I like to do things a little differently. Sometimes. My family usually tease me as I’m such a conformist. I abide by rules, would never break the law (well, unless you count speeding) and ‘Please Keep Off The Grass’ signs were made with me in mind. I couldn’t be a postman. All those ‘Do Not Bend’ stickers would have me breaking out in a sweat.
Except when it comes to hiking routes. Maybe this small rebellion is my outlet for all that exemplary behaviour. I’m not one to simply retrace all the steps taken before me. What if I went the other way?
I have a constantly nagging feeling that the real world is lying there waiting to be discovered. That there’s more. Just off the beaten track. And a walk is rendered dramatically different simply by changing your direction of travel. If you have ever completed a route clockwise then returned and followed the same path in the opposite direction, you’ll know what I mean. What if I went down there? What if I turned left instead of right? (Do not try this on cliff faces…)
So this was how I walked the Purbeck Way; almost following true to the route. So don’t be puzzled if I mention places that are not strictly a feature of the established route. I probably decided a detour was in order for some reason- invariably a great view or site of special interest of some sort. Think of the Purbeck Way as shaped like a frying pan. The ‘handle’ runs from Wareham to Corfe and from there you enter the ‘pan’ section which defines a vaguely circular route down and along the coastal path before returning to Corfe. This is a stunning 28 miles through heathland, woodland and downland and the dramatic scenery of the Jurassic Coast. The last time I was here – so were a pod of dolphins but this time, it was not to be.
Leaving Wareham and heading towards Corfe on a spectacular spring day, I didn’t see a soul for six miles. Some sections are fairly remote and the inland terrain – sod’s law – all looks exactly the same so don’t forget your compass. My route was awash with dappled sunlight, birdsong and many a startled deer until I emerged from the woodland to meet this view:
It would be rude to ignore the cream tea boards dotted throughout the village of Corfe so I grabbed a spot with a terrific view of the castle. I can’t imagine ever tiring of that first view of the ruins silhouetted against the skyline as you drive towards Corfe. It always affects me and most others too, judging by the ‘oohs’ and ‘aah’s’ on the bus as it weaves through the Purbecks towards the castle. I have travelled a great deal yet for me that view is up there with the likes of the Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls and endless other wonders. Not as spectacular, but moving all the same.
A father and son team on the next table were talking about murder holes. Dad was explaining that these were gaps in the castle walls through which the defenders could fire, throw or pour harmful substances, such as rocks, arrows, scalding water, hot sand, quicklime, tar, or boiling oil, down on attackers. And they say the Brits are reserved.
Striding on towards the coast I reflected on the information I’d gleaned about my upcoming “rigorous” Jurassic coastal ramble: Notably, the area can be “very wet, slippery and inaccessible, with hazardous cliffs and shore and a feel of danger. Look out for landslides and mudslides. There is a risk of being trapped in mud here. Adders are common enough to be dangerous unless gaiters are worn”. And people come on holiday and pay for this?
Suitably rattled, I fancied paying a visit to my Old friend Harry.
Old Harry’s Rock sits alone as Old Harry’s Wife met her demise some years ago and disappeared beneath the waves. She does resurface temporarily at very low tide. Men everywhere will undoubtedly sigh with envy.
As evening approached it was time to pull off the route and the boots for the day.
And before I sign off for today may I introduce you to someone? Meet Munro my hiking bud. I only take him so I can say I’ve bagged a Munro as he slides back into my rucksack at the end of each trip. But don’t tell him.