Monday, 2 January 2017

Shell Bay to Swanage

The mouth of Poole Harbour

We began to walk the South West Coast Path almost exactly six years ago (January 25th 2011) with a circular walk from South Haven Point  (where the ferry crosses the harbour mouth) to Studland, returning via Godlingston Heath. Our Coast Path adventure has taken us to Bude, a staggering 506 miles from the start. We didn't progress it in 2016 because I had damaged my ankle, but we are planning to make substantial progress this year. Today's walk was a sort of re-acquaintance with the Coast Path. It was also inspired by the there-and-back walk we did on New Year's Day last year from Shell Bay to Knoll Beach.

It was a beautiful day and the Chain Ferry seemed to fill the Harbour Mouth as we looked back - many of these pictures are looking back because the bright sun was in our eyes for most of the way.

As we turned the corner into Studland Bay we saw a number of kite surfers - maybe they are always here, but we usually only notice them inside the harbour. They seemed to be having an excellent time roaring along behind their kites.

As we walked along the beach of Studland Bay it was initially quite quiet, but gradually became more crowded as time passed and a steady stream of people - and dogs, lots of dogs - headed towards Knoll Beach.

As we approached Knoll Beach Old Harry Rocks became more clear, although difficult to photograph into the sun.

We left the beach near the end and took what seemed to be a slightly revised route (compared to 2011) around the edge of Studland. This offered a more oblique view of Old Harry, but quite a clear one of the Isle of Wight. It was easy to see how the chalk cliffs were once joined up.

We left Studland, passing the Bankes Arms and following the familiar path to Old Harry: always a photographic favourite. Happily we didn't see anyone taking a suicidal selfie.

Continuing south toward Ballard Point, there was a lovely view back towards further chalk sea stacks: Parson's Barn and one of the Pinnacles.

We climbed steadily to round Ballard Point and the descend on a diagonal path towards Swanage. This was our first view of Swanage Bay, with a bright sun on the left.

We continued diagonally and then began to descend more steeply. I liked the juxtaposition of the bright yellow broom, the blue sky and the steps.

Eventually we emerged onto a grassy area in New Swanage with a nice view back to Ballard Cliffs, 117m high.

The next section was through the sprawling houses of New Swanage and then along the road into Swanage. The norther section of the beach, with its wooden groynes, is more attractive than the section nearer the town centre.

In the town section however there were some rather stylish new Bathing Huts, although interesting some had already been put to use as small shops.

It remained only to catch the Bournemouth Breezer bus back to Shell Bay.

Conditions: cold, but bright and sunny.

Distance: 6.5 miles.

Rating: Four stars.

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