I wake at 3.30am in Swanage due to nerves and excitement at the prospect of the long and arduous day ahead. There are no creature comforts along the way as well as being one of the most dramatic stretches of coast that will be a challenge to photograph creatively.
Starting in the dark, car bonnets are covered in frost as I leave Swanage to reach Perevil Point before dawn. At the Point I see a fellow photographer setting up their tripod to capture the radiant sunrise that is unfolding. We wave to each briefly before returning to our viewfinders.
“What will you do now with the gift of your left life?” asks Carol Ann Duffy carved in stone by the path at Durlston Head.
“Excuse me!” Calls a man dressed in a ranger uniform.
“There must be about 30 guillemots on that ledge down there, thought you might be interested, certainly made my day!”
“Beauty has come to visit us today!” he exclaims, gesturing around him to the cliffs and the golden sunlight. I couldn’t agree more.
Nautical mile markers and no mobile signal. Bird calls merge with wind and distant waves.
“There’s a massive brown cow, probably a bull along there so I turned back” says a flustered lady as she walks towards me. I carry on and don’t see so much as a mouse.
St.Aldhelm’s Chapel seems like it has weathered a thousand storms with its single tiny window and squat ancient walls.
At one point the path goes so close to the cliff top I find myself unconsciously leaning to the landward side as I walk.
I realise with a mix of amusement and disgust that the unpleasant odour that has been following me around all day is a pair of fermented socks that I put in the side pocket of my pack a couple of weeks ago.
I’ve been much slower than planned with all the ups and downs today and the sun dips below the horizon as I enter Lulworth tank ranges. The notice states it’s open to the public until 8am tomorrow morning before closing for another week, I have to trust they keep to schedule!
Moonlight is strong enough to cast a shadow and I use a torch primarily to be seen. To my right signs warn of ‘Danger Unexploded Shells’ and to my left ‘Danger Unstable Cliffs’ – I’ve been in more welcoming places. The Plough bright in the sky marks my direction.
I pass gigantic numbers constructed like motorway signs that I assume mark targets in the range. Suddenly distant automatic gunfire breaks the night silence, I hope this is taking place on an adjacent range, it’s disconcerting to hear while alone in this landscape. The sea glistens from the moonlight as I go up and down the black humpbacked hills before finally leaving the range and descending into Lulworth with a sense of relief and aching knees three hours after sunset.
Wow. Great photos. I love this coastline and you have done an excellent job of capturing it.
Thanks, it can be so many different things which makes it so inspiring
Another fabulous set, worth that early rising, I enjoy reading the conversation snippets too….
Cheers David, Often these early rises are rewarded with a sludgy grey dawn so it really did seem worth it on this occasion!
Yes, wow. An awesome set of captures, you have outdone yourself this day.
Thanks Mike – I fell asleep before my head had the chance to hit the pillow that night!
You got some fantastic light in these photos, Quintin!
Thanks Fiona, it was a luminous day!
Can only echo the above comments – wonderful photos. Love the small chapel.
Thanks Alex, It’s beauty isn’t it – I believe it was a coastal lookout before becoming a chapel in Norman times
Missed this instalment on Facebook. Fabulous images. It’s a wonder that you get any walking done with so much to photograph!
this was an extraordinary day – slept very well that night!
Fantastic, thank you. I’ve only just discovered your blog but this is my home turf and you have nailed it. What a treat!
Great, glad you think I’ve done your home turf justice – you are VERY lucky to live there!
Great photos, we are indeed lucky to have such a varied coastline. And much more to come!
All the best Peter
Thank you, this island is fortunate indeed