The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Castles & Coastal Breezes
After a sunny Easter, surely it wasn’t possible to have a sunny May Bank Holiday as well? After a fairly traditional Friday evening drive to Litton Cheney in Dorset, most of us arrived in time for a slap-up meal in the pub. It was literally staggering distance from the hostel, so a couple of beers were definitely in order. This may have impaired our judgement as there was quite an outbreak of puddings – the substantial kind that normally require an energetic hike to justify, rather than a few hours stuck in Bank Holiday traffic. Still, with three days of hiking ahead of us, where was the harm?
A good night’s sleep and one of Dave’s hearty breakfasts later, we were climbing up onto the downs on our way to Abbotsbury. It was definitely an energetic start to the day, but I’m not entirely convinced it justified the tea shop visit in the old School House. Still it was carb-loading just before another uphill climb to the lofty summit the of St Catherine’s Hill with its 14th century chapel. So that’s got to be OK, right?
From the Chapel we headed downhill to join the Southwest Coastal path, pausing for a little lunch with clear views over Chesil Beach all the way to Portland Bill. The path from here was straight and flat, well right up to where we had to climb back up to Litton Cheney anyway.
Sunday was possibly a little warmer as the wind had died down, so we climbed back up on to the downs heading for Maiden Castle. This iron age hillfort has magnificent ramparts, even after a couple of thousand years, and we managed a quick circuit before the local marathon came through. From here we had clear views to the coast and also to the Hardy Monument, our ultimate destination. Between here and there was a sensational ridge walk and a plunge down into Hells Bottom, which the guidebook described as “delightful”. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but we found a nice spot for lunch before the steep climb back up to the ridge and the 22m stone tower of the Hardy Monument. Built to honour the Hardy associated with Admiral Nelson, rather than the author, the 121 step spiral staircase leads to a viewing platform with spectacular views over the whole of Dorset. This also revealed just how far we still had to go, so we pressed on.
The return leg took us through some lovely villages, spoilt only by the pub closing its doors just as we got there. Grrr! Still, if we had stopped for a beer, dinner would have been very late indeed.
Bank Holiday Monday was time to head home, so our group split up with different ideas on how to spend our last day. It was another sunny one, possibly the best one yet, so a group of us decided to climb up another hillfort. Eggardon Hill is much smaller than Maiden Castle, but it certainly packed a punch. High on a promontory, it had spectacular views all the way out to the coast and the earth banks stood out clearly. Picking a route down into the valley was tricky, proving just how good a defence it was. The route took us down through ancient farms and smugglers dens before we found a playing field for our lunch. The club hut was open, so we borrowed chairs and ate our sandwiches in relative luxury. More was to follow when we walked on into the village and found a pub that was not only open, but had good beer and a lovely beer garden. Suitably relaxed the remaining route took us along sunken lanes and through bluebell woods before regaining the ridge at the end. It was a great end to the weekend and we couldn’t help but be a little sad to leave. Or perhaps that was the thought of all that traffic on the way home……?
Anyone for Cheese?
Any one who has catered for the group will have stressed over quantities - balancing unnecessary waste against the shame of short portions. Chris was faced with just such a dilemma at Easter with her cheese and biscuits. This was a popular choice of pudding after her triumphant veggie lasagne, so we were very glad there was enough left over for a second night. And enough to take home and freeze to revisit us again at May Bank Holiday. Twice. Still a bit left, so we shared it with our fellow hostellers. Chris, that was a lot of cheese!
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