Monday, 19 November 2018

A Trio of Parks

Going Nowhere
Even if you have never been to Bangkok there is a fair chance that you have heard of Chatuchak Weekend Market as it is reputed to be the biggest in South East Asia.  The array of goods on offer is quite astonishing and even those visitors intent on browsing would be hard pressed to come away with nothing for the stalls sell things you didn't even know you needed!  Coming from the north of the city you pass a very large and welcoming park just before reaching the market and my eyes landed on it the first time I went as it begged to be explored.  What I wasn't aware of is that the park is actually three contiguous parks and not just one.  It is the largest green space in the area and for a city that is relatively badly off for parks it is remarkably big.  The three parks are known as Chatuchak, Wachiribenchatat and Queen Sirikit and each occupy areas that were once owned by the State Railway of Thailand.  They were built in 1980, 1992 and 2002 respectively.  It is a great haven to escape the hullabaloo of Bangkok and in the middle of the complex it is easy to forget that you are hemmed in by one of the most densely populated cities in Asia.  

Latin American Monument
I started my walk at Chatuchak Park MRT (subway) station on the eastern edge of Chatuchak Park.  This is probably the easiest way to get to the park since the station entrance is right outside the park.  You could equally get here using the Skytrain as Mo Chit station is connected to Chatuchak Park Station although it is a little more awkward to get in the park.  Eventually the Sky Train will open to the north of here but for now the line terminates here.

Tree Orchid
Chatuchak Park is the oldest of the three parks and looks like it has been around for far longer than its 38 year history.  It was gifted by the King from the State Railway to enable Bangkokians to enjoy some green space and walk around.  The first feature that you come to is a rather pleasant looking artificial lake surrounded by palm trees.  Despite the fact that it was the end of October when I did this walk it couldn't have been a more different day than I am used to in the UK.  Suncream and a wide brimmed hat were very necessary along with a lot of water since it was already 34 degrees Celsius and not even 11am when I started.  Certainly no chilly temperatures or autumn leaves!

Water lily & visitors
I turned right inside the park and wandered alongside the artificial lake.  I soon came acros an interesting memorial and went over for a closer look.  I felt a little self conscious as I did so for I had to cross the grass and wasn't sure whether I was supposed to.  The nearby park worker didn't bat an eyelid so I felt better about not being challenged.  Rather randomly the memorial was to commemorate the bicentenaries of the independence of Argentina, Mexico and Chile.  It wasn't what I expected to see and apart from the explanation of what it was for there was nothing to indicate why it should find itself here.

Thai-USA sculpture
As I headed north along the edge of the park I became aware of the planting scheme that had been adopted by the groundskeepers.  There was a large area of planted trees that looked delightfully shady.  I didn't venture in as I noticed a number of people snoozing in the shade and I didn't much want to disturb them.  I sat on a nearby bench to cool off and was amused by the antics of all the squirrels.  Despite the heat they run about just as quickly as I have ever seen them in northern climes.
After a breather I was ready to admire the flowers alongside the walkway - there were some very pretty ones including tree orchids and irises which were my favourites.

Take Off
It won't surprise you to know that this is a place where people like to have their wedding pictures taken and a little further on was a place that had been specially designed for that purpose.  It was a pleasant little cubby hole but instead of romantic thoughts my eyes were drawn to the construction work on the Skytrain right outside the park.  The method is quite interesting.  As its name suggests the Skytrain is built above street level on a concrete viaduct over the street.  It's not very pretty - in fact it's a bit brutal looking, especially the stations.  Each of the spans is lowered into place by mobile cranes that span the gaps between the columns and drop the pieces into place.  Great sections of line are being built as Bangkok catches up with other cities and tries to resolve its choking traffic problem.

Floral Clock
Back in the park and I passed by a floral clock before reaching the Thai-USA garden which was quite a formal affair.  The centrepiece was a sculpture that looked like a knight on horseback although I had to use my imagination a bit for on first viewing it looked like a bunch of tubes and a couple of slabs of metal on top.

