The other day Lynne had offered me her husband Paul as a walking partner. ‘Paul walks’, she said, and she felt sure he would want to walk with me. ‘But he won’t be up to your pace’, she added. I thought that a bit strange, as she couldn’t have known what my pace was. On Sunday evening Paul popped in to confirm our date. ‘You are all right with hills?’, he asked. ‘Yes’, I replied. After all, I walk up and down Wimbledon Hill regularly. The plan was that Paul would work out one of his favourite routes and off we would go.
When Paul called to collect me and we set off at 9.00 a.m., I arranged to go shopping with Jackie in the afternoon. However, there is walking, and there is walking. We were definitely on a walking trip. As Paul drove off, I imagined that we would just take a short drive to the countryside, take a walk for an hour or two, and return with plenty of time for a shop. That is what the women imagined too, as they waited until well past one for lunch. I began to become a little concerned when I glanced at the in-car satnav and realised we were on our way to Dorset. I thought that would make us a bit later than I had imagined. I still didn’t realise where we were going. The marvellous navigational tool took us directly from The Firs to a car park in Kimmeridge. Paul changed into his walking boots and donned his backpack. ‘I see you’ve come well prepared’, I observed, but it wasn’t until he extricated a pair of professional-looking walking sticks that I began to realise I might be in for a Ken Coleman experience (see post of 31st. August). Trotting down into Kimmeridge we stopped for coffee. This, explained Paul, was part of the tradition shared with his friend Dave with whom he has a monthly walk. Then out came the Pathfinder Walks book. This is a guide to country walks throughout England. Paul showed me the chosen route. It was the 8 1/2 miles Kimmeridge Bay and Swyre Head circuit. This looked uncomfortably close to the coastline for my liking.
Anyone who has read the Vertigo post of 14th. July, will realise that anything too close to the edge would not be very comfortable for me. In fact Elizabeth and I had been on a landscape photography course a year or so back, and I had been unable to walk down to Lulworth Cove, having to settle for taking pictures of inland scenes. My sister had been happy to walk down a series of steps I found just too scary. So, when I discovered that the first long section of our walk comprised part of the Dorset Coastal Path, I was a little disconcerted. This meant footpaths with barbed wire fences on our left, and the sea on our right. I did wonder at one point what would be my chances if I had to grab hold of the fence. Even more difficult were two very steep upward climbs which soon had me panting away. Indeed, I couldn’t manage the second one without a rest. I have to say that Paul, who has no head for heights himself, was an excellent calming influence, and I found the stick he had suggested I try, was a great help in balancing me and helping me ensure that there was something firm between me and the cliff edge.
Once we had got beyond this rather frightening part of the journey we made our way inland and looked down on Edcombe dairy and Edcombe house, which is apparently quite an ancient pile. Later we were able to see these from the other side of the valley in which it is set, with the ridge along which we had walked in the background.
It was with some relief that we reached the Scots Arms in Kingston and had two pints of well-earned ale for me and cider for Paul. From the garden we enjoyed an impressive, if hazy, view of Corfe Castle.
Paul was excellent company, and we shared a wonderful day. Having had to make several phone calls putting our return home later and later, I managed not to completely spoil Jackie’s roast chicken dinner, for which I was certainly ready. Since I was pretty dehydrated, I needed sparkling water with my share of the Carta Roja 2005. Jackie didn’t need any with her Hoegaarden.