Friday, 18 November 2011

Osmington Mills to Ferry Bridge (SW Coast Path 13)

Looking towards Redcliff Point

Our goal for the year is now in sight: Weymouth. We took the train from Poole to Weymouth and then a taxi out to Osmington Mills to pick up where we left off two weeks ago. The route initially goes inland, but soon you take a left to head parallel with the coast.

We skirted route a large sort of holiday camp for kids and regained the coast path above a long shingle beach, unnamed on the OS map, with Redcliff Point at the end.

As we approached the point the path goes over a grassy area, but is forced inland a bit by erosion of the cliff edge, which becomes more and more evident as the Point gets nearer. Looking further inland, there is a view of the Osmington White Horse. This was sculpted into the limestone hillside in 1808 and depicts King George III. There are lots of white horses, but this one is apparently unique in having a rider. George of course played a large part in establishing Weymouth as a seaside resort. I should really have used a more powerful zoom lens, but we were by now walking into a very strong headwind.

You descend to skirt Bowleaze Cove with the massive white Riviera Hotel (no longer operating, but perhaps being restored), an amusement park and a holiday park in close proximity. This gives way to a grassy cliff below a row of expensive-looking houses, until you reach sea level and the wide concrete walkway which speeds you along at the back of the shingle beach, with a sea wall behind.

I had intended to drop in to see the RSPB reserve at Lodmoor while we were passing, but I hadn't understood from the map that once on the walkway you can't get off until you are some way past it. I contented myself with a photo (the structure on the right is a hide) and a plan for another day trip especially for the purpose.

A little further on there were a number of fine beach huts. One set were in a cast iron structure and another in this imposing terrace. The beach hut evolved from the early wheeled bathing machines used by pioneers of sea bathing, like George III.

Soon you are on the Esplanade and you pass the wonderful Jubilee Clock, erected to mark Queen Victoria's diamond Jubilee in 1887.

A little further on there is the celebrated equestrian statue of George III (again) - Victoria's grandfather. It was erected in 1809 to commemorate his diamond jubilee (he came to the throne in 1760). The statue has only been painted since 1949.

At the end of the Esplanade we walked up beside the quayside, past the Customs House and paused for lunch at the Ship Inn. Suitably restored, we crossed the swing bridge and enjoyed the peaceful view of the harbour.

The path then follows the other bank of the river and climbs up to the Nothe fort - a route we followed when we had a lovely day trip to Weymouth earlier in the year. At the top of the stairs from the quayside, there was a great view through the masts of some ships to the Esplanade with its Georgian and Victorian terraces.

You pass through Nothe Gardens and descend behind a housing estate to get a view of the fort, with White Nothe on the coast behind.

A bit further on you pass the sad remains of Sandsfoot Castle, another of those castles that Henry VIII built in 1539.

The final section followed the Rodwell Trail down to Ferry Bridge, the point at which the long causeway to Portland starts. The Trail was very straight and had a sort of embankment on each side. We must have been getting tired by now, because it was only as we were chatting to the taxi driver on the way back to Weymouth station that we realised it was the route of a disused railway.

Conditions: cloudy, sunny intervals, about 12 degrees, extremely strong south west wind, muddy underfoot in places.

Distance: 7.5 miles, all of which, at last, were forwards on the Coast Path. Distance covered now 42 miles.

Map: Explorer OL15 (Purbeck and South Dorset)

Rating: three and a half stars.

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