Park Ranger
Further on I stopped at the next lake where there was an eye catching sculpture of some swans (?) taking off.  I assume that was what I was looking at as they were heavily stylised. Regular stops like this were necessary because of the heat and in this case the shade from the trees also helped.  What drove me rather mad though was a bird high up in the branches that was teasing me with its cry.  I wanted to see what was making the sound but it seemed just out of sight the whole time and even moved without me seeing how it had done so (unless there were a few of them playing the same game of course!).  I moved on without ever having seen the dreaded thing.  I am sure the park workers thought I was mad...

Ratchapruek Trees
After walking around the lake I crossed the road that divides Chatuchak Park from its next-door neighbour called Wachiribenchatat Park (or Rot Fai Park as some seemed to call it - I'm not sure what the distinction is).  This is the newest of the three parks and was once a golf course owned by the Railway.  There is now a cycling track around it (will have to try that one day) as well as more artificial lakes.  Almost immediately I saw a sight that I hadn't in the first park - a small monitor lizard that ran away from me.  It wouldn't be the last.

Sculpture
I wandered around the lake admiring the yellow flowers known as Ratchapruek.  These flowering small trees really are everywhere and seem very tolerant of their surroundings, growing on roadside verges and waste ground just as happily as they do in this verdant park.  The lakeside had a wilder feel to it than the other park and in some ways was the better for it.  As I wandered along I had the feeling of being observed and as I looked over I saw one of the Javan River Herons that I regularly see on the development site near where I live.  Normally they fly away pretty quickly but this one chose to stare me out instead and I was able to observe its pretty markings.  When they fly away they are a lot whiter than you would expect.

Great Egret
At the far end of the lake is a rather curious find as a steam locomotive has been parked and left as a static display.  The tree growing from its front cowcatcher was a good clue for how long it has been here and the plaque dates it as 1987.  It must have been a pretty mighty machine in its heyday, built by the Japanese in 1950.  Now it looks a bit sad hemmed in by its tree in a forgotten part of the park, with only cyclists regularly passing by.  The coach it is attached to looks a bit tatty but in far better condition than some others over in the car park serving as facilities for restaurants associated with the cycle hire operation.

Staring Contest
I continued around the perimeter route and a little further beyond where I met another lake I also caught sight of a big brute of a lizard.  I reckon it was the middle aged let himself go monitor lizard as this one had a beer belly that I swear dragged along the ground.  It certainly was in no hurry to get away from me unlike the youngster I had seen earlier.  I gave him a wide berth although they are not harmful to humans as a genera rule (if they were you can bet your life they would not be tolerated wandering around a public park).

Engine Cab
At the corner of the lake was an inviting looking gate that I wandered through.  I wasn't altogether sure that this part was open to the public but I had a look anyway.  It seemed to be part of a research institute and there were all sorts of interesting flowers and plants growing in waters being specially oxygenated by machines.  I wandered all the way down to the end and thought I could resume my walk on the other side of a bridge over a lily pad covered pond.  Sadly the gate was locked at that end and I had to retrace my steps all the way back to the beginning and then follow another path parallel to the enclosed part.  I was deep in thought on this stretch when I had the fright of my life thanks to another monitor lizard lurking in the long grass which I didn't see until the last minute.  I was thankful then that they aren't bothered by humans - if they were I would surely have been dinner.

Big Fella
It wasn't long after this that I left Wachiribenchatat Park and entered the last of the 3 parks - Queen Sirikit.  I turned left after crossing the small canal/ ditch that acts as a boundary between the parks and was soon walking through an area of fruit trees.  I felt  like an inner-city child entering his first farm full of bewilderment at all the new sights that were previously unknown.  The one that piqued my interest most of all was the banana tree as it was in flower and I had never previously seen one.  It was immediately obvious though how the flowers turned into the fruits that we all know.  Its neighbour was the papaya tree, a fruit that has become a firm family favourite since our move here.

Banana flower
Having genned up on fruit it was now time to go and see some flowers.  This park is clearly more botanical than the other two for there were numerous displays of hibiscus, palm trees and even a bed of sunflowers.  It was a very pretty place and one to linger for a while.  I had a couple of rests along this stretch as the heat was really starting to get to me by now.  Fortunately at the bottom end of the park I was able to escape at a lovely looking pavilion that I wasn't sure was in use any longer.  There is a gate at the back from where I left the park and headed to a very welcome air-conditioned mall for some well earned lunch.

