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Illustration from WEP


Fifty-Three (plus Del) go Wild in Dorset

Or

The Mystery of the Missing Sandwiches

It was with an eager sense of anticipation that 53 members of West Essex Ramblers were gathered up by Del, our intrepid driver, and his big blue bus and off we sped via the Blackwall Tunnel and the M3 for Thomas Hardy’s county, stopping, en route, at Fleet Services where the greedier amongst us indulged in the “full English”.

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Del's Coach

Actually delivering us to Hardy's Cottage on Day 5

Photographer: A. Hawkins

Coffee Break

Short walk around and north of Sutton Poyntz

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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View looking down on Sutton Poyntz

Also the sea, Isle of Portland and Weymouth

Photographer: A. Hawkins


King George 3rd on Horseback

There's a much clearer and whiter view from the road

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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Sutton Poyntz Pond

A very pretty village all round.

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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The Beach into Weymouth

Final part of the walk - Sutton Poyntz to our Hotel

Photographer: Ray Latham

We completed our journey to Weymouth on foot (a not unreasonable idea for a walking group). Our start was from the village of Sutton Poyntz, which created quite a stir amongst the locals. The sun was shinning as the chalk figure of George the Third, cut into the hillside, welcomed us into the town.

*   *   *   *   *

We reached the Crown hotel, our home for the next four nights, in good order, ably marshaled by our leader for the day, Audrey Carson. The Crown is a solid Victorian (?) building positioned next to the Harbour & the Town bridge. Those of you who know Weymouth will know that the bridge can be raised (just like Tower Bridge).

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Crown Hotel, Weymouth

And Del's Coach

Photographer: Ross Millar


Weymouth Bridge

It's smaller than Tower Bridge!

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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Weymouth Harbour Looking out to Sea

A picture at Sunrise

Photographer: A. Hawkins

Weymouth's Marina

Another picture at sunrise

Photographer: A. Hawkins

Weymouth is a delightful town with a long sandy beach framed by a row of Georgian houses. It has the usual range of seaside amusements, but it also boasts a busy harbour full of fishing boats and pleasure craft. The warren of Georgian streets behind the Harbour have been tastefully restored.

The hotel staff were on hand to greet us and we were allocated our rooms with the minimum of fuss. A couple of hours were available to settle in before dinner.

After our meal, Len Banister briefed us on the arrangements for the morrow. It would be a good point, here, to explain that each day there were three levels of walk available; a short, an intermediate and a longer; catering for all levels of stamina and inclination. These ingenious arrangements, whereby we all started and finished together, Len clearly explained with his well known brand of dry good humour. This became the pattern each evening and signalled the start of the nights entertainment.

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Len Banister counting the ramblers

Checking we are all onboard

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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Weymouth's Marina, from far end

A Night Time View

Photographer: Jan Latham

Entertainment cannot begin to describe the array of talent on offer each evening in the ballroom. Music lovers amongst you, who were not able to join the trip, will be dismayed that you missed such giants of harmony as “John & his Music”, ”Gigilo” & “Phil Gardiner” to name but three. Seriously, those who still had the stamina, appreciated the live entertainment laid on each evening. They were able to display their not inconsiderable dancing skills. Your correspondent, sadly, apart from one brief appearance to show them what they were missing, was not amongst them, preferring to explore the night life of Weymouth ably assisted by our esteemed treasurer and a certain well-known Irishman.

*   *   *   *   *

Corfe Castle between the Purbeck Hills

Our walk started on the hilltop 4 miles to the right

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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Corfe Castle

Shame about the scaffolding

Photographer: A. Hawkins

Day two began in bright sunshine and we really began to appreciate the full glory of the Dorset countryside. The sombre presence of Corfe Castle guarding a gap in the Purbeck Hills dominated the morning walking. The ruined magnificence of Corfe was marred somewhat by modern scaffolding encasing its grey walls. Since it was so badly damaged in the Civil War, it seems a little unreasonable that they have waited this long to repair it.

Unfortunately, after lunch the weather closed in and the intermediate walkers, who had been promised views from the top of a great tumulus, had to complete their trek in heavy mist. The longer walkers followed the coastal path. This was described in the notes as “rigorous” and so it proved, with much “upping” & “downing”. Buffeted by strong winds and treading carefully where the path was eroding into the sea. All three groups met at Kimmeridge Bay, where we were grateful to see Del and his coach waiting for us.

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Coastal view - on a windy afternoon

Long walkers on route to Kimmeridge

Photographer: Ken Chadwick

*   *   *   *   *







After a stormy night, Monday also began in bright sunshine. The notes for day three gave added impetus to our steps as we were promised the Church at Studland displaying gargoyles “having sexual assignations”. I, for one, never saw them. This, of course, may be a reflection on my lack of experience in such matters.

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St Nicholas Church, Studland

Allegedly has those Gargoyles

Photographer: Sue Coulbeck

  

Harry's Rock

Bournemouth on the Horizon

Photographer: A. Hawkins







Geographical highlights followed one after another. Old Harry's Rock sits alone as Old Harry's Wife fell into the sea some years ago and can only be seen at very low tide. There are times when I envy Old Harry.

