Wednesday, August 1
Weymouth to Corfe Castle: Walk 2012
Although I've been following the development and planning of Walk 2012 ever since it first kicked off, I wasn't sure whether I would be able to join in until the very last minute. Rather inconveniently the dates of the Olympics (and hence of Walk 2012) clashed exactly with the period during which the quarterly magazine I edit goes to press.
But as the start date approached I realised that I was well enough prepared for the magazine to be able to take a bit of time out for leisure, and what's more the weather forecast was good. It turned out that by getting up at 5am on Saturday morning I was able to get a train all the way to Weymouth in order to be at the Jubilee clock tower in time to meet the walkers setting off on the Games Way.
The long-distance walk (184 miles from Weymouth, where the Olympic sailing is taking place to the Olympic stadium at Stratford in east London) was the idea of Mark Stanley, who can be seen in the picture above being interviewed for Radio Solent. He has been aided and abetted in his development, testing and planning of the walk by his partner Felix, a sound artist and keen knitter whose blog I started following long before Walk 2012 was even a twinkle in Mark's eye.
So it was a keen bunch of about 16 who set out from Weymouth on the first leg of the walk, to Durdle Door some 14 or so miles away. The sun was glorious, the scenery devastatingly beautiful and the hills were relatively gentle to begin with.
Luckily the pub offered some fine, refreshing ale and what's more I was able to head down to the cove for a refreshing dip before we went back to the campsite for the night. Turned out I had the biggest tent out of the five - even bigger than the one being shared by Mark and Felix. A bit embarrassing but what can I say? I like my home comforts!
Below is a picture of Lulworth Cove, just in case you didn't realise what an idyllic spot it is. This was taken at about 10am on Sunday morning as the hard core of seven remaining walkers (plus Poppy the dog, who I fell a bit in love with) set out towards Wareham.
A great deal of the walk from Lulworth Cove to Tyneham skirts around military ranges which are often closed to the public, making for curious views of the surrounding countryside scattered with burned out skeletons of tanks. The total lack of cultivation this land has experienced over the decades also makes for incredibly rich flora and fauna, which was evident in the wide range of flowers and beautiful beetles and enormous crickets we came across.
First stop was the fossil forest, on the photo below, which is apparently actual Jurassic land dotted with the fossilised remains of trees (or at least of their surrounds). I was kind enough to stay at the top of the big flight of stairs to look after the bags (truth is my knees refused to take me down and then back up any unnecessary steps..!)
Soon after, the hills became bastardly with the first big climb leading me to muse on the fact that large rucksacks really should be fitted with quick-release cords. There were a few points at which I was convinced the rucksack was going to tumble over the cliffside with me attached to it, not a pleasant feeling. That and the suspicion that my knees were wearing themselves out damn quick, didn't help with progess.
Luckily the scenery was still jaw-droppingly wonderful, so every step upwards brought a new perspective to the view.
Here we are at the top of the 'brutal' hill having just enjoyed a rewarding chocolate biscuit each - Mark, Felix, Hodge, Ollie, Liz, Alison and of course Poppy.
A brutal downhill to a hidden cove that would have been deserted in normal circumstances (but in fact was awash with construction crew) led us straight into another brutal uphill, with the main difference being that the threat of violent death was much diminished with the path a substantial distance from the cliff.
Finally we followed a long ridge to Corfe Castle, with views unfolding in every direction - inland towards Wareham, east towards the Isle of Wight and south to Tyneham and the continuing coastal route. I think this was my favourite bit, and the lack of hills made my feet and knees appreciate it even more.
In Corfe Castle we stopped for food and drink, and I decided that I should duck out at this point and take the bus on to Wareham, I was pretty sure I wouldn't manage to walk another six miles, no matter how flat. All the same I was pretty proud of what I'd achieved, given the size of the hills and the weight of my backpack!
I'll be following the progress of the rest of the group over the coming days, Mark is tweeting about the walk when his phone battery allows. Although they were down to just four by the time I left, others plan to join on later stages of the walk, and I might even be able to hook up with them again on the last leg of the journey through London next week!