Lily Pads
This is far from being a challenging walk but it does serve as a good place to start walking in Bangkok as the city itself does not seem to very walker friendly.  I hope that further explorations will prove this early impression wrong as there is a lot to see and I don't want to do all of it using taxi cabs.

Park Flags

Friday, 9 November 2018

Ayutthaya



Wat Chaiwatthanaram
One week and one day after completing the South West Coast Path my family and I departed the UK for our new lives in Thailand and we now live on the outer edges of Bangkok. This change of life was precipitated by the ongoing cutbacks in Britain, which had made life more and more difficult and in my case led to me being made redundant. This was the catalyst for looking for something else an my wife pulled the most amazing rabbit out of a hat when she landed a job at an International School here in Thailand. We are initially here for two years and if we like it there is the possibility that we will stay on. It promises to be a complete change of pace and this blog will reflect that!

Central Prang
My first trip out of the city was to the ancient capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya. This is approximately one hour north of where we now live but required an early start, largely so we could beat the traffic when escaping from Bangkok. The trip up from Bangkok was lovely - after seeing nothing but city since we have been here it was refreshing to see countryside and fields. None were like anything we have in Britain though - largely they were rice paddy fields and had storks and egrets roaming about in them. I imagine they are full of crayfish and frogs and the like.Since going the first time I have made a subsequent trip using the train and that was a far more enjoyable way of getting there since we went across a tract of countryside devoid of roads and this enabled us to see more wildlife. This blog entry is a blend of all the best bits from my two trips - they were a little different although I visited the same stuff with two different groups of people.
Outer Prang
Trains here are an interesting way of getting around. They aren't particularly quick and for this short journey there is actually little difference in timings between the 'ordinary' trains and 'rapid' or 'special express' but the fares vary considerably. We took an ordinary train and were most surprised at the fare - 11 baht (approximately £0.25) from Lak Si station (our nearest). The special express costs more than four times this amount - still a very reasonable cost to be honest. Life on board in third class is very interesting - you see all sorts of people travelling to work, to see family and friends, Buddhist monks and large groups of old people who look like the go on the train just for social time and a change of scenery. Vendors wander up and down regularly selling drinks out of ice-filled buckets, baskets full of packaged lunches that seem to include mostly rice and preserved fish, plastic looking sandwiches and cut tropical fruits such as pineapple, papaya and mango. The one thing you cannot buy is a beer for selling alcohol on board is illegal.
Reclining Buddha
The best way of seeing Ayutthaya is to travel around the city by bicycle as it is on a fairly large scale and this is what I did on both occasions. It isn't for the faint hearted though - cycling in Thailand on any road is quite a scary experience because of the traffic conditions and the lack of space or dedicated bike lanes. It is possible to walk around but this is even less enjoyable! You can go by tuk tuk too of course but you miss something of everyday life and views doing this.
 
Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, designated in 1991, and was formerly the capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, the forerunner of Siam and later Thailand. It was sacked by the Burmese in 1767 and most of the historical temples were destroyed at that time. The capital city then moved to Thonburi and later Bangkok. What is left here is the most amazing set of ruined temples that only hint at the grandeur of the place before being destroyed. Most of the ruins are on an island in the Chao Phraya River, created by a canal cut across one of the large meander loops that characterise the lower course of the river.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet
We arrived first at Wat Chaiwatthanaram. This was an enormous temple a little way from the centre but gave us a fabulous taster of what was to come. In fact I would say this was my favourite of the sites we went to. Perfectly symmetrical but badly damaged it had a haunting atmosphere about it. The temple, like most of the others here had been badly damaged when the city was ransacked by the Burmese in the 17th Century. Much of the building is now being restored, presumably to stop any more of it falling down. This temple was built in 1630 by King Prasat Thong as a memorial to his mother's residence in that area. The temple's name literally means the Temple of long reign and glorious era and was designed in the then fashionable Khmer style. The towers are known as prangs and this one has a large central one and four smaller ones at each corner of a rectangular platform. Outside this are chedi shaped chapels and inside are a lot of mostly headless Buddhas, which were destroyed by the invading Burmese army. The temple was the plundered for building materials leaving it in its rather forlorn current state.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Having satisfied ourselves that we had seen everything we moved on, taking to our bikes and for the first time dealing with the traffic. We cycled along the busy road and across the river to the island that the majority of the city is located on. It was about 15 minutes to the next point of interest, which was known as Wat Lokaysutharum. The temple here was nothing like as impressive as it was mostly ruined - all that remained was a poorly preserved prang above ground level and the rest was just an outline of what must have once been here. However, the whole place was dominated by a huge reclining Buddha which is 42m long. It was an astonishing sight and has clearly been restored quite heavily judging by the variable tones of the material it is made from. Apparently it is often covered in an orange cloth but not today. One thing that struck me was the length of the toes were all the same - once noticed it is a rather strange detail. On the road surrounding the site were a lot of vendors selling incense, drinks, flowers and fried snacks. I guess the open nature of the site lends itself to this kind of activity - not many were buying though.

