South West Coast Path: Seatown to Abbotsbury

In which: I walk past nature’s work, unseeing ● the joys of having wings manifest themselves ● ice-cream is served ● the path gets flatter but more challenging ● there is more evidence of nature’s inexorable advances

Date: 13 April 2021
Time of walk: 1005 to 1515 (plus 0850 to 0905 to the bus-stop)
Today’s walking: 18.8 km (plus 1.3 km to the bus-stop)
Progress along SWCP: 17.6 km
Estimated ascent: 420 metres

I drove to the beach car park below Abbotsbury, from where I walked up the hill past Abbotsbury Gardens, taking advantage of a permissive path which led directly to the bus-stop. The bus took me to Chideock (pronounced CHID-uk) from where I walked down a pleasant bridleway to the water at Seatown.

As I approach the sea, a look across the car park to the coast path climbing the grass-topped cliffs. A major cliff-fall had taken place overnight, and had I known that at the time, I would have continued onto the beach to see what could be seen. I didn’t find out until the next day, however.
Climbing away from Seatown
As I neared the top of the first ascent, there was some red-and-white tape steering walkers away from the edge, and my focus was on this crack, showing subsidence and the start of the next big fall – which could be today or could be years away. I didn’t realise that the tape was there because of the overnight fall.
Over Doghouse Hill to Thorncombe Beacon
A look back to Golden Cap (centre of picture) from the top of Thorncombe Beacon. A good point to stop for elevenses.
Looking ahead along the rest of the day’s walk.
The descent from Thorncombe Beacon was initially steep and cautious, but as the gradient eased slightly, I spread my arms and let myself fly down the hill, discovering the joy of (almost) flying.
At Eype, the path descends almost onto the beach to cross the little stream
A footbridge has been provided but is barely necessary when the stream is subdued as it is today.
Making my walk along West Cliff
…with evidence of industry, perhaps a lime kiln
The gradual descent into West Bay
Getting closer, and a little busier
An ice cream is an important part of a seaside holiday, and this was a good one, from one of the choice of outlets by the harbour in West Bay
After taking briefly to the beach, the Coast Path climbs again, onto the imaginatively named East Cliff.
Soon I am descending again to cross the bay at Burton Bradstock, dominated by the huge holiday park, and where the River Bride (not to be confused with the nearby River Brit which goes through Bridport) forces a diversion inland for a few hundred metres to a bridge.
After a brief small ascent, the route is almost back down at sea level, where it remains for the rest of the day. But easy walking it is not…
“Coast Path” says the sign, but for fair chunks there is no path – just a tough trudge on the pathless shingle of Chesil Beach.
The sign doesn’t offer any hint of what to do in Spring or Autumn. I opted, with optimism, whether misplaced or not, for the slightly more inland summer route. I deduced that the winter route continues along the shingle, and thus while hard work is reliable underfoot, whereas the summer route suffers from mud/bogginess in wet weather.
As I take the occasionally wet slightly inland route, I pass from Burton Bradstock parish into Puncknowle parish, the change being marked by this unusual sculpture.
The inland route improves somewhat and is now much firmer underfoot…
…but eventually I am disgorged back onto the shingle, and I wander from the back edge of the beach onto the ridgeline in a vain attempt to find the firmest footing.
I’m intrigued by a variety of layered deposits on the shingle. Subsequent investigation suggests that they are neolithic clays and peats from the seabed, or perhaps from the former bed of The Fleet when that lagoon (which I’m going to visit tomorrow) was much bigger and stretched further north-west. Chesil Beach is moving inland at up to 15 metres a century, so is gradually reducing the size of The Fleet and as it moves inland is exposing fresh seabed that has been protected for many centuries by the shingle.
At West Bexington, there is a brief interlude where I can walk on tarmac again, and I sit and have a drink and snack, before once more embarking on the shingle walk.
Eventually the hard work comes to an end, and there is a track, which becomes a road, which takes me the rest of the way to the car park below Abbotsbury


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