It was the last bank holiday until Christmas (something’s wrong there!) and possibly the last weekend of warm weather, so I just HAD to get out on a microadventure. My chosen quest? Hiking the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.
I purposely did little planning for this trip, mainly because I wanted it to feel like more of an adventure, with no need to reach a certain point in a certain time. Secondly, we would be walking the South West Coastal Path which I’ve followed sections before with both Mum and Marco, both times it was incredibly simple to follow.
Marco and I parked in Weymouth and took the two hour Breeze 30 bus to Swanage (runs during summer only) where we would begin our journey. We enjoyed Afternoon Tea and a sausage roll in Love Cake Cafe before starting our walk westwards. We strolled through Durlston Country Park, just outside of Weymouth, which had a couple of interesting plaques telling us about the Jurassic period and the evolution of the earth.
It was a pleasant day on the South West Coastal Path with a bit of wind which kept us cool while we walked. I had wanted to wild camp at Win Spit Quarry after reading about it on GetOutside but we passed it about 5pm, far too early to set up camp. We were also running low on water and I was a bit concerned we wouldn’t have enough to last us through to the following morning.
Upon reaching St Alban’s Head we saw an elderly gentleman in the watchtower. May he have water? I caught his attention by waving my arm in a drinking motion and he popped his head out the front door. He offered us water for a donation to the Coastguard Watch and I popped two quid in the box. I was too polite to take the two bottles he offered us and settled for just 500ml instead. Why? I do not know! I was too busy asking him questions about his time volunteering for the Coastguard. Had he seen any sharks or immigrant boats?
Marco snarled at me. We now had just 1.5 litres of water between us to last until the following lunchtime. For those of you that know me, I drink A LOT (at least 3 litres a day!). We also needed water for cooking and morning coffee. Lesson learnt – always take water when you can! Despite a slight lack of water, it didn’t majorly affect the rest of our walk that day. We found a peaceful spot on farmland overlooking Chapman’s Pool and decided we would stop early and wild camp there. It was rather windy so we scrambled down the cliff face for some shelter to cook and eat our couscous. We were treated to the most magnificent sunset out at sea.
The sunset was so good we decided to hike to the top of the hill to take some photos, both forgetting to leave our packs at the bottom! By the time we got back to our planned camping spot, it was nearly dark so it was a bit of a rush to decide on the exact location to pitch our tent. This ALWAYS takes a lot longer than anticipated (like that time in the Peak District!). Either the ground is too bumpy, there’s too much sheep poo, we are in view of a house or there’s a slight slope. After moving our footprint at least five times we settled on a slightly slanted patch which felt reasonably fine until we pumped up our mats, got in our sleeping bags and decided to call it a night.
We looked at each other and laughed as we both slid off our mats to the end of the tent. We were on a bigger slope than we thought! I HATE being on a slope, I can never sleep, especially if I keep sliding off my mat. Luckily I resolved the issue by completely unzipping my sleeping bag like a duvet so my body stuck to the mat. Just as I was drifting off to sleep the wind severely picked up. Outside the tent, it was about 25mph but inside it felt like 50! Seriously, I’ve never slept in a noisier, flappier tent – it was terrible! Maybe that’s an issue with ultra lightweight tents or maybe that’s just an issue with ours? Your views are most welcome!
After a sleepless night, we packed up our tent (the morning dew dried in seconds – one benefit of ultralight materials!) and continued our journey westwards. We stopped at Kimmerage Bay to refill our water and have a bit of a freshen up in the public toilet block. Kimmeridge Bay didn’t look much on first impressions, the beach isn’t sandy and there’s not a lot there. However, as we walked along the beach we admired the unusual rock formations and looked for fossils, which there were many!
It was so beautiful we decided to stop for an early lunch and sit on the unique smooth rock formation by the shoreline. We boiled a coffee and had the most incredible trail lunch of cheese, avo and tomato in a fancy Heston Blumenthal brioche bun! Our gas was running out as I had forgotten to buy a new canister before our trip and it was unlikely we wouldn’t have enough for dinner.
Couscous makes great trail food as you don’t need hot water to cook it and cold water will soften it if left over a longer period of time. How could we soak our couscous without fear of it spilling in our packs we thought? Marco came up with the genius idea of putting couscous in our spare water bottle and leaving it to soak all day. We got some strange looks from people passing by as we created a potion of couscous and curry powder in an old water bottle.