Golden Buddha
We spent a short time here before moving on again and shortly after setting off I quickly realised that not all was right with my bike. By the time I had got a short distance down the road my tyre was going flat and I had to stop and send the others with me on ahead to let the rest of the group know that I had a puncture. The lady in the adjacent cafe did her best to try and help and soon I had also attracted the attention of the tourist police who also want to help. Help eventually came and we wheeled over the the reclining Buddha where were to meet the truck that was carrying a spare bike. It took forever for the truck to come by which time the tourist police had tired of us loitering and had the tyre off to repair the puncture. Their efforts though I think would have been in vain for when the truck arrived I merely changed bikes.

Elephant Rides
We cycled off to find the others and found them at the very impressive Wat Phra Si Sanphet. This was a much grander affair than we had yet seen and apparently was the holiest of the temples in the whole of Ayutthaya. Judging from its scale I could well believe it. The site was dominated by three enormous chedi (also known as stupas). These succumbed to the destruction of the Burmese army but were rebuilt in a major restoration in 1956 and now add an air of grandeur to the site that is unmatched in any of the other temples. Next door to the ruin there is an active temple, complete with large golden Buddha inside. I took my shoes off as is customary here and went inside for a look before moving on.

Big Nut for a Small Squirrel
On our way to the next temple on our itinerary we got to see our first Thai elephant. I would like to say this was a truly uplifting experience but sadly this wasn't a wild elephant but one engaged in offering rides. I cannot be sure how these ones are treated but I have been told of some horrific practices relating to elephant rides. I definitely had mixed feelings about seeing these ones therefore. On the second trip we saw even more of them - the scale of the operation was quite big and so there is clearly plenty of demand for the rides.
 
Water Lily

We passed by Wat Phra Ram, which is another paid for entry but didn't stop there principally because we didn't think there was enough to see inside to warrant paying. Our route took us across Rama Public Park, a fantastic green space in the heart of Ayutthaya. We were very thankful to leave the traffic behind as we crossed the park and the shade from the trees was pretty welcome too.

Buddha Head


At the far end of the park we visited time to Wat Phra Mahatat. Having come from possibly the best temple in town this seemed a bit after the Lord Mayor's Show but has probably one of the most famous sights in all of Thailand with the Buddha head that had become engulfed by a tree. Usually one of the most famous sights at Ayutthaya and is often thronged with tourists wanting to get a picture. Thankfully we had come on a quieter day so we didn’t need to fight through the crowds. On the second trip here I took longer to look around the temple rather than just come for the photo opportunity and discovered that it was more extensive than I first thought.
 
Buddha Statue
 
On the second trip (which we did the opposite way round due to arrival by train) we also called in at Wat Ratburana next door. This has possibly the best prang in the whole town and had the bonus of being able to climb up to the top (mostly climbing in any of the temples is a big no no). This afforded a great view but also allowed a view inside where we found some roosting bats (not easy to see but easy to smell!) and some very faded frescos. These clearly had escaped the attentions of the Burmese and are definitely worth going to see for there is precious little other artwork anywhere in any of the temples.

