Sunday, 17 June 2007

Into Deepest Darkest Dorset

Days 25 to 31
Tue 29 May to Tue 5 Jun

Well certainly brought rain to Isle of Wight for bank holiday - the coldest holiday weekend on record apparently.

After Swanage the next target is to round St. Albans Head and its races and past Lulworth Cove to Weymouth and Portland Bill. This I quickly do passing the UK's main tank firing range and a petrified ancient forest off the Kimmeridge Ledges.

Weymouth turns out to be a busy town with a harbour of ferries, diving tour boats, fishermen and yachties. It also has a thriving music scene as Helen (landlady of the Sailors Return pub) shows me when she takes me out with friends to see the town. At 3am I remember why you should never drink with somebody who owns a pub...

Next day I make a 06:30 start to round Portland Bill (nearly an island but joined by a 500m strip to the mainland). Interestingly it turns out that the word 'rabbit' is a curse here. In a tradition dating back to its mining days the locals will only say 'bunny'. The last Wallace and Gromit film couldn't be shown here.

The most boring part of the trip follows - a 20km slog up Chesil Beach. Tiredness, boredom and a hangover mean I fall asleep in the boat and I put into West bay at a happy campers Butlins (complete with S Club 7 wannabes).

Off again the next day and as I need to visit Rhi [girlfriend] in Gosport I need to find a train station. Map says Seaford has one but closer inspection shows it to be a tourist tramline. However Dee the venerable star of Axe Canoe Club comes to the rescue letting me store the boat in their well-equipped shed. She even drives me to the station!

Exmouth is the destination the next day, after a long detour via train to Bristol (whoops) and once again being rescued by Dee. A night camping on the dunes of Dawlish Warren looking at the lights out to sea.

In the morning I'm rudley awakened not by the dustmen but by the park rangers who inform me that this is a no camping area - its an early start to Torcross. I reach the large stone beach in lovely sunshine.

I was last here on a uni field trip getting drunk on the beach and its still brings back a smile. However the calm waters around the beach hold other memories - in 1944 over 700 US servicemen died here when German torpedo boats sneaked through Royal Navy defences and sunk two landing craft.

Tonight however is much more relaxed with a dinner in the Torcross Hotel (bit Fawlty Towers for me) before a nightcap in the Start Point pub and falling asleep under the stars on the beach with the lights from Start Point lighthouse shining out over me.

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