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To the Right (south) of Harry's Rock

The rambler's have a break and view the rock

Photographer: Len Banister

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Isle of Wight

Visible behind ramblers of previous image

Photographer: Ross Millar

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To the right further (more southerly) The Pinnacles

Peveril Point pushes into the sea on the horizon

Photographer: A. Hawkins

An amusing incident happened as we approached Swanage: the group managed to split in two. When we realized what had happened, we in the “lost” group could see the others on top of the ridge. Much arm waving and mobile phoning ensued. The two halves joined up again on Swanage Seafront, amid the happy greeting of “why don’t you watch where you're going”.

Swanage Bay & Swanage leading round to Peveril Point

Before the ramblers split up

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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Swanage Bay & Swanage leading round to Peveril Point

The front walkers; the "lost" followed the coastal path

Photographer: A. Hawkins


Engine Sheds at Swanage

The tourist's Swanage to Corfe Castle Steam Line

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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The famous,spring fed, Mill Pond

C of E Parish Church, St Mary the Virgin

Photographer: A. Hawkins

Lunch at Durlston Head Castle

Actually built as a restaurant by George Burt

Late 19th Century

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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Belonging to Durlston Head Castle

The Great Globe of 1887

Raised a stir at the time

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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North looking.     Bournemouth on horizon

then Harry's Rock, Peveril Point

and blackberries on Durleston Head

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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Dancing Ledge

A Coffee Break

Photographer: A. Hawkins



The longer walkers were allowed a brief stop at Dancing Ledge, a disused stone quarry right at the sea’s edge, and one of the most spectacular coffee breaks I have ever had with the West Essex.

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Dancing Ledge

Waves

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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Square and Compass, Worth Matravers

A cider Drinker

Photographer: Ken Chadwick


The day ended, gloriously, at the pub in Worth Matravers. The short and intermediate walkers had had an hour to enjoy the seven or eight ciders on offer. We, in the longer group, had to be content with a “swift half’, before Len dragged us away.

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Square and Compass, Worth Matravers

Leaving the Pub to a guard of honour

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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Walking to Abbotsbury

  

Photographer: Jan Latham

Swannery at Abbotsbury

Polly feeds the swans

Photographer: Audrey Carson

For day four, we stayed close to Weymouth, with the full walk from Langton Herring to Maiden Castle. The short walkers were stopping at Abbotsbury to visit the Swannery.

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Swannery at Abbotsbury

Elegant, regal, swans

Photographer: Audrey Carson



The rest of us pressed on, amid magnificent views to the Hardy Monument. This is a stone column clearly seen for some miles before it is reached.

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Sea; Chesil Beach; Bay of the Swannery;

Abbotsbury (centre);

Catherine's Chapel (extreme right on hill)

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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St Catherine's Chapel, Patron Saint of Spinsters

Reciting a poem here, reputedly,

would secure a husband

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy's Monument

Photographer: A. Hawkins

As we toiled up Blackdown Hill it seemed to retreat, mockingly, before us. Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy was the captain of the Victory at Trafalgar, and, famously, gave the dying Nelson his last kiss.

All three groups met at Maiden Castle. Maiden Castle is huge: a great earth fort built over two thousand years ago on top of a great hill. It is amazing to think such a structure was made with very primitive tools.

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Maiden Castle, Perimeter

I estimate one tenth the circumference is visible

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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Maiden Castle - Historic Information

It's readable

Photographer: A. Hawkins

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A Monument to Thomas Hardy - Poet and Writer

Erected by American Admirers

Photographer: Sue Coulbeck

Wednesday was our last day. We had a morning walk in Puddletown Forest. The sun filtering through the trees was a new experience after the magnificent vistas of distant hills, sea, and sky we had enjoyed all week. Our holiday came to an end, fittingly, at Thomas Hardy's Cottage. Such a modest place to have produced such a great writer. I must confess to never having been a big fan of Hardy - but this trip to Dorset has made me want to read him again.

Thomas Hardy Cottage

and West Essex Ramblers

Photographer: Len Banister

*   *   *   *   *

Let me close by thanking everyone associated with our holiday. From Julie Banister and Audrey Carson to John Francis for negotiating such an amazing price. Last, but not least, to Len Banister for the planning and organization and the wit and good humour which kept us under control. Thank you all!

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        Audrey            John                 Len                 Julie

         Carson           Francis             Banister           Banister

Photographers: A. Hawkins & Jan Latham

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Ross - The Author

He didn't understand the request to pose with a sandwich!

Photographer: A. Hawkins

Well, what about the missing sandwiches, I hear you cry? I’m afraid it remains a mystery, as their fate, at the time of writing, has yet to come to light. A certain DCI R. Jackson (retired) would be interested in any information you can give, as he is carrying out a full investigation. Let the guilty among you beware!   

Ross Millar

Weymouth's Marina, from bridge end

A Night Time View

Photographer: A. Hawkins