After a week of failed jaunts around both Dorset East and West, we were determined to have an adventure that didn’t end in missing a series of buses or wandering around aimlessly in the woods. Thus bus timetables were closely scrutinized, maps were endlessly surveyed, and sandwiches and beers were carefully shoved into Devon’s backpack. We were headed to the Isle (though connected to the land) of Purbeck’s Jurassic fossil-laden beach of Kimmeridge. Like Corfe Castle, Kimmeridge is a place that has devoured many a roll of film in the Kaye family photo albums – mostly because you can have picnics there, or shove your finger into a sea anemone, pleasing activities for both generations.
The route seemed simple enough – take the 40 bus across the ferry to Swanage, then the 44 to the village of Kingston, cut across to the beach, then walk either six miles along dramatic, crumbling cliffs of chalk and shale or a very slippery and unbeachlike pebble beach until Kimmeridge came into view. Either way, we needed the exercise, since we were both fat pigs who had done little since arriving besides eating cake and watching bad movies with my grandma.
The first part of the hike, as steep as England can get, did indeed put a strain on our thoroughly American hearts. Though we managed to overtake a 60 year old man with walking sticks up the hill, it was neck and neck for a while. Thankfully, once we reached the peak of the first awful climb, the rest of the walk was a pleasant, gentle descent with the only surprises being newly constructed bridges, erected due to erosion. We trampled along the clifftop past nervous, hulking bovines, past very much misplaced railroad tracks, and many a wonder for the geologically-inclined to nod approvingly at. Then we came across another topographical marvel, what experts would probably call, as we did, a “rape tent” in the woods. Though our impulsive labeling probably stems from listening to Nana’s many stories about pedophiles.
Upon reaching the cliffs overlooking Kimmeridge, our Stella’s and corned beef sandwiches were quickly gulped down as we sat beside the newly reconstructed Clavell Tower. As a kid, I’d thought the old tower, which was in ruins, was some mythical lighthouse, but it turned out it had just been a “folly”, a place for rich people to go to. It still is actually, and if you can find available times the place is yours, and can also be your dog’s, or a fire symbol’s.
We went down to the bay, exhanged cold glances and zero words (read: standard British greeting) with local tourists, saw some fossils, put up a Danville calendar and a GooseEgg newsletter on a WWII pillbox, and made the long trek back. We managed to take a shortcut on the way up without getting completely lost, a first for us on the trip. Devon then managed an even greater triumph, parting me from my money at the village pub in Kingston, where we enjoyed the views of Corfe Castle, and weren’t totally bowled over by the regional ales. Then we waited for the bus, watched some sheep clog the street and some local teens awkwardly flirt.
And bada-bing, we were ready for the Himalayas.