As I pack away the tent for the last time this week the sun is out, there is birdsong on the air and it seems I have awoken to the perfect day, pure and incorruptible. How I would come to rue these foolish sentiments as dark deeds sullied the hours to come…
I’m driving to the start of today’s walk and already it is going wrong as a catalogue of misery plagues Swanage in my wake. I’m barely out of the town when an elderly pigeon hops across the road in front of me. Surely it will fly away as I near. The view from my rear mirror tells another story.
Reeling from this act of madness I am no more than 50 yards on when an elderly lady takes a tumble on the pavement. Her family pick her up and dust her off but the omens are portentous. Have I angered the local deity?
I drive oh-so-carefully to the start of my walk, white knuckles gripping the steering wheel lest more suicidal wildlife attempts to dash underneath my new Hankook 205/55 R16’s. Shell Bay is a sand peninsula that forms the lower half of the “jaw” around Poole Harbour – the largest natural harbour in the world after Sydney. This land spit extends about 3 miles out and consists of unspoilt sandy beach, dunes and small lakes.
Hiking gear adorned I set off down the beach back towards Swanage. The perfect sand is whipped up by 30mph gusts that create an ankle high dust storm. I imagine a martian storm must look something like this when viewed from space. The English channel laps at my feet and today it is teeming with activity with pleasure craft, sailing boats and jet skis weaving their way around a cross channel ferry destined for Poole.
A solitary figure approaches. As it nears I realise it is a man. He is naked! Resisting the urge to vomit I consider my options. Two people passing on an otherwise empty endless beach. You can’t just ignore each other. What is the protocol in this situation? A manly nod avoiding eye contact suffices. Signage further on confirms that I have just left a section of nudist beach.
Today is not the day for nudity but dressed appropriately it’s turning out to be a very rewarding walk and different to anything of the miles previously covered this week.
The seemingly endless beach ahead looks as if it has been transplanted from Australia or any number of other more exotic locations. You can sometimes forget the scenery we have on our own doorstep. There is the matter of the weather however. I wonder what this area is like when the sun is ablaze and the wind at bay.
Eventually the beach comes to at end at the rocky headland of Studland. The sand dunes here are home to a variety of specific plant life I have no names for these species but here’s some of the shoreline colour on display…
…not to mention the sun bleached seaweed – an important part of the local ecosystem.
My attempt to take a shortcut back onto the coastal path is only half successful – ie: I only got my left foot wet.
Boozy Celeb Loses It In Public
Before I started the drive down south I surfed a few walks and printed them out and todays walk is one from the list. It tells me I must take a minor detour inland from the path to visit a delightful ivy-strewn pub, the Bankes Arms in Studland. Do click on the link and take a look – there is an interesting history and it would make a fantastic place to stay for a weekend with the beach nearby and some great Purbeck Brewery beers on offer.
It’s busy at the bar with a heaving queue of tourists waiting to place lunchtime food orders. The bar staff are doing their best but it is no help when one mouthy southerner who looks a little bit like Karl Howman from brushstrokes starts to complain about the wait. Some of these so called celebs are happy to take the licence fee payers money but give them a drink and their doppelgangers want special treatment. It makes me sick.
I’m deep in thought about something. But what?
The walk resumes up past the Fort Henry wartime observation bunker. It was built as part of a top secret operation that saw Studland Bay used by allied forces to practice for the D-Day landings. This massive exercise using live ammunition involved a great many ships, men and vehicles, including a number of tanks that sank in the exercise and remain beneath the waves. A number of soldiers died in the course of these simulations and a memorial stone laid in 2004 remembers these young men.
The main draw for many visitors to this headland soon comes into view. The stacks and arches of “Old Harry” are a major landmark in these parts and apparently the mainland used to be joined to the Isle Of Wight via this headland although you can barely see the IoW today.
The path winds back down into Swanage from the north and there’s a good view despite the sub-optimal visibility.
Public Drug Menace
Back at sea level I walk along the sea front to find there are a lot more people out than when I left. There’s a man paddlesurfing (ie: stood on a board vertically with a paddle) to great effect. Some young people are stood watching and I’m shocked to smell narcotics on the air. What to do? There is no bobby in sight and I can’t perform a citizens arrest against 4 of them – a scuffle might break out. There’s only one thing for it. I resolve to write a letter to the Daily Mail on my return home.
Feeling understandably fragile after the day’s series of shocking events I might be forgiven for thinking that my ordeal was over but one more sickening episode plays itself out as I board the open top bus back to Shell Bay where I parked the car. A retired couple attempt to use an invalid bus pass in order to secure their passage to Bournemouth. The driver is alive to this act of fraud and a long drawn out dispute about the validity of the pass results in the driver ringing the local authority for advice. This plucky young driver is correct in his beliefs and the shamed criminals are forced to offer payment for their journey. I say – well done bus driver!
Death, injury, naked indecentness, vulgar celebrities, street drugs and fraud. Needless to say I can’t wait to leave this wretched place and be free of its destructive influences.