THE MILLENIUM HIKE July 1st 2000
An account about a bunch of Intrepid Hikers hiking along the cliff tops starting at Studland Bay, Dorset.
‘A weekend without golfsticks?’ ‘are you serious’ ‘sounds like a good idea to me’ thought the others as Raymond outlined his plan, going to take a fair bit of planning though, should be worth at least a couple of jars thought Raymond or maybe a plate of chips as well.
I know I’ll drag ‘em all round the Dorset coast path, a night or two in the Bankes Arms at Studland Bay thought Raymond, see if we can make the Square and Compass at Worth Matravers for a jar or two before nightfall on the first day, leave a car or two at the pub in the morning so we can get back to base for a jar or two. The next day we’ll probably make Kimmeridge Bay for a jar or two before a rush back to the Barley Mow for a jar or two to finish off the weekend.
I’m in says Ron, Pete, Den, John and Bob, meet at 7.30 in the Bankes Arms car park.
Bob as usual was 4 hours early as he needed a jar or two and some fish and chips before the others arrived. Ray, Ron John and Den fell out of the car eager to get a jar or two before ordering something to eat, ‘not before I’ve tried my sticks round the car park’ said Den. Den had bought himself a pair of ski poles (walking poles) to help him from A to B. Den, at first, couldn’t strike the right rhythm, was it left leg with left pole, right leg with left pole, left pole with right leg, right pole with left leg or maybe both poles with right leg, both legs with left pole or forget the legs and go pole to pole, same as Michael Palin. ‘I know what the problem is’ says John ‘ you’ve got the right pole in the left hand and the left pole in your right hand’ ‘bloody hell I’ve cracked it’ says Den ‘lets have jar or two’.
While the lads were enjoying a jar or two Pete arrived gasping for a jar or two and something to eat ‘nice menu’ says Ray I think ‘I’ll have the duck followed by the sticky toffee pudding’ ‘sod that I’m sticking to the sausages and mash and poke the pudding said Ron’, Ray took the duck and the sticky pud back to the bar and complained bitterly he made a mental note not to eat at the Bankes Arms ever again.
Following a pleasant jar or two under the stars, watching the yachts swinging on their moorings down in the bay our intrepid sextet headed up the stairs to bed, Den decided he needed a helping hand from his poles up the stairs and very expertly plucked a couple of pictures off the wall with the blunt end.
Next morning Ray decided to break in his brand new hiking boots on the way down the stairs to breakfast ‘they feel great’ says Ray ‘I think I’ll have the full English’. The inner men satisfied, ablutions and toileting behind them, now was the moment they had all been training for. Five of the party walked round in circles like race horses at the start of a race waiting for Ray to finish his ablutions, eventually Ray emerged and strode off into the lead armed with map, compass and binoculars, then followed Ron with emergency rations and equipment, John being the tallest was the lookout in case of any snakes falling from the overhanging branches, Bob kept a lookout for the dog shit and Den followed on with a knapsack full of Telly Tubby biscuits.
After about half a mile of plodding and chatting ‘where the hell is Pete’ said John (he was doing a good job at look out) the others turned round and looked back down the path, it was obvious that Pete was in pain or something, he was doubled up looking closely at the ground and shaking and dribbling, ‘probably had a bad pint last night’ said Ray ‘probably found a rare species of slug’ said Bob ‘I think we had better check him out said John’ meanwhile Den had overtaken all the others sticks flailing followed by Ron and Ray.
John and Bob waited for Pete to catch up, Pete was in tears, ‘what’s the problem said John’, Pete pointed at the distant figure of stick flailing Den fast disappearing over the horizon and collapsed again, Bob and John caught the same disease and also began to shake and dribble uncontrollably. Luckily it started to drizzle and cover up all the slobber on the ground and allowed the trio to recover.
‘Must have been a bloody good joke’ said Den, ‘was it the one about the bloke who wore his arse backwards’ as the team merged back into formation, Pete started to shake again.
The path wound its way slowly but surely out of the undergrowth, up to the chalk cliffs which overlook Old Harry Rock and Old Harry’s Wife . Ray and Ron being members of the twitchers club immediately unholstered the bin’s and started to reel off the names of our feathered friends. ‘definitely a young tern’ said Ray ‘looks like black headed gull to me’ said Ron, ‘there’s a cormorant’ ‘could be a shag’ ‘there’s a razorbill’ there’s a gannet and a guillemot’ ‘don’t want ‘em crapping on my head’ said Den.
It was definitely time to stop and don the wet gear as the clouds were getting lower and the rain getting heavier. Den had brought his poncho, which was obviously the envy of the others, the trouble was that poncho’s are fine if the rain is falling vertically but when the wind blows they end up round your neck and make a noise like a loose spinnaker. Den didn’t care, like the others he was beginning to enjoy the elements.
