on the Alzheimer's Society website.
Awards were handed out to five amazing individuals whose love, compassion and commitment moved everyone attending the lunch.
They, like everyone in a caring role, should be extremely proud of themselves. For people like me, they are heroes. But they will tell you that they are just doing what they can to help, and wouldn't have it any other way... Enough said.
I also had the pleasure of meeting some of the familiar
faces who are commited supporters of the Alzheimer's Society - a couple of whom I hope will join me on the walk at some point!
Friday 28th May 2010 (Poole to Swanage - 8 miles)
I took the train to Poole and a bus down to the ferry at the start of the South West Coast Path. A four minute ferry ride and I was standing by the South West Coast Path sculpture. Shell Bay reclined invitingly and curvaceously ahead of me. Walking along this beautiful sandy beach, I noticed nude sunbathers, and as the sun was out, I decided to join in the fun... I hoisted my trousers up over my knees.
I climbed up the cliff path to marvel at Old Harry Rocks and in the distance, marvelled even more at the elite members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces parachuting out of a Hercules aircraft and into the waters around Poole Harbour. They were then scooped up by RIBS and returned to the shore - possibly to do it all again. Julian and Maggie Maughan of The Castleton in Swanage gave me a warm welcome and I am grateful to them not only for my complimentary stay, but for introducing me to George Willey. There is much to say about George, and so please bear with me until I have loaded up the recording of our conversation. A local reporter and resident of Swanage for over 45 years, there is nothing he doesn't know about the local area!
I ended the evening with a cold beer, alone but content, overlooking Swanage Bay. It had won me over.
Saturday 29th May 2010 (Swanage to Kimmeridge - 13 miles) What a change in the weather. Today was overcast with heavy rain and strong headwinds. Kimmeridge was my next stopover. Laden with my big rucksack to help prepare me for the self-sufficient stages ahead, I walked along a heavily eroded coastal path, with major sections of cliff already slipped away into the sea below. I had lunch at Dancing Ledge and watched a well-equipped family with two young children climbing the sea cliff there. I looked for, but did not find any fossils. After lunch, I climbed one of the steepest sections of path you could imagine with steps cut into its near vertical incline. The South West Coast Path is known for its strenuous terrain, and at 630 miles in length, it's the equivalent of walking from sea level to the summit of Mount Everest and back down to sea level - twice. After grunting my way up this short section of path, I may suggest the national trail should be re-named "The South West Stairmaster".
At St. Albans Head, I was ushered in to look round the volunteer coastguard station by Dick Aldous, former chief constable of Dorset police. Mr Aldous was about to become the new station manager, and despite a painful back, gave me a guided tour. It is run by "The National Coastwatch Institution" which supports the regular coastguard and helps to keep a visual watch on our coastal waters. Over the years they have assisted in both sea and coastal rescues, including aiding climbers and walkers. I hope that I won't take up any of their time during my circumnavigation of our coast. They are always on the look out for volunteers over the age of 18, and provide full training. So if you are interested, I am sure they would be delighted to hear from you.
When I arrived at Kimmeridge, with its eye-catching tower built by the Rev. John Clavell, I needed to head inland for a few miles to reach my accommodation in Corfe Castle (this week-end was a Bank Holiday and a place to stay had become quite a challenge). For the second time ever in my life, I hitched a lift. A lovely young couple drove me into the village, despite the fact it was out of their way. They also donated some money. Thank you! That night I met up with friends who were camping nearby who were enthusing as much as I was about Dorset's wonderful coastline and its idyllic villages.
Sunday 30th May 2010 (Kimmeridge to Lulworth Cove - 14 miles) From Corfe Castle, I took a much-reduced fare taxi ride back down to the beach at Kimmeridge. By now the bay was thronging with visitors and divers. Heading out of the bay, I passed BP's "nodding donkey" oil well. Possibly the UK's longest running well, it continues to pump about 80 barrels of oil every day, which is collected by lorry and refined and mixed with the nation’s main supply. Onwards on a helter-skelter ride of breathtaking chalk cliffs, vertical drops of 100's of feet into a turquoise sea, whilst fossils hid from me on the cliffs and rocks below. In the late afternoon I came
to the edge of Lulworth Cove, and, exhausted by the "South West Stairmaster", I snatched forty winks on a grassy slope. I was woken up by the concerned inquiry
of a kind woman, grateful that I was only resting at the foot of a steep drop. As the sun dipped, Lulworth Cove - the subject of geography lessons at school - lulled me in the evening sun.
At the far end of the beach where the road to the village starts, "Chris" sat on his wall. On the sea shore, he sells sea shells. Surrounded by beautifully painted shells and stones, he masterfully decorates these hand-picked treasures with vibrant colours and inscriptions. A small crowd seemed forever to be around him, drawn to his craft and glad to acquire his art, and that of his wife Sarah. Originally from Norfolk, Chris found Lulworth and never left. He is, I suspect, a wise man, who hears comments from year-round visitors to this famous cove, and smiles inwardly... knowingly. Great material for a book, perhaps. After 21 years of painting stones and shells with vivid paints, his trousers have acquired their own painted vibrancy. I expect to see them hanging in a gallery of Chris's choice one day too.
Monday 31st May 2010 (Lulworth Cove to Weymouth - 15 miles) Durdle Door in the early morning sunlight. Beautiful. Shushing waves in the still air. A perfect start to the finish of this week-end's leg of the walk. By now my collection boxes were both rattling and rustling with generous donations. The steep cliffs levelled into the long and gentle beach of Weymouth Bay. As a rucksack, white floppy hat, sunglasses and even whiter legs plodded past thousands of beach revellers, children and parents continued to drop money into the collection boxes. By the time I reached Weymouth station and waved 'hello' to the tourist land train as it rattled past, I felt ready for the three hour rest on the train back to London, but particularly sad to wave good-bye to this incredible section of Dorset coastline.
Next time, I am walking round the Isle of Portland - on 15th June - and then on westwards. Come and join me!