It was joyful walking from Kimmeridge Bay to Lulworth Cove with lots of ups and downs to keep us entertained. Lulworth Cove was busy, as expected, and it had changed quite a bit from my last visit many years ago. There was now a new visitor centre and a couple of additional shops and cafes.
Take out the people and Lulworth Cove is one of the most beautiful places in England. Its tranquil turquoise waters wouldn’t look out of place in the French Riviera. We stopped for a takeaway beer on the beach which was blissful and certainly well deserved.
I was on a mission to try Purbeck Ice Cream in the location it originates from, Purbeck. It’s sold at my local beach in Portsmouth but I hear it’s SO much better in Purbeck. Those who told me were right, myself and Marco enjoyed the tastiest two scoops of fresh creamy Purbeck Ice Cream. The wasps were out in full force wanting a taste too – we had a laugh watching everyone’s reaction to the abundance of these vicious critters flying around the picnic area.
Up over the hill to Durdle Door we went. I knew Durdle Door would be busy, I’d read the news with photos of crowds of visitors during Covid. We had little option to avoid it as the South West Coastal Path meanders right past it, plus I wanted Marco to see it – there’s no denying it’s a beautiful landform. I have to admit, I was a little taken aback at how many people there were. We rushed along as fast as we could, dodging everyone in our path until we were out the other side.
As we reached the breadth of the first hill past Durdle Door, I was greeted with a contrasting view – peace. There wasn’t a single person in sight. This part of the coast was just as beautiful, if not more, than Durdle Door itself. There was even a mini arched landform known as Bat’s Head and we had it all to ourselves.
Crystal clear turquoise waters on one side and sheltered lush green farmland on the other. This would be our home for the night. It was early but we couldn’t miss out on the perfect wild camping spot. As there was no one around, we pitched our tent early and sat down on the white chalky cliff to eat our slightly saturated curried couscous admiring the views out to sea. We climbed to the top of the next hill for sunset photos which you can see for yourselves.
It was the most blissful nights sleep, our best yet in our new Big Agnes tent. Some trail runners jogged past at 7am “good morning, nice spot you got there” they said. “Lovely day isn’t it, enjoy your run” I replied. Leave no trace, make no bother and 99% of people will have no issue with wild camping.
As we made our way west towards Weymouth, the white coastal cliffs turned into rolling farmland. The area became more built up and we were frequently passing campsites packed with families with their entire worldly possessions sprawled out over their patch. “I love camping but I hate campsites” is a quote frequently used by those who wild camp. I couldn’t agree more.
We stopped at a little kiosk in Ringstead Bay which sold coffee and ‘breakfast’ – if you could call it that. That staff were anything but friendly and we came away with two super sugary cappuccinos (made from a packet), a miserable looking bacon bap for Marco and a toasted teacake for me. We laughed at how many off-putting signs there were pinned up “no Mr Whippy”, “no proper coffee”, “no milk with Americano”, the list was endless!
The Smugglers Inn pub was a couple of kilometres up the coastal path but we really fancied a beer. The owner appeared and told us we’d have to wait 30 minutes due to a fly infestation. Not sure I would have admitted that myself! Yep, you guessed it, we waited 30 minutes for a pint at 11:30am in a fly-infested pub. We ended up having a burger and some pumpkin fritters thanks to Boris’s 50% off ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme.
The next 8km was plain sailing with plenty of places to stop off for a respite. Coffee here, coffee there. As we triumphantly strolled into Weymouth beach we felt something splat on the ground next to us. A seagull had kindly emptied the contents of its bowels above us and on further inspection, it had landed all over Marco’s leg. Not quite the grand finale we had imagined.
He had shit everywhere. I found this all rather amusing and chuckled as he soaked his entire leg under the beachside tap. They say getting pooed on by a bird is lucky and this certainly was the case for Marco. His scoop of celebratory “we made it” Baboo gelato was huge compared to mine (and it had many more walnuts in it too!). Being the good boyfriend that he is, he gave me some of his. We reflected on our fantastic microadventure, hiking the Jurassic Coast and we made our way back to the car. It’s amazing how much you can do in a weekend if you put your mind to it!
Where will your next adventure take you?