This might at first appear to be a repeat of the walk I posted about last week, but I can assure you that it quite different! The walk between West Bay and Lyme Regis is one that I have done a few times because I enjoy it and it is an area I visit quite often. So my intention for this day was to repeat the walk over the South West Coast Path, but in the end I took a different route, hence a second post.
I drove down to West Bay, which took around 1 hour and 20 minutes. I parked in the long stay car park just north of the old station building, which at the time was a cafe, The Tea Station. They were just setting up the chairs to open for the day. Now it is called The Station Cafe, which is rather unimaginative. Still they keep the old station in good condition and it is almost possible to imagine it is still used, but what you can’t see is the track only extends a few metres either side of the photo.
I headed over the large amount of shingle to the beach to get my first view of the lovely golden cliffs.
I walked along the beach to the harbour wall, then took the path around the back of the harbour.
At the other side of the harbour, the beach continues.
However I stuck to the route of the coast path heading up the cliffs. This time it was before this part of the coast path had been re-routed further inland although you can see that by this time, it was getting pretty close to the edge. I’m not quite sure when this was closed, but I imagine it was not long after this.
The cliffs are not that high, so it was not long before I was descending down to Eype Mouth, which is only around 1 mile west of West Bay.
Sham about all those caravans, though. I headed down on to the beach for a brief sit down and drink. The tide had been going out and looking along the beach I could see it was quite far out, and there looked to be beach all the way as far as I could see. A glance at the map confirmed what I was seeing, the high water line marked on the map never seems to touch the cliffs and there looks to be beach the whole way. I decided to see if I could get along the shoreline to Seatown, rather than follow the coast path.
The beach was mostly shingle, so a bit hard under foot, but there were also a few rocks as I got further west.
Looking back I could no longer see Eype, as the majority of this small village is inland in the valley and not visible from the sea.
As I neared the cliffs at Great Ebb, I realised I had been a little optomistic. It was not beach all the way, but lots of lose rocks. It was not easy to get over them, but at least they were mostly large enough to not wobble too much.
Ahead they continued for some time. It turns out this was not the easy beach walked I had thought.
This is East Ebb Cove and it is very beautiful. Once again the geology of the cliffs is interesting with the lower cliffs looking quite unstable, but firmer rock further up. This left me a bit torn. Walking right under the cliffs was not perhaps the best of ideas, but if I walked much closer to the shore, the rocks were slippery and covered in sea weed. In the end, the shore won out.
At East Ebb the geology of the coast changed again. Suddenly the cliff face was a wet soggy grey clay, but with yellow sand stone on top.
I was pleased that looking ahead I could see people on the beach again, so I was close to Seatown and the easier to walk on shingle beach.
Soon I reached the beach and was glad to end the boulder field and be back on releatively easy to walk on shingle. Ahead I had a fine view of Golden Cap.
Seatown was quite busy and buyoed with the success of my shore line walk I decided to see if I could continue. I knew that the next access point to the coast path was at St Gabriels Mouth, so this was a little longer stretch, so making a higher risk I would not be able to get around. The cliffs were again this soft grey clay, which is very good for fossils.
The piles of rubble at the base of the cliffs indicate why I was keen to stick close to the shore! I could also see that I was going to have to navigate over more boulders at the base of Golden Cap, but I was excited at the prospect of walking under the highest cliff in Southern England.
Nearing Golden Cap I took a look back along the beach, as I reached the start of the rocks. What stunning scenery, and I can clearly make out the coast path running up those grass topped cliffs.
Ahead it was a mixture of rocks and beach, although there was clay on some of the beach, so I had to be careful. I was not the only person making my way along the shore either, but I was reassured to see someone coming the other way, as it meant it was likely I could get around.
Soon I had reached the base of Golden Cap and had a view ahead over Lyme Bay to Lyme Regis and Charmouth. It was great to be at the base of this impressive cliff but I didn’t want to hang around too long, as the tide had started to turn and I wasn’t sure how much beach there would be between the cliffs and sea ahead.
