw themselves upward, out of the resistance of the river into a split second of free air before diving back into the force of the waters.

It seemed impossible that any of the fish actually made the leap up the falls, but clearly they do.

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth)

  • The Falls of Shin: N 57° 57.640 W 004° 24.430

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