My first day’s walking after being laid up with puffy feet is a delight.
It’s a short stretch – around 7 miles, Linda , Steve, and Marion, accompany me for the first 3 or so miles, as we skirt Maiden Castle, which I really want to detour into and explore but I think we are all aware it is my feets’ first day out and don’t want to over do it.
My companions leave me after a photo session at the most beautiful almond blossom trees and I step out on my gentle amble to Sutton Poyntz. I pass a golf course and consider walking over the tempting soft grass, but just as I am weighing up the pros and cons a golf ball comes whizzing across the road, just feet away from me. All ye who would walk in our green and pleasant land take heed; the dangers are diverse; from the death giving metal boxes, to the treacherous well trudged pathways after spring rain, to misguided missiles fired by those in pursuit of leisure. There is work to be done to return our land to a safe and tranquil place fit for slow travel.
I make good time in spite of the perils and spend a very relaxing 40 minutes in a field overlooking the sea chatting to my partner, grateful to my moblie for a little time out.
I an bowled over by the charm of Sutton Poyntz. It comes complete with traditional duck pond, bulging out from the stream that runs through the village in front of the pub, the Springhead, and overhung by graceful willows. I meet an ex native of Weymouth, tell him about transition and he tells me the sad tale of the near collapse of the local economy when the MOD pulled out several years ago, leaving behind massive unemployment. The town now relies on the very seasonal tourist trade. I tell him of Bridport’s past as hemp producers and their speculative possible return to it, and he tells me his grandfather was a hemp farmer!
We lament the loss of local shops in the neighbourhood where he grew up, and then pore over my map plotting my next day’s walk. He just saves it from going up in flames as the edge catches the flame of the candle on the table!
I spend the night with a member of the local LETs scheme and pay in Marts (with a voucher Linda has give me) and set off next morning to Osmington. Here I have soup in the most characterful pub – the Smugglers. It is stone floored, low ceilinged, and full of history. I read of the French smuggler of the 18th century Pierre Le Tour, who when warned of an excise man hiding up the chimney breast called for a good fire to warm the room and smoked him out.
A saying on the wall talks of smugglers bringing baccy for the men,brandy for the parson, lace for the ladies, and letters for the spy.
I contemplate how all though history we have made villains of those who supply local need and by pass big state endeavours.
I then walk along the most stunning coastline I have ever seen since my time in Brazil – and wonder why I have never been to Dorset before. Unhappily my phone refuses to take a single photo…so you will just have to come and see for yourself… the sea is turquiose, the cliffs white, the sky was blue today, and the views breathtaking. I had not bargained for the sheer up and down of the SW coastal path cliff pathways…perfect for mountain goats, and good practice for getting over my fear of heights! Step , step, one foot at a time, don’t look ahead, don’t look to the right.
Far down below holidaymakers carouse on the beach and swim in the turquiose sea, admiring the beautifully cut archways the sea has cut into the rocks.
I turn inland after two enormous cliff climbs and follow an old track past Lulworth Camp, an army base you can see coming for a mile or more, distinctive by its sheer soulless ugliness, a total aberration on the landscape. The last mile is on road and across a firing range. It is horrid; I have never felt so unsafe, though the road open signs are up, just that vague unease you feel when passing by those that believe safety comes from being protected by possession of dangerous things, rather than a trust in the basic goodness of all life.
On arrival in East Lulworth, to stay with Sophie Pritchard & Andrew Butler of PEAT (Purbeck Environmental Action Team), I am struck again by being in yet another idyllic village, which makes the presence of MOD even worse. Its like a cankerous sore on the landscape.
Sophie and Andrew work for Lush, the ethical cosmetics company, coordinate their environmental impact, and have recently convinced them to become “shops in transition”.
Closer to home they are excited about a local landowner who is going to set up a wind farm. PEAT are supporting this. They have also been offered use of some nearby land and disused farm buildings, and are beginning to talk about what projects they could run there. They talk about the challenges of their transition group covering quite a large area – from Wareham to Swanage, and how maybe they need to concentrate on smaller more local initiatives, and meet up with the others at Green Drinks to exchange their stories.
I sleep tonight in a tiny low ceilinged thatched cottage, curled up in a beautifully comfy sofa by an open fire after a delicious homemade vegan supper of carrot and coriander soup and fruit crumble and custard. I am being well looked after!