Sunday, 29 December 2013

Old Harry, a Bacon Sandwich and the Restless Fox

The weather has been a little inconsistent to say the least and so waking up to beautiful blue skies was just what I needed. I have a walk planned for New Years Day when I will be taking a group up to The Pinnacles and Old Harry, a collection of chalk stacks along the cliffs north of Swanage Bay, and I needed to check the route. After so much rain lately the paths were always going to be muddy but the going was firm
enough and we made good time as we left Swanage behind us.
Swanage Bay
 When you reach the ridge the views to the south over Swanage Bay and to the north over Poole Harbour are truly immense and a photograph cannot do them justice. On a clear day let your eyes follow the coast and you can see beyond the ancient Hengistbury Head , to the north the equally ancient rings at Badbury can be seen as long as you know where to look.
North from the Ballard Down
It is time to continue east towards Old Harry but don't worry, the views do not get smaller or any less impressive and will stay with you as you walk.
At the end of the chalk ridge, where the land drops vertically more than 300 feet to the sea, you turn more or less north following the cliffs (this is your only option, as continuing east will result in wet feet...eventually). On a day like today the Isle of Wight, that sits some fifteen miles away to the east, is clearly visible and it is easy to imagine the land that you are standing on being connected to the very similar chalk ridge at The Needles before erosion changed this place.
The walk along the cliffs to Old Harry is about a mile and doesn't take long but gives you some great opportunities to look at the cliffs from above.
The Pinnacles
Old Harry himself sits at Handfast Point at the most northern part of the chalk and, in my opinion, is really best seen from sea level. The view from the cliff top will do however and the bright white shapes that remain are always good to see from whatever angle.
Handfast Point
From here the path heads west towards Studland following the cliffs that edge its bay and a decision needs to be made! Either drop down onto the sand and head towards one of the beach-side cafes and grab a well earned bacon sandwich or continue inland before taking a track south and back up onto the ridge. A tough choice but the sandwich won.
A steady walk back over the ridge to Swanage was straight forward and gave us the same amazing views as before but this time with the welcome addition of a Fox that was unable to make himself comfortable in the Winter Sun.
The Restless Fox

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