Dressed Up
By the time we were done here we were all pretty ready for lunch and that was our next port of call on the edge of the city. We just had a simple lunch of Pad Thai at one of the huge number of roadside cafes. I’m not sure how they all get enough business to stay afloat, especially when they all pretty much serve the same stuff? For a dirt cheap meal it was pretty good and feeling satisfied we moved on, cycling back to the bus at the original temple. Given the heat this was about as much as we wanted to do in one day but there are several other less celebrated temples on the main island and a couple of other further flung ones that I shall definitely want to take a look at now I have familiarised myself with the place. This might form the basis of a future blog entry.
Prang at Wat Ratburana

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

South West Coast Path Section 58 Swanage to South Haven Point

Swanage Promenade
This was a day of mixed emotions for me.  On the one hand I was in celebratory mood for this marked completion day on the South West Coast Path, while on the other I was sad that not only would I be finishing with this walk but that I wouldn't actually be doing any more UK walking for quite some time as only a week from this day I would be emigrating.  Regular readers may have noticed that my only walking for the last few months has been on the SWCP and it was for the very good reason that I was anxious to finish the path before leaving the British Isles, for who knows if I might have another opportunity?  More about my destination in the next blog entry.

Lunch Stop
We had long discussed my last short stretch of the path (this section is only 7 miles) being a family affair and as agreed my wife and two daughters came to celebrate completion with me and walk the last few miles.  It promised to be quite an easy section for them to do, especially compared with the preceding few miles from Weymouth, which is up there with the most challenging sretches of coast along the whole path.  We took the Sandbanks ferry over from Poole and parked immediately the other side at South Haven Point.  As we got on the ferry my worst fears were realised when I saw not one but two of the buses heading to Swanage ahead of us.  I knew that we were most likely going to miss both of them and face a lengthy wait for the next one.  We struck lucky though when we managed to be directed off the ferry ahead of both of them, in with sufficient time available that we were able to get parked up and run for the bus.

Climbing Ballard Down
We sat on the Swanage Breezer with the wind blowing through our hair when a horrible thought struck me.  Had we closed the car door in our haste?  Too late now I thought - by the time I would have got back the damage would have been done.  I decided that hopefully one of us had shut it and we continued on our way.  We got off at Swanage station to enable us to have enough time to go and get some refreshments before getting underway.  We were blessed with another glorious day and unlike the last time I was here a few weeks previously Swanage was incredibly busy.  School holidays do that to a place - suddenly the best places become overwhelmed with visitors when families start rolling in.

Ballard Cliff
We grabbed some pasties and drinks and headed off along the promenade.  The beach was rammed - Swanage is clearly even more popular than I imagined.  It isn't surprising - it is a beautiful location and provides everything a family could wish for.  For so many of the families it looked like the perfect day out and the kids were clearly loving being free from school.  My two were happy to be following their old Dad though - they weren't too bothered about the beach.  At the far end of the promenade we started to the climb to Ballard Point.  Although it looked somewhat daunting it was nothing compared with other climbs along the South Dorset coast and as I reminded my girls it was the only one of the day.  Once at the top it would be downhill until the end - a rather gratifying thought!

Walking to the Isle of Wight
After passing through 'New Swanage' we resumed course along the coast, finding ourselves a rather pleasant place to sit for our lunch.  I think I wore a perma-grin for the day.  It was perfect in every way - blue skies, warm, breezy and a pleasing amount of cloud bobbing overhead which meant for constantly changing light.  The view from our spot over Swanage was quite superb and even the walk ahead wasn't daunting.  I reflected that I had done a good thing by leaving this short stretch to the end rather than trying to tack it onto the section from Chapman's Pool.

Old Harry Rocks
We took the climb up to Ballard Point slow and steady and discovered that it actually wasn't nearly as bad as it looked from below.  As we wandered up we could hear the whistle from the steam train, which sounded as if it were heading up the line towards Corfe Castle.  The view along the Purbeck Ridge was something special too.  One day I will walk it - have been thinking about it for a very long time.  At the top of the hill the path flattened out and proceeded along a ridge above Ballard Cliff to the Point bearing the same name.  Our view right was very special indeed - this section for me was probably the best of the whole day.  

Old Harry Rocks
At Ballard Point the height was suddenly lost as the Isle of Wight came into view.  This was to be expected for Ballard Point is like a mirror image of the Needles which it faces.  Instead of the Needles this headland has Old Harry Rocks, a rather similar if less celebrated feature.  As we got down to view them closer it was clear that many people had been drawn from the car parks at Studland to come and look at them  too.  Cormorants seemed to love them too - there were plenty on evidence clinging to the sheer faces.