The party were now beginning to get into their stride, buoyed along by the magnificent vista’s, scudding clouds, bleating gulls and gaining pleasure from dancing round the dog shit, sheep shit and cow shit.
All had their private thoughts, Ron was quietly trying to work out how the gulls missed each other - must be a bloody good air traffic control system he thought, ‘seagull Oscar November descend to 200 feet, turn right heading 310 degrees, conflicting traffic on your left’ yeah that’s how they do it. Bob stared out to sea and thought that he must have been mad to sail his 12 foot dinghy around this very headland with the excitable Spike a couple or years ago (full report available at £4. 99).
Pete was enjoying the fresh air so much that he felt giddy, another fag soon fixed that. Ray had his mind on the route and the progress, as he was anxious to keep up with his schedule or schedules whichever one suited the moment. John was also enjoying the views and the smells but being from Surbiton didn’t think it was a patch on the view across St Andrew’s Square after closing time. Den glided serenely on now at one with his ski poles his progress was beautiful to behold as if swept along by an invisible zephyr in the sure knowledge that the time for a Telly Tubby biscuit couldn’t be far away.
The weather now was looking better as the troop strode towards Swanage, the yachts out to sea looked comfortable in the force three or maybe four, there was even a shaft of sunlight a mile or two out in the bay. Wet gear was stowed away for the fourth time and Pete knew that he had made the right decision, everybody else had wet trousers where as Pete only had wet legs which dried off much quicker.
Approaching the start of the descent into Swanage Bob announced that he had lost his watch, he knew that the constant rucksack on, rucksack off, rucksack on, rucksack off had flicked his watch either over the cliff or into a waiting cowpat. The others looked somewhat pained as they contemplated a trudge back over the downs to check all the cowpats. ‘I wouldn’t mind but I only bought it five years ago and it cost me £4.99 in White Cross Street market’ ‘sod the watch’ said the others in unison and strode off towards Swanage leaving Bob feeling naked and unloved.
Friendly greetings were exchanged between passing hikers, as they descended into Swanage, one passing woman noticed Pete’s hairy legs and the wet trousers but didn’t say anything.
Ray tried taking a picture of the view over Swanage which was now almost bathed in sunshine but didn’t know or forgot which button to press and wished he had left the camera at home.
The planned route took our heroes through the urban jungle of East Swanage and finally down a steep path onto the beach in between a row of beach huts, this was obviously the ideal place for a camera opportunity, a Telly Tubby biscuit and a chance to smash up a few sandcastles on the beach.
This achieved, the next stop would be in a beach side coffee shop for a quick discussion on progress so far, the smiling shapely waitress brought coffee and cakes for a satisfied bunch of hikers who now thought that from here on it would be a doddle as all had harboured private thoughts that the miles might take its toll on slightly less than fit bodies but all were pleased with their achievements so far. It hadn’t entered their heads that the start of the walk was on a cliff, the walk had been largely along the top of the cliff, and then down the cliff into Swanage and was the reason that they were all feeling so pleased with themselves. Little did they realise it was to be all uphill from here.
Many years ago all six had worked with Dick, happily drawing pipes at a fairly large company that somehow managed to manufacture a small amount of cold air from a large amount of hot air. Dick had made a lot of money at all sorts of enterprises, including renting out his newspaper, and moved to Swanage. Bob had from time to time kept in touch and thought it would be a good idea to drop in for a cup of tea. Bob dug out his brand new mobile and luckily found that Dick would be pleased to see his old customers and would put the kettle on, ‘be there in 15 minutes’ said Bob. Having thanked and tipped the waitress the sextet marched off along the Swanage sea front trying not to look down the bikini tops below. Bob had visited Dick once before and thought he knew the way.
The road climbed steeply out of Swanage, half way up the hill Den said what everyone else was thinking ‘sod Dick lets take the easy route’ Bob assured the others that it wasn’t far and that the route was up the hill anyway. The others weren’t that convinced but agreed to carry on. Bob again checked with Dick on his mobile and confirmed that he lived around the corner. Dick greeted the arriving hikers like long lost buddie’s and thought that maybe he wouldn’t charge for the tea after all. Dick had recently spent many hours polishing up his wooden floor in the hall and the last thing he wanted was a bunch of hikers trudging through to the kitchen. ‘Never mind chaps, don’t bother to take your boots off, I’ll do it all again next week no problem’ said Dick through his teeth.
Dick was obviously genuinely touched to see his old mates and to celebrate offered around the Mr Kiplings to go with the tea. Then followed half an hour of reminiscing about many things, except pipes. Sadly it emerged that Dick had recently split with his wife and had lost everything, she’d even taken the cat which hurt Dick more than anything ‘why don’t you join us for a jar or two this evening’ said Ray ‘you look like you could do with a bit of cheering up’ everybody agreed that this was a great idea and arranged to meet Dick down in the town about seven.
