The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
To Corfe and Beyond!
A Saturday in Swanage and after the usual Dave P breakfast, we set off for the railway station to catch a steam train to Corfe Castle.
Last time I was there was September 1987, when the group was staying at Lulworth Cove. On that trip George led us on a great little walk along a disused railway, passing boarded up stations and disused carriages. Disused no longer! This is now the Swanage Railway and made the 7 mile trip from Swanage to Corfe and absolute joy.
Arriving in Corfe, it was our plan to walk back to Swanage the long way, taking in some of the most remote stretches of the Dorset coast path. Due to the imminent remoteness we thought it wise to get our tea and cakes in early, so sought out the NT tearoom with a peerless view of the castle ruins.
Admittedly a leisurely train ride followed by cake wasn’t the most dynamic start to our day. Anyone new to our band might have been lured into a false sense of security, as an 11 mile walk of rolling hills and coastline lay ahead. This started with the walk south from Corfe to Chapman’s Pool, where from the cliffs above we could see schools of kayakers picnicking on the beach. We had lunch at a stone bench, part of a war memorial protected from curious cows by a sturdy stone wall. This fuelled us for some heart-thumping ascents as the path rollercoastered eastwards.
At St Aldehlm’s Head was the 13th century chapel dedicated to the saint of the same name. A sturdy block of a building with delicate interior vaulting: cool, dark and ideal for quiet contemplation. Interestingly, just a stone’s throw away, are the remains of buildings from a very different era. The whole of the south coast had a huge role in WWII and St Aldhelm’s Head was the location for a key radar station. Just the foundations remain, but a memorial to the development of radar has been erected on the site.
For the second half of the walk we were walking along craggy cliffs and past old quarries. We had views west to Portland and east to the Isle of Wight. We were sadly too late for tea at Durlston Castle, but we did get a close-up view of some juvenile kestrels trying their wings just a few yards below the viewpoint at Durlston Head.
Back in Swanage, we re-hydrated with copious tea to recover from the heat of the day. After a wash and brush-up, we were out on the town for fresh fish and chips on the sea front. We even managed to squeeze in a beer before the fireworks to mark the end of the Swanage carnival started up. The sight of the fireworks reflected across the harbour was stunning. A very full and satisfying day.
Oh, I Don’t Like to be Beside the Seaside!
Now don’t get me wrong, I really loved our trip to Swanage. There were ice-creams, fish and chips, fireworks, steam trains, cream teas and spectacular cliff-top scenery – all in the most gorgeous sunny weather. So where’s the downside?
The trouble with lovely weather on a weekend in the school holidays is that everyone and their dog will head for the honey-pot beaches to baste themselves in a bit of summer sun. So there’s the traffic. Both coming and going. And then there’s the crowds: Studland Bay (and to a lesser extent Swanage itself) had beaches stuffed with families, like so many greasy sausages sweating in a pan. And then there’s the noise: you could barely hear the screams of the kids and the sea gulls over the thrum of dozens of jet skis.
It was all a bit overwhelming, but God gave us two feet for a reason: less than a mile from the coastal bedlam were shady footpaths and grassy hills with spectacular views, where your only company was a couple of mountain bikers and a handful of curious cows. We even found a tea room where we were virtually the only customers – bliss!
Canals & Vikings
I think the early start may have put some people off, but five of us set out from Chelmsford on the thirteen mile walk to Maldon. Starting before 10 meant that we reached Paper Mill lock around lunchtime. It was pretty busy, but we managed to squeeze in a round of tea and cakes. This stood us in good stead for the remainder of the walk, which finished at the statue of Byrhtnoth commemorating the battle of Maldon. We were more successful than he was, but then we had fewer Vikings to contend with.
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