Studland Fort
For us that was the end of the high part of the day - the path now continued along the level path around Studland Bay.  Initially this was a very well walked path along a grassy strip between Studland Wood and the sea but we eventually hit a short stretch of road at Studland village.  The path diverted seawards away from the village and at Redend Point we passed by a large hotel that was in the throes of having a garden party - looked very pleasant.  At the seaward side of the path was a rather different kind of structure built for war rather than pleasure.  This was one of the wartime defences; still looking very robust and in good condition.  Studland Bay was considered to be quite vulnerable during the war for it was somewhere that could easily have served as a landing site.  When the imminent threat passed it then became one of many beaches that was used for D Day training exercises.  Looking at its visitors today it is hard to believe that such a short time ago it had tanks and troops using the bay.

Studland Beach
The last three miles took rather longer than expected as we traversed Studland Heath nature reserve.  Indeed we weren't even sure which path to take at times.  We started at the back of the dunes as initially the going was easier but eventually the path ran out and we had to go along the beach.  As we wandered along the back of the dunes we became aware of a naked man posing on top of the dunes and I remembered that this is a nudist beach.  A walker behind us was clearly quite embarrassed at the prospect of going along the beach and he disappeared into the heathland while we decided to front it out.  The reaction of my two children to walking along a nudist beach was quite entertaining.  One decided to walk head down and not look at anyone or anything around her until the coast was clear.  The other had a sneaky peak with much interest and trying to disguise a smirk the whole way.  We were pretty relaxed about it although I did feel a tad overdressed at times!  She got a good biology lesson I suppose...

Sandbanks Ferry
The last stretch along the beach wasn't terribly interesting although the number of people that we saw increased significantly as we got closer to the ferry.  Our pace quickened too as we started thinking about the car door.  I also wanted to see about getting a celebratory ice cream at the end.  Sadly that last part didn't happen as there wasn't anywhere to buy one.  I lingered for a photocall at the sign at the end of the walk but otherwise I thought this was a slightly anti-climactic end to what has been an astonishing walk.  So after 12 years, 3 months and 23 days I finally conquered the challenge of the path and just in time.  I was helped considerably by the beautiful summer weather that allowed me such good conditions to complete the walk.  Eight days later I left the UK and have not been back since.  That wasn't a script I expected at all!  My new whereabouts will be revealed in my next blog entry.  As for the car door?  Turned out my daughter had closed it!
Completion!


Monday, 8 October 2018

South West Coast Path Section 56 Lulworth Cove to Chapman's Pool

Lulworth Cove
This section was a major milestone for me as it was the last section of the coast path that I would walk alone.  I had only one section remaining after this - the short and relatively easy section from Swanage to South Haven Point - and that last section would be a celebration with the rest of my family.  However, I still had this rather formidable section to complete and I had left it so late principally because of the difficulty of crossing through the Lulworth firing ranges and also the rather difficult public transport arrangements.  Both of these factors were solved by the fact that I did this walk on a Sunday when the firing range wasn't in operation and summer bus services were to help me.
Lulworth Cove Overview
I set off early from Worthing to find the parking spot that had served me well at Kingston village only a few weeks before.  From here I got the bus and was supposed to change at Wareham.  The connection didn't quite work and I faced a lengthy wait at Wareham so I was very pleased to see the Lulworth bus ahead of me at Corfe Castle and managed to switch buses in the nick of time!  That quick thinking spared me a lot of hassle later on and also meant that I was able to get going on the walk a lot earlier than I dared hope.

Fossil Forest
It was another very hot day and on a lonely stretch of coastline where I wasn't sure if I would see any refreshment opportunities I made sure to stock up before I left Lulworth.  Being a tourist place though the prices were a bit steep so I bought the minimum of stuff and hoped that I would find somewhere else on the way.  My first problem was a change of route out of Lulworth due to a cliff fall.  It was tempting to merely walk along the beach at the back of Lulworth Cove but I wanted to get a look at the view from the top and so made my way along the diversion which took me inland some distance before striking straight up the side of the hill that is due east of the village.  It was the first but no means least of the climbs that I would have to do today.
Mupe Bay
Despite the heat there was quite a nice cooling breeze on the clifftop and this would serve me well during the day.  The beachgoers were now far below me and their laughter and screams were barely audible now.  I had a fairly level path at the back of the cove and the views were quite special, both back towards Lulworth and onwards to the section of coast that I now had to tackle.  It looked a bit daunting but I thought I would take it slow and steady for I had no rush now that I had dealt with the public transport.  At the back of the cove the path descended quickly and steeply towards Little Bindon down the side of the army ranges, bound very menacingly with a long barbed wire fence.  The red flags were flying but it was supposed to be a non-operational day.  I suspect these ones high  up on the range are left in situ all the time as a reminder.