Thankfully it turns out this was the narrowest point and soon I was on the pebble beach of St Gabriel’s Mouth. Although normally I would find it hard going after the lose rocks it was easier. It was nice to crunch along the pebbles and take in the wonderful scenery.
I soon looked back to Golden Cap – the base of the cliff is really at the end of the beach as you can see, so it is probably easier to approach from this end if you just want to get to the base of the cliff.
The soft clay soil here erodes quickly and there were quite a few places where the clay had slumped onto the beach. This made it easy to climb to get a slightly different perspective.
I soon reached the access steps to the beach at St Gabriel’s Mouth, but I could see it was now clear to Charmouth, so there was no need to take this, I continued along the beach.
I was back once more to the soft grey cley on the cliff face but the cliffs were now lower and the mud flows onto the beach had stopped.
Soon the shingle was replaced by sand, making the walk easy and meaning I could walk looking ahead for much of the time, rather than watching every footstep.
I started to see footprints in the sand and soon enough people too, as I neared Charmouth. Here as the tide was quite low the edge of the water actually had soft sand, with the pebbles ending at the shore line. This made a good oppurtunity for a paddle in the sea, always refreshing.
Ahead was the River Char, but this is not a deep or wide river and since I was already barefoot I waded over it rather than walk up to the bridge, it was no more than ankle deep.
As I have done before, I continued along the beach between Charmouth and Lyme Regis, the official route of the coast path now taking a particularly un-appealing route partly along the main A3052.
The sand did not last, and it was back to pebbles for a while, but they did at least come with shingle in between so the walking was not too tricky.
Soon it was back to sand and the number of footprints in the sand made it clear this is a popular route between the two towns, certainly better than the coast path, assuming the tide is far enough out it is possible.
As I neared Lyme Regis the beach became rocky, presumably the base of the eroding cliffs, and there were groynes along the beach (these have since been removed as part of some new coastal defences, which has added a sea wall here). As you can see, the tide was now getting close to the cliffs, but it is possible to get around the back of most of the groynes, as there are steps at the higher ones.
As I said though, these no longer exist (you can see they are in a poor state of repair in the photos). Soon I reached the safety of the sea wall and could enjoy the view around the bay, where I had been walking.
The golden cliffs at West Bay can be seen in the distance, where the cliffs become lower. I followed the promenade into the busy little town.
I like Lyme Regis, so I spent a little while on the beach and had an ice cream, before making my way up the hill back to the bus stop. This time it ran on-time and I was soon back in West Bay. In the softer early evening light those Golden Cliffs looked even better than this morning.
This is such a fabulous bit of coast, it certainly deserves the World Heritage Status that it now has. So if you want a different variation on the coast path I can confirm that it is possible to walk along the shore, at least from Eype. Looking at the map, I see no reason that it should not be possible from the west side of West Bay harbour, but I have not tried that (yet).
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
First Dorset X53 : Poole – Hamworthy – Sandford – Wareham Station – Wareham – Wool Station – Winfirth Newburgh – Osmington – Preston – Weymouth – Chickerell – Portesham – Abbotsbury – Burton Bradstock – West Bay – Bridport – Chideock – Morecombelake – Charmouth – Lyme Regis – Colyford – Seaton – Beer – Sidford – Newton Poppleford – Clyst St Mary – Exeter. Only a few buses each day run the full length (Exeter – Poole), but between Lyme Regis and West Bay the service is hourly seven days a week. The bus stops near the railway stations in Poole, Weymouth, Wool and Wareham.
In addition, if you don’t mind walking from Bridport to West Bay, there is also the X31 service: Axminster Station – Lyme Regis – Charmouth – Chideock – Bridport – Winterbourne Abbas – Martinstown – Poundbury – Dorchester South Station. This runs hourly seven days a week too.