The march resumed up the hill Ray keeping a keen eye on the map, compass and schedule as he had a jar or two at Durlestone Castle on his itinerary. The hills became more frequent, the odd twinge began to set in. Eventually Durlestone tea rooms hove into view, a thankful bunch of hikers fell onto the benches and broke open the sandwiches, nuts, dried fruit, Kendal Cake, spring water and finished off with a Telly Tubby biscuit.
Suitably refreshed they headed off to rejoin the Coast Path, the weather now was warm and sunny and a mild breeze chopped up the water below, an ever-increasing number of yachts and assorted craft emerged from Poole Harbour heading westwards. All remarked on the scene, which was almost perfect if it wasn’t for the cow shit.
‘How far to Worth Matravers?’ enquired Den wanting to pace himself for the final few miles, nobody was quite sure but we are well over half way was the best guess. ‘When’s the next stop for a Telly Tubby biscuit then’, ‘ as soon as we find a spot with no cow shit around’ was Ray’s reply. The stops became more frequent, one nice resting place was beside a lake of cow shit which was appreciated by all especially when a bunch of young hikers strode past, one with his ghetto blaster turned up to full volume which added immeasurably to the enjoyment ‘if Gatters was here he’d chuck the bastard over the cliff’ said John, nobody felt liking taking issue and silently wished their fellow hiker a hard landing at the bottom of the cliff.
Ron and Ray continued having great sport identifying all the birds that hadn’t been frightened into migration by the ghetto blaster. Crowds of kids were having a ball falling off the cliffs below along with serious climbers dangling from ropes all along the cliff face ‘must be potty’ was the general opinion, the coast guard helicopter made a few passes probably reported that a bunch of nutters were scrambling up the cliff face and then disappeared back to base for a jar or two.
The march continued past Dancing Ledge which was also littered with would be mountaineers, past Langton Matravers and on towards Secombe Valley where the route would take our hikers inland to Worth Matravers. A final stop to take in the view, a Telly Tubby biscuit and a quick fix by Dr Ron on Ray’s eye with eye drops from his medical kit, a last photo or two and the march continued up the valley everyone looking forward to a jar or two at The Square and Compass.
The climb out of the valley up to Worth Matravers was long and steep but our heroes were not going to show any signs of suffering now, especially as the pub was now in sight. A few more cheery greetings to fellow hikers, a final struggle over a mountainous stile and all six collapsed on to the chairs and tables hewn out of the local stone in the pub garden.
The Square and Compass was a fine choice of venue for end of the hike, the pub which had been in the Newman family for 90 odd years oozed atmosphere, Charlie the current landlord gave a cheery wave as he swept up the chicken shit, he invited the lads to try the Badger Tanglefoot, the Quay Old Rot the Ringwood Best and the Fortyniner on tap from a row of casks behind a couple of hatches in the flagstoned narrow passage, ‘take a look at the interesting museum in the old public bar it’s full of local fossils and artefacts mostly collected by my father’ he said. ‘Bar food is limited to pork and chilli or cheese, onion pie and pasties, you can play cribbage, shovehapeny and dominoes, and on a clear day the view from the hilltop is hard to beat, looking down over the village rooftops to East and West Man (the hills which frame the coastal approach), on summer evenings the sun setting beyond Portland Bill is a sight to behold’. Free roaming chickens clucked and cheeky sparrows hopped happily round the hikers feet and on the tables. (The writer unfortunately missed a few points of detail).
After a few refreshing jars, a last photo session for the day, a general agreement that all had gone to plan and nobody had suffered any serious injury, it was agreed that the wander from here to Kimmeridge Bay would be a doddle now that all the muscles were well broken in and all were sure that the blisters would be better in the morning.
Ray organised the taxi back to the Bankes Arms. Other hikers enjoying the sunshine in the pub garden watched with some interest as our heroes clambered into the Espace. On arrival at the Bankes Arms five of the party took a well earned shower, Bob found a note pinned to his door telling him to check with the landlord, Bob was informed that all his gear had been transferred to Ron and John’s room as somebody had screwed up the booking. Bob decided that he’d rather go home than take his chances with Ron and John. The fact that Bob had his grandson’s christening to attend the next day was neither here nor there.
The evening in downtown Swanage with Dick was a pleasant end to the day, following more reminiscing, a jar or two, fish and chips and a stroll on the prom Bob said his farewells and headed home.
The following day the intrepid five found the going a touch more difficult than the first day and the writer understands that all five lived to tell the tale but declined to go into detail.
July 14th 2015
To this day recollections of the next day's hike to Kimmeridege ranks as the most difficult ever attempted, bit of a shame but unfortunately Bob wasn't there to make notes. Phew!