Mupe Bay
After dropping all the way down to sea level almost I then had a short climb up to Pepler's Point.  This eastern side of Lulworth Cove is named after George Pepler, who was once the tenant of Little Bindon nearby.  This house was owned by the Cistercian Abbey of Bindon some distance away at Wool and is now a listed building although given that it is within the army range I doubt that anyone resides there currently.  Pepler's view is certainly worthy of the short diversion to get there.

Bindon Hill
I crossed into the army ranges through a very secure looking gate and the next few miles would be through Ministry of Defence land.  This is often off limits and coast walkers need to plan when to come for most of the time you can only walk this stretch at the weekend.  Almost immediately I dropped down to the viewpoint for the fossil forest. The fossil forest is the remains of an ancient Jurassic forest that was submerged around the time that the limestone was formed.  The trunks of the trees are long gone but you can see holes in the rock where the trees would once have been.  There was a notice warning people not to walk around on the cliff shelf where you can see the forest but of course there were people that had ignored it and were taking selfies of their exploits.  Satisfied with a long range look I walked on along a level cliff for a while.  It felt good for now but I could see the cliff at Bindon Hill ahead and knew that a stiff climb was to come.

Ex-Tank
The view out across Mupe and Worbarrow Bays was quite something.  I lingered here for a while and was asked by a German couple suggested routes for their walk in the area.  When I pointed to where I was walking to way off in the distance they politely accepted my suggested route and walked off in a different direction.  I think they were looking for something rather easier and who could blame them?  I set  off up the hill at a slow and steady pace - I have discovered that really works for me now.  I didn't even feel the pressure of another couple coming up behind me at a faster pace - they soon underestimated the steepness of the path and ground to a halt while I plodded to the top without stopping.  I was pleased I made it before them as there was a very welcome seat which I made full use of.

Flowers Barrow View
Enjoyment of my newly found height was very short lived as I was soon to plunge all the way down to the beach head at Arish Mell.  As I descended I was fascinated by the battlefield off to my left.  The army exercises are all played out here and the landscape was littered with spent tanks.  They cut rather a forlorn figure in the heathland landscape.  Off in the far distance I could also see Lulworth Castle and it looked as if they were having some kind of special event as the grounds were full of marquees.  Once I had descended to the beach head I could see that was off limits too - the beach head no doubt serves as a crucial training ground and probably has plenty of redundant miltary stuff hanging around that wouldn't mix with members of the public.

Worbarrow Bay
I now climbed to the top of Flower's Barrow - another stiff test.  As I made my way up the hill I joined a group of scouts and soon passed them by as they were mucking about and were clearly feeling the effects of the hot day.  The fact that I was at least 30 years older than the oldest of them wasn't lost on me - it made me feel pretty good that I passed them! At the top I sat on the ramparts of the long barrow for some time drinking in the view as well as copious amount of water.  In this dry summer it was particularly noticeable how dry and parched everywhere looked.  It is an astonishingly good view though - perhaps the best in the whole of Purbeck...

Worbarrow Bay
Once I had gathered my strength once again I crossed to the other side of the barrow where I came upon a huge rambling group and thanked my lucky stars that I hadn't encountered them earlier.  Again I didn't really have time to enjoy my new found altitude - it was straight back down a steep slope to the back of Worbarrow Bay.  As I descended I saw a runner going in the opposite direction.  I was sure whether to marvel at or ridicule his efforts in the hottest of midday temperatures.  Either way he was supremely fit and appeared not too troubled by the steepness of the climb.

