South West Coast Path: Abbotsbury to Ferrybridge

In which: suncream is not forthcoming ● St Catherine’s Chapel is initially diverting ● I head inland ● The Fleet is my companion for the rest of the walk ● route-finding presents some minor problems and a bit of adventure

Date: 14 April 2021
Time of walk: 0920 to 1510
Today’s walking: 23.4 km
Progress along SWCP: 19.7 km
Estimated ascent: 370 metres

I drove to near Ferrybridge, the point where the causeway to Portland meets the mainland, and from there got a bus into Weymouth and another back to Abbotsbury. After getting sunburned yesterday, I popped into a shop to enquire whether they had any suncream, but was told they don’t put it out this early in the year – there’s not enough sun. I showed him my red hands, but it didn’t sway him. I thought of telling him that UV radiation in the northern hemisphere can peak in April, not when the weather is hottest, but I decided it would be of little benefit, and pressed on.

Leaving the village of Abbotsbury
I start the walk with a diversion, heading up the hill to St Catherine’s Chapel. This barrel-vaulted 14th century chapel was built by the monks of the nearby Abbotsbury Abbey as a place of pilgrimage and retreat.
The view of Abbotsbury from the chapel.
From the chapel I retracted my steps down the hill and took a bridleway around the hill towards the sea. Meeting the Coast Path, I continued along it in the “wrong” direction to get to the car park where I parked yesterday, where I turned round and walked along the SWCP in the “right”direction, finally fully underway at 1009 having parked the car before 8 o’clock.
Now underway on the SWCP, past the pillbox with its impressive roof, I can see the north-western end of The Fleet, separated from the sea proper by Chesil Beach.
However, the Coast Path turns inland for quite a while, in part to preserve the western end of The Fleet for wildlife.
There are some pleasant bits of the inland route
But a fair bit is somewhat uninspiring farmland – nothing actually wrong with it, just not the quality of scenery we’re used to on the SWCP.
These low-hanging trees do their best to enliven the scene, but as I’m not consulting the map closely, I haven’t realised that the need to do so is now limited – water is just behind them and at the end I turn right to emerge at Rodden Hive.
The Coast Path returns to water, and with the briefest of interludes follows the bank of The Fleet all the way to Ferrybridge
Only a very few boats are allowed on The Fleet. These decorated my view as I stopped for lunch.
I didn’t see any horses, fast or otherwise, but just in case I also obeyed orders not to touch (sic) the sand of the horse gallop.
Continuing progress around The Fleet
The peninsula of Tidmoor Point is a military firing range and so closed when the red flags are flying.
No red flags today so it was safe to continue on the direct route, with a nicely framed view through a window of one of the army viewing points.
After passing Littlesea Holiday Park, I gain height for a little while, giving a view back up The Fleet
An MOD supplies depot forces the path on a small detour up the hill and back down again.
An almost hidden National Trail acorn shows that the way is down the steps onto the beach, but after that the walker is left to their own devices as regards route-finding.
I mistakenly took a rather low route around the next headland, which I don’t think was right, but I soon found a link onto the path proper.
However, all of a sudden the path proper became very improper. Clearly there has been considerable erosion here, but I saw no warnings or notices. I pressed on down the slope, clambered onto the under-construction walkway and steps, and then under a couple of barriers stopping people coming the other way – definitely nothing like that in the direction I’d come from, but it all added to the adventure.
Then firm footing returned for the short walk to the main road at Ferrybridge.
Here the path onwards around to Weymouth follows the Rodwell Trail. Meanwhile the purist will be turning right for a day’s walking around the coast of Portland before returning to this spot to continue to Weymouth.



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