Sunday, 22 January 2012

Langton Herring to West Bexington (SW Coast Path 17)

Rodden Hive and The Fleet

Our friends Judith and Tony joined us for today's leg. We did the two car thing (parking one at the end and driving to the start in the other) and started walking from the centre of Langton Herring, retracing yesterday's path to pick up the Coast Path by Rodden Hive.

From here, the route heads inland and stays that way until Abbotsbury. We went across fields then up a steadily climbing field-edge path, then across a hillside with fine views towards the South Dorset Ridgeway and Hardy's Monument to the north.  Then up again, to reach a long straight section half-way up a hillside. This we traversed for a mile or so, initially with great views to the south east. The full length of Portland can just about be discerned in the rather hazy distance in this photo.

Soon we could also see the sea, Chesil Bank, the Fleet - in fact the point where it ends - and Abbotsbury's celebrated Swannery.

The path swings just a little to the down to descend into Abbotsbury and the 14th century St Catherine's Chapel - which we had had glimpses of earlier - is revealed in the full glory of its location.

By now the path had become a ridge descending into the valley, with hills all around. A wonderful piece of walking.

We decided to save Abbotsbury's many charms and attractions for a full day's visit later in the year and skirted round Chapel Hill, almost covered as Pevsner notes with strip lynchets. The path goes down towards Stavordale Wood, with Abbotsbury sub-tropical Gardens hidden behind it.

Here a sharp left brought us finally back down to the coast. We looked with some anxiety at the path which ran behind the pebbly beach, but was little more than an extension of it. We knew it was 2.5 miles to today's end point at West Bexington. Would it all be like this?

Mercifully, the gravel quite quickly gave way to a tarmaced road and we were able to make good progress. Tony told us that in the 1950s it was possible to drive all along here, but now the road has been downgraded to just serve the few houses found on this rather desolate section of coast and there is nowhere to stop. Traffic is actively discouraged. Seems fine to me.

At the point at which we joined the pebble path, the pebble bank was still quite high, though lower than it had been yesterday. It fairly quickly declined in height and after a mile or a mile and half, it was possible to get a clear view of the now normal-looking beach stretching away to the west.

We finished up with an excellent lunch at the recently refurbished Manor Hotel, West Bexington. It would be well worth going back for the sole purpose of eating here.

Conditions: cloudy, extremely strong wind again, not too cold.

Distance: about 7 miles. Distance covered now 70 miles.

Map: Explorer OL15 (Purbeck and South Dorset)

Rating: four stars.The last part was a bit of a struggle, but the walk down to Abbotsbury was magnificent.

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