Tyneham Church
At Worbarrow Bay I had a quick look at the view and back at the two huge hills I had climbed with some satisfaction.  The rest of the day wouldn't be quite as tough I thought.  I took a detour at Worbarrow Bay for there was a rather special place I wanted to take a look at away from the coast path.

Ghost Village
Tyneham is a village that I visited on a cold February day many years ago.  It was deserted and a little eerie, befitting its status as one of the most famous abandoned villages in the UK.  This lonely place was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence during World War II to enable troops to carry out training exercises ahead of the D-Day landings.  The villagers that were moved out were on a promise that they could return when the war was over.  However, in 1948 the Army completed a compulsory purchase order over the village and it was incorporated into the Lulworth Ranges and the villagers never returned.  Subsequently the village was battered by shelling and other army exercises and most of the housing is ruined.  I was keen to take another look but this time I was a bit disappointed.  Much of the village has been tidied up for visitors and somehow the atmosphere was all wrong on this hot and sunny day with dozens of people milling about.  I had hoped that the number of people here would bring some refreshment opportunities but sadly not.  I had to hope for more opportunity further on.

Tyneham Valley
After having a look around and going inside the school room & some of the houses I returned to the coast path.  This section was more level once at the top of the cliffs.  I wasn't expecting anything quite as spectacular as before but I was wrong.  The underlying geology had changed now - instead of limestone there was now shale and the nature of the cliffs was far different as a result.  As I rounded Brandy Bay and Tyneham Cap the geology became more evident as the bedding planes came into view.  Looking back along the cliff that I had walked I could also see the land slipping that was characteristic of this rock type.  In many respects it was similar to that beyond Lyme Regis although much smaller in scale.  I absolutely loved this couple of miles - in many ways it was my favourite part of the day's walk.

Tyneham Coast
At the bottom of the hill I passed through the fence that marked the other end of the military ranges.  The military controlling this area is definitely a mixed blessing for while it is awkward to walk across here due to operational timings, the fact is that the landscape is a real haven for nature as largely it has been left alone.  Once through the boundary I then passed an unusual sight in England, an operational oil well.  The pump has been here for many decades - I remember learning about it in my geography lessons at school in the 1980s.

Broad Bench
I soon came down into Kimmeridge Bay where the busy beach suggested that there might be some refreshments available.  Luckily this time I hit the jackpot in the shape of an ice cream van.  The ice creams were fairly poor quality but no matter - it was ice cold and went down a treat as I was boiling by now.  It set me up nicely for the last few miles starting with the short climb to Clavell Tower.  This folly was built in 1830 by Reverend Clavell and is now used as a holiday home.  It was moved back from the cliff edge in 2008 in an operation that cost nearly £1m.  I imagine that it is quite expensive to stay there in order to recoup that money!  There were a couple of people in residence as I wandered by - looked like a relaxing spot although residents must be constantly gawped at by sweaty hikers like me wandering by.

Clavell Tower
The next couple of miles were quite uneventful and relatively easy going apart from a couple of diversions around cliff falls.  I had been pre-warned of a large hill at the end of the day though and as I went on I saw it loom ahead of me.  In fact what I wasn't totally prepared for was that there were actually two steep hills at the end; the first one was just a taster for the bigger one at the end.  They were more than a sting in the tail.  I really had quite a hard time getting up both hills, especially the second which was Houns-Tout Cliff, where I knew that once at the top the hard work would be done.  I was extremely grateful for the seat at the top, which I shared with a local couple who shuffled up so I could sit with them.  We chatted for a few minutes while I got my breath back and drained the rest of my water.  As I walked the last mile and a half back along the ridge to Kingston village I reflected on the day and all the days I have been walking this path.  It seems amazing to me that I am almost at the end.

Clavell Tower and Kimmeridge Bay
In spite of this being one of the last sections of the walk that I have completed I think I might have a contender for favourite section.  The physical challenge is one of the toughest on the whole walk.  Some will disagree but I can only think of Hartland Quay to Bude and St Ives to Zennor being tougher.  There are at least five significant climbs and a number of smaller ones.  The views along the Purbeck coast are staggeringly beautiful though and well worth the effort.  Tyneham is an unmissable detour, even if I was slightly disappointed by my second visit.  Be aware of the lack of facilities all the way along and ideally don't tackle it on a day as hot as the one I had!

Chapman's Pool