For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Sunday, 16 December 2012

South West Coast Path. Day 18: Lulworth Cove To Corfe Castle

Another day of fine weather and splendid scenery. And another strenuous one — by 10.30 am I'd already climbed three steep cliffs. 

The path passed through the Lulworth Military Range, an active firing range for tanks and other armoured vehicles, owned by the Ministry of Defence. By a sheer piece of luck it was a Sunday, and the Range Walks are open to the public most weekends (but not most weekdays). Had the gates been shut and the red flags flying, I'd have had to make a considerable detour inland. Note the triangular sign on the fence: 'DANGER UNEXPLODED SHELLS KEEP OUT'. 

And just in case there was any doubt...

You must stick to the path at all times, though I very foolishly strayed off it slightly to take this photo of a destroyed tank (is that a rocket launcher at the front?)

Part of the tank firing range is on the right of the picture, and if you enlarge it you can just make out other destroyed tanks dotted here and there. 

Worbarrow Bay,


For a long time I'd wanted to visit the village of Tyneham which lies at the heart of this military area. It had been commandeered by the Army in the 1940s and its residents evacuated. Now it's a ghost village frozen in time. Here's the old telephone box...

... and here's the drinking fountain. Above the tap is a quote from the Gospel of John: 'Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst...' It really amused me that a modern sign had been attached to the stonework warning: 'Do not drink'! On the left of the fountain you can see the shadow of the Solitary Walker.

St Mary's Church, Tyneham.

In total 252 people were displaced from the village, and the last person to leave pinned this notice on the church door: 'Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.' They were never allowed back, and Tyneham remains in the hands of the military to this day.

I'd deviated from the coast to see Tyneham and was way behind schedule. I rejoined the path... 

... but realised I'd have to quit the path again as soon as I could to reach my accommodation in Corfe Castle before nightfall. Corfe lay a few miles inland, so at Kimmeridge Bay I headed up a quiet road towards Kimmeridge village.   

Thatched cottages in Kimmeridge. I followed a network of minor roads and country lanes, and by mid-afternoon had arrived in Church Knowle, where I had a pint at the New Inn. It was very busy with late Sunday diners. All in all, a very friendly and appealing pub.

 Corfe Castle was in sight, attractively situated in a gap in the Purbeck Hills. Actually I'd already spotted the castle from five miles away, and it had guided me like a beacon. Corfe is attractive, but spoilt by the main road which runs through it. The very moment I found my B&B — the welcoming Alford House in East Street — the rain started to patter down. I'd been free of rain for a while, so I suppose I couldn't complain.  

5 comments:

IsobelleGoLightly said...

How lovely. I don't comment often but I do read faithfully. My lady someday would love to walk the Hadrian's Wall path. Someday you might like to come to the States and walk the Appalachian Trail. It takes about six months end to end if you don't saunter.

The Solitary Walker said...

I walked the Hadrian's Wall Path with friend and fellow blog reader, George, Isobelle. It was truly spectacular, particularly the middle section. Would love to walk some of those mammoth American trails, but don't know if I ever will.

am said...

I laughed out loud at "Do Not Drink" and then was sobered by the words of the last person to leave the village of Tyneham. This whole coastal journey has moved me in many ways.

Ruth said...

It is so cool how you explore history and culture as you walk this path. This is especially beautiful and also disturbing (like history, a mix). I'm afraid much of our world is littered with military debris.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, I that sign cracked me up, am — I think a serious and sober-looking couple a few yards away thought I had gone nuts. Thanks for reading about my journey, and I'm so glad it touched you.

You put your finger on it, Ruth — for me, walking is not simply exercise or endurance (though these come into it). It's about history, geography, geology, anthropology, culture, landscape, poetry, photography, ritual, religion, mysticism and much else. Walking gets you to places that no other mode of locomotion does. Walking is living and life.