With the long nights drawing in and a chill in the air, its hard to believe it was only a few months ago that I did the 30 something miles from Swanage to Weymouth in 3 days. The Jurrasic coast of south dorset has to be one of the best kept secrets in outdoor leisure. People talk about Dartmoor, or the Brecon Beacons, and we all know that Kent is the Garden of England? well, personally I think that Dorset is one of the most under-rated areas of England.
The route from swanage to weymouth is remote and rugged, with a fair few challenging ascents and descents along the way – particularly just after st aldhelms head, worbarrow tout and bats head. But there is some lovely scenery to see too. But its worth it because there is some lovely scenery, plenty of wildlife to see, a cracking pub in Langton Matravers along the way, some ancient field strip markings, other ancient features in the landscape, and some more modern sights in the form of second world war pillboxes, bunkers and anti-tank defences.
For a long part of the walk you pass through the Lulworth Cove army training area. Here the Royal Armoured Corps – and other units – practise live firing. All paths are swept on a regular basis, and the simple instruction is that if you stay within they yellow markers, you should be ok. But if you see anything that looks like an artillery shell, dont touch it! There is also a fair amount of shrapnel lying around. A friend of mine was delivering something in the area once and saw the unsettling sight of an Apache gunship in his rear view mirror! On the ranges there are a fair few old tanks and vehicles that have obviously received a fair bit of attention, for training purposes of course! not far away is the Royal Armoured Corps Headquarters at Bovington, as well as the Bovington Tank Museum.
During the second world war the village of Tyneham, smack bang in the middle of the ranges area, was cleared of its inhabitants for security reasons, and the residents have never been allowed to return. The village is still there, almost as it was left over 60 years ago – even down to the village church.