The MET office lied again. By the time I’m repitched at a Swanage campsite (this one thankfully has grass instead of stone) the threat of rain has departed. There’s another 10 mile walk I had in mind but is it too late to embark at 3pm? Nah.
My ambivalence stems from the knowledge that today’s jaunt will be less challenging than Mondays affair, but also there is a pub I am gagging to visit. The coastal trail winds south out of Swanage with the climb rewarded by views over the bay.
The walk is never challenging but never dull. The path hugs the cliff tops passing a dolphin observation hut (no – I didn’t see any) a functioning lighthouse and a succession of old quarries sliced angularly into the shoreline. I wonder how many old buildings I have walked past might have been hewn of stone cut from these quarries 200 years ago.
A wonderfully engaging couple from Kansas share a few travel stories with me. They want to point out that they live in an enlightened university town – an enclave of academia surrounded by the all-pervasive bible belt the area is better known for. Next stop London and then onto Venice, Florence and Rome. Americans suffer a tenuous reputation at times but whenever I have met them they have been courteous, knowledgeable folk. On the news we mostly tend to hear about the Sarah Palin types who fail to see beyond their own back yard.
As the coastal leg of my circular walk nears its end my stride pattern matches that of a fellow walker. It turns out that Steven is a fascinating guy. He has come over from Germany to visit his retired father who lives in Bournemouth and now has a couple of weeks to walk the coast according to whatever schedule he feels like. He has booked lodgings in the village of Worth Matravers and I’m also headed that way. His walk started at Poole this morning so he has a good 8 mile start on me and is lugging the world on his back but seems not to feel it.
The much anticipated Square And Compass Pub exceeds my expectations. This old timber beamed inn reeks of history but there is nobody inside because the quirky beer garden affords beautiful views across the countryside to the sea. I choose ale and a home made pasty (that’s their only concession to food) and Steven opts for one of the many ciders.
Over the course of our conversation I learn that Steven lives in one of my favourite cities – Berlin – on the central Friedrichstraße nonetheless. He bids farewell but not before handing me his business card and offering me a roof next time I visit the city.
The sun is in descent over the ripening fields and their stone enclosures. The effect is simply inspiring and I only wish I had the skill/equipment to truly capture the spirit of this moment on my camera. (Note: my new blog header was snapped shortly after I left the pub).
It’s an easy flat 4 mile jaunt across the fields along the ancient Priests Way back to my campsite and in the middle of nowhere I stumble across a few people with some serious photographic kit. What are they doing here I nosily enquire. It’s a Sebastian Faulks photo shoot for a forthcoming BBC2 feature. I know of him – he occupies a good tranche of the top 100 books in Waterstones – but I have never read any of his stuff and don’t recognise him.
I think I’m almost home when I find myself in potentially dangerous situation. Cows are streaming out of one field, along my path and into the next field. There are hundreds of them and I can’t wait forever so I slot myself into the queue a respectful distance behind Ermintrude in front of me. All is well until a bottleneck ahead causes the procession to stall and then Daisy behind becomes a little distressed and starts to moo. This spooks Ermintrude who tries to stare me out. I’m trapped.
“Rambler found trampled – business card suggests German tourist” is the headline that comes to mind. It takes a little bovine negotiation to ensure my safe escape from this corridor of uncertainty. I return unscathed and resolve to eat more beef.