SOUTH WEST COAST PATH NATIONAL TRAIL
Stage 6: Ferry Bridge to Abbotsbury
Friday, May 3, 2013
I made a fairly late start to this stage of the walk, setting off from the Ferry Bridge pub at two-thirty in the afternoon. Just to the right of the pub, the Coast Path follows the short Ferrymans Way up to the edge of the Fleet Lagoon (picture 1). A track leads along the water's edge for 100 metres to a flight of steps that climb up to a worn footpath across the front of a large chalet park, beyond which the path follows the low cliff along the edge of the lagoon beside open fields with views across to the fishing huts on the sheltered side of Chesil Beach (picture 2).
After about 15 minutes of walking, the path reaches a small cove and drops down to cross the sandy little beach before joining a grassy path on the far side. This leads past a stone placed in 1933 to mark the border of the Borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis (picture 3).
After another 400 metres the path comes up to a military site, the Royal Engineers Bridging Camp, and has to follow the fence around three sides of the site before returning to the edge of the Fleet, though the diversion to slightly higher ground does provide a view beyond Chesil Beach (picture 4).
Before long the path curves to the right above Lynch Cove (picture 5), gradually descending towards the very large Littlesea Holiday Park (picture 6), which fills the area behind the cove. The Coast Path runs around the edge of the cove in front of the chalets, eventually leaving them behind and heading around into the next inlet, Tidmoor Cove (picture 7).
At the back of the cove, the path heads a little inland to cross a small creek just outside the Chickerell Military Rifle Range. When the range is not being used, the Coast Path runs around Tidmoor Point, but on this day it was in use, so I had to follow a well-signposted alternative route inland around the back of the range (picture 8).
The two routes join up again at the back of the next cove, and the Coast Path continues around Chickerell Hive Point (picture 9) into the much large Butterstreet Cove (picture 10). Five hundred metres later, at the back of the cove, the path passes a large camping site at East Fleet Farm, and after another 500 metres some attractive cottages can be seen nestled in a little valley a short distance inland (picture 11).
After following the edge of the Fleet beside a crop field, the path enters Sea Barn Farm, where the path along the shoreline is accompanied by horse gallops for the next kilometre. This stretch of the path passes by a couple of World War II pillboxes, one of which has grass growing on top of it (picture 12).
The horse gallops eventually turn away to follow a stone wall inland, while the Coast Path squeezes past the end of the wall and follows the shore past one more crop field, through a small copse, and up a rather marshy slope in front of the castellated Moonfleet Hotel (picture 13). Beyond the hotel the path follows the edge of Gore Cove (picture 14), shortcutting across the neck of the next headland beside a long stone wall (picture 15) to the back of the next cove.
After a sharp left turn to cross a footbridge over a tiny creek, the path rejoins the shoreline and follows it alongside crops for the next kilometre up to Langton Hive Point, where there was a long line of upturned little boats along the narrow beach. Up to the right, a row of cottages crowns the hill beyond the crops, providing an attractive scene in the afternoon sun (picture 16).
Another kilometre along field-edge paths above the shoreline leads to the back of Rodden Hive, where the Coast Path finally leaves the Fleet Lagoon. Heading generally northwards along a series of field boundaries, the sometimes quite muddy path reaches the southeast corner of Wyke Wood (picture 18).
The Coast Path skirts the eastern edge of the wood for 500 metres then turns left to a stile fifty metres along the northern edge. The path crosses the stile then immediately turns right along the edge of a meadow then left along the next edge, descending to the quiet New Barn Road with views beyond to Walls Down (picture 19).
Across the road, the path continues beside a hedge for another 200 metres until a signpost points to the right on a field-edge path beside Hodder's Coppice. Beyond the coppice the path climbs steeply up to a stone stile that allows the path to turn left over a stone wall. Enclosed at first, the path follows the edge of the ridge, the western end of the Fleet coming into view as the path crosses open fields above Clayhanger Farm (picture 20).
For another kilometre after Clayhanger Farm, the path follows the ridge, here known as Linton Hill, with more views over the Fleet away to the left (picture 21). From the end of the ridge there are good views across the next valley to the 14th-century St Catherine's Chapel on the crown of Chapel Hill, where the low sun highlighted the ridges and terraces that are characteristic of a medieval hillside field system (picture 22).
The path descends steeply from the ridge to join New Barn Road at Horsepool Farm. After 150 metres, the route bears left into Grove Lane, following it past the entrance of the Abbotsbury Swannery, where swans have been bred since the middle ages, and then uphill past several houses. Shortly after passing the last house, the Coast Path leaves the lane via a stone stile on the left, squeezes past a mighty oak tree and crosses a little stream.
Here I left the Coast Path, which turns sharp left to head around the foot of Chapel Hill. I had covered another 18 kilometres in a little over four hours.
Another path climbs northwards beside a stone wall, reaching the B3157 road in the centre of the town of Abbotsbury after about 500 metres. Along the way there was a good view over to the Church of St Nicholas on the hillside below the town (picture 23).
Just along the road to the right, I found the bus stop opposite the large Ilchester Arms pub (picture 24), where I only had a short wait for a 25 minute bus ride back to Weymouth.