Dorset and Golden Cap
edited: Saturday, August 04, 2012
By Robert J Dowell
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Saturday, August 04, 2012
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Another travel related article I wrote.
A hill walk is about more than just the quest to conquer something. It is about admiring the view, looking at what is around you and enjoying all that nature can assault your senses with. If and when I treat it as some kind of tick list, I hope that my best friends give me a good kicking, as I will feel that I have lost the plot.
In the past when scuba diving I have often looked out at the cliffs along the Dorset coast, wondering what it would be like to walk them. Well today I got my chance, and I could not have been blessed with better weather to do it either. Sunshine, blue skies and a cool breeze, what more could I ask for…Well as it happens, a younger pair of legs might have helped.
I parked at the National Trust car park just outside Charmouth, as I figured this would give me a good walk along the coastline, although it is possible to do a shorter more direct walk from Seatown. Getting out of the car I looked over and got my first view of Golden Cap and its surrounding landscape. There just over the hedge I could make out the highest cliff in Britain, but very little else of the actual walk.
Starting the walk full of energy, I figured that according to the distance on the signpost this would be no problem, a nice simple stroll along the coast. But as with the link between wind chill and temperature, hills have a habit of making the miles seem longer…much longer. It was either that or the lead fairy was constantly adding weight to my shoes during the uphill sections.
I left the car park and walked through shoulder high Gorse bushes, all in flower. Combined with the sunlight, the air took on a rich warm yellow - quite beautiful. Eventually I descended through the bushes to a small single-track road, past a cottage, to a magnificent view of the sea and surrounding coastline. Following the coastal path, I could see it snaking its way across the countryside and up the side of the hill to the apex. I took a moment to look at all the people in the distance making the climb to the top, like so many ants marching along the path.
After the rather claustrophobic conditions of the yellow Gorse bushes and the single track road, the rolling hills and open country side gave a feeling of peace that I have not experienced in a long time. There is something gratifying about fulfilling a wish, and in my case it was a long felt desire to be walking along the cliff enjoying the freedoms that came with it.
Moving down through grazing cattle and over a small bridge, I continued to become part of the surroundings, enjoying the open space that only the countryside can provide. Having overlooked the problem of foreshortening when I first looked out from the car park, I admit that after about an hour I started to wonder if the final climb up Golden Cap was just over the next hill. I was to repeat that sentiment a further five times. Oh well, I did say that it was about the journey, not the conquest…must get someone to kick me.
Walking along the coastal path, you will see many different sights, some that look like they are from secret gardens, whilst others look like the Californian coast on a brilliant summer day. There were so many facets to the route that, at times, it felt like I was with Robinson Crusoe on his desert island. The rough path descended into a gully enclosed by small trees and bushes, finished off nicely by a stream that flowed under a small bridge. Looking out through a small gap towards the sea, the sun glinted off the stream, adding to the already romantic feeling of the whole setting.
After leaving Robinson Crusoe gully, I started to climb the hill to the top of Golden Cap, and it was at this point I realised just how unfit I was. Yes I can walk on flat surfaces, until my shoes are worn out; but, unfortunately, I had not taken into account the lead fairy who was making my feet heavier with each step. Luckily a combination of innate stamina and a cool sea breeze kept my spirits going, so it was not too long before I got to the top.
The views from the top were nothing short of breathtaking, and of course the clear day with only slight heat haze, helped. From the top of Golden Cap it is possible to view all the way down to Weymouth, and in the other direction, I could have sworn I could see all the way to Torquay. At around 200 metres in height it is little wonder that so much is visible from the top of Golden Cap. With a steady stream of people constantly cycling through, I spent about ten minutes on the top admiring the view, before I too left the cliff to its future and headed on back to the car.
I chose a different path on the way back, in an attempt to see more of the countryside that was on offer, and before long found myself on a winding country road. It did not take too long to return to the car park, and as a parting gift I was afforded a view over the coast and Golden Cap. As the sun slowly wended its way towards the sea, it became apparent why it was called Golden Cap. As the last dying rays from the sun hit the cliff top, it took on a soft orange glow that could have been a farewell gift to all of us who had climbed it to the top.
With the dusk settling in, I got back to the car and drove back to the campsite, tired but satisfied that the day had been so memorable.