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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Jurassic Coast

Walking The Dog 12

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We returned to lashings of ginger beer and a plateful of scrumptious ham sandwiches.  That’s not the actual menu but as we had been struggling in Kimmeridge clay all morning, the Famous Five comparison felt right, particularly as we’d just had a huge adventure, even bigger than we’d expected!

It wasn’t the Famous Five that set off from Ringstead that morning but the Intrepid Three: Carla, Capone and me.  We were set on continuing our Jurassic Coast walk and so drove to the end of the last episode – and the beginning of the next!

The White Nothe

The White Nothe

We were heading for the White Nothe headland.  It’s the tallest and furthest headland you can see from the top of our mountain above Sutton Poyntz.

We left Ringstead Bay but then cut back towards the beach and descended using the sort of steps that are just pegged shuttering into which the hill slides.  Onto the beach and the dogs wanted to swim but there was no time for that.  I planned to keep along the beach as far as possible and then climb up the fallen clay cliff before we reached the towering chalk cliffs of the the White Nothe itself.

burnwavSo, at what seemed a sensible point, I turned away from the sea and started to pick my way up through the clumps of clay, each surmounted with a brush of coarse grass.  Climb up further and there are vicious gorse bushes and and little trees with thorns like hardened steel.  In some areas a raw wound of open clay has appeared where a minor landslip has taken place.  This was almost real climbing, all the weight on the feet but still reaching up at head height and above for support.

The Burning Cliff

The Burning Cliff

This, in fact, is the Burning Cliff.  In 1826 a landslide uncovered deposits of gas and oil which caught fire and famously smouldered for about three years.

At last, at the very top, the thickest brush of all so, heroically, I rolled into it with my back and the dogs slipped through underneath me.  Then a semi-tropical glade, completely enclosed by thorn and flower.  A strange, even light and ferns of all sorts rooting in the carpet of leaves.  We were trapped.  The way back out was prickly and difficult. In every direction was more thorn and bramble.  I swung at some branches to clear a path and I was cruelly shot in the eye by a sloe berry hurtling back towards me, an eclipse of the sun seared in my eyeball and I actually felt dizzy and slightly feint.  Had she been there, George would have immediately volunteered to go for help.

No such rescue was open to us though.  Forcing our way back out through the thorns I picked, slipped and slid a perilous path back to the beach.   No option for it but to go back up the way we had come down.  That was hard work too.  We wearily resumed the footpath but when I saw that we had made exactly half a mile’s progress from our start, discretion proved the better part of valour and and we returned to the car.

Undaunted, undefeated and determined to reach our goal we returned this morning.  Avoiding the pull of the sea and the beach itself we stuck to the path winding upwards through an area that reminds me of Fern Gully, near Ocho Rios in Jamaica where are there is supposed to be a greater variety of ferns than anywhere else on the planet.  Here, now safely above the Burning Cliff, this area has a similar ambience.

Finally up onto moorland then close to the edge of some truly scary cliffs.  This was “Vertigo City” for me and I was filled with that priomordial fear that at any moment I might flip, run and throw myself headlong into space.  Concerned only as to who would look after the dogs, I restrained myself and we made the summit.  There we sat and communed with nature until that intense moment of peace arrived.  It comes very easily.  You just sit, look around you and wait.  The very moment you forget yourself it arrives.

So Carla and Capone scampered down the hillside with me in close pursuit.  Another thrilling and exciting adventure completed!  I wonder what will happen on our next visit!famous-five1

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I Must Go Down To The Sea Again…

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My first few weeks in Weymouth are brim full of experiences, pleasures, delights and precious few disappointments.

Here I am, nestled away in the delightful village of Sutton Poyntz in a deep cleft in the chalk hills in the biblically named valley of the River Jordan.  Behind me, to the north (for an old sea dog always looks towards the water!) is my mountain.  In fact, my recent purchase of an Ordnance Survey map has revealed that it achieves only one quarter of the height needed to qualify as such.  Believe me, when you climb it, as I do most mornings, it seems plenty high enough.  I used to think the miles that I walked with Capone and Carla around Chichester Harbour meant I was fit but in Dorset there are hills!

To the south is the most stupendous view across Weymouth Bay to Portland.  The Jurassic Coast tumbles away towards Lulworth.  The monstrous cliffs of Portland join the town’s Esplanade along the great shingle isthmus that is Chesil Beach and the sky, usually blue, reminds me every minute that I must be close to paradise.

It is not always a peaceful scene and I look forward eagerly to some vicious winter storms.  Last weekend, Portland was hosting its speed trials and, sure enough, a 40 knot wind was blowing across Chesil Beach.  The wind and kite surfers sailing parallel to the road were clearly outstripping the cars and the breeze was very much more than brisk.

I parked up, released the beasts and we set off to walk west over the shingle spine.  The wind was as fierce as any I have known.  Carla whimpered.  Capone struck on.  I struggled.  Chesil shingle is large pebbles, difficult to walk through and with the blast in our faces almost impossible.  As my head peeped over the crest I remembered what real wind means.  Reaching the top I could lean my whole weight into it and riding the gusts, stand like Kate Winslet at the sharp end of Titanic, supported on air, resplendent in space.

We stumbled down the far side, an awe inspiring sight before us.  Eight foot monsters pounding down.  Spray flying thirty feet high.  The majesty of the ocean before us.  The huge, roaring, raging, thundering of the shingle dragged back in the undertow.  A lump in my throat, my tears mixing with the stinging spray.  The overwhelming, compulsive, massive power of it.  I am part of an island race.  The salt must run in my veins because this is being alive.  Nothing can be more complete, more absolute, more real.  Time stands still while the incomparable terror and beauty of nature displays itself.

The walk back is much easier with a helping hand up the hill and in the lee of the shingle mountain the wind now feels gentle and modest.  This is why I came to the ocean.  This is what feeds my soul.

I remember more than 20 years ago standing on the north coast of the island of Iona with my four month old son in my arms and being similarly overcome.  If this is what Weymouth offers me in the first month then i am here for life.

Today, it was blissfully calm.  The sea at Bowleaze Cove was as flat as the millpond at Emsworth.  Above a million feathers of high cirrus cloud, slightly below, scudding cotton wool puffs, dark at the edges, a Dali-esque caricature of a sky but real not surreal.  This is my new home and I love it!