Wareham has many fine historical buildings and a rare architectural unity that I’d last seen in Faversham. I’d like to linger but it’s still dark when I start. My admiring glances up and down the street are mistaken for bewilderment and a friendly local asks if I’m lost and tells me where I can buy tea at this early hour. There is just time for some tripod work by the quay before heavy rain encourages me to continue.
Entering woodland the rain stops for a time but large drops continue to fall from the leaves into the peaty black pools below sending inky circles rippling outwards.
Undulating Middlebere Heath radiates saturated winter colours: golden grasses and deep red bracken very like the Southern Uplands in Scotland. I’m enjoying the hills and the inland feel.
Corfe castle magnificent and romantic set amongst the rolling landscape, the whole vista like a fairy tale. This walk through the Isle of Purbeck is charming in its human scale and variety – I feel blessed.
From the gentle buzzing emanating from the forest at Wytch Farm one would never guess this is Europe’s largest on shore oil field. The discrete presence revealed by occasional screeching metal and finally a pair of nodding donkeys at the oil well itself.
I take a bearing though a large forest to make a short cut – then half way in foolishly remember the warning signs to ‘Keep to Path, Shooting’ a few hundred metres back. I decide/hope that the rain would keep the tweed brigade and their twin barrels at home.
Crouch under a sheltering oak with a pounding headache, the bad weather and interest of the morning mean I’ve gone too long without eating or drinking. Making a sweet brew, eating breakfast and changing socks makes it all better.
The sculpture marking the start of the South West Coast Path has far too much going on as if each member of a committee suggested an idea that had to be incorporated in the final design. But I’m excited to be at the start of the UK’s longest National Trail and welcome the ease of route finding this should provide on the 630 Miles to Minehead.
The perfect sandy beach at Shell Bay has fresh hoof marks and a plastic toy trident washed up on the shore. The chain Ferry to Sandbanks pulls away with a clatter towards the multi-million pound houses I passed yesterday. Gentle sloshing and golden sand are soothing after a morning fighting driven rain.
Clusters of students with measuring rods are standing in the dunes in the drizzle – hopefully not being put off such things for life.
I can’t believe my luck that Knoll Beach Cafe has a log fire – I position myself next to it hanging my sopping clothes on the back of chairs to dry. Next to me three middle-aged women discuss the sketches and watercolours scattered about their feet. They debate the pros and cons of attending a “Frank Skinner masterclass”, “oh no Amy, they think everything is good – I prefer social meets”
I’m trying to maximise my surface area to absorb as much heat from the fire as possible without resembling a scarecrow. The ladies continue their conversation which has taken a cynical turn about the closed and privileged London-centric art world and the lack of opportunities to exhibit. I empathise with some of their concerns but fear the fact they feel creativity is a social activity sets them up for disappointment. In due course they discuss what they will do next – “how about same place, but slower” – they agree and collect their drawings and head out now the rain has stopped.
Written on the cafe wall:
There’s never enough time to do nothing
Sandy toes, Salty kisses
Sun bleached hair, Summer wishes
“It’s all about size with you”
Teases a father to his son collecting shells
“It doesn’t have to be big to be beautiful” adds mum.
Fort Henry is a very long WW2 bunker built to oversee Poole Harbour. Today the aesthetic seems more Inca or James Turrell than military. Winston Churchill, King George VI, Eisenhower and Montgomery all watched Operation Smash, a full-scale rehearsal for the invasion of occupied Europe, from the bunker in 1944.
On the cliff tops at Old Harry Rocks ever narrowing grassy promontories dare the pedestrian to go ever closer to the abyss. Definitely a place to check shoelaces are done up – at times like this I wish my shoe treads were not quite so worn down. Descending from the cliffs the lights of Swanage melt into the mist ahead.