I was lucky enough to get early access to this brand new Vespucci Adventure route that, although still in testing and development phase, already feels at home amongst the Signature Adventure Collection. Vespucci Adventures founder Alex took me, Jack Prendergast and avid adventurer James Frome to Dorset in March 2019 to experience the Jurassic Coast and stress test the new addition to the Vespucci offering. The fifth member of our crew was Lionel, my 4 year old dog who loves the sea. For him an exciting day lay ahead, but he was yet to know it.
We parked up at Corfe Castle, a historic seat of medieval kings, demolished in 1645 by Parliamentarian forces but standing tall, half ruined on top of a hill. It therefore provides a useful reference point, visible from many points along the local walking routes. It was about 9.30am as we set off, up the footpaths along a ridge that led westward. The higher we climbed the stronger the winds and the sense of adventure got. The magnitude of the journey ahead came into view as we could see a distant tower, which leader Alex informed us would be a good place to stop for lunch, 3 hours later on.
Lionel, Jack, Arthur & James
An hour and a half later, we pulled roughly level with the tower and made a left hand turn towards the coast and down the hill, zig-zagging down some rocky paths past fields of cows unbothered by the loud booming of the nearby MOD live-firing. The sea went out of sight as we continued to descend, shielded by the hills between. We passed through a farmyard and met a portly collie dog, who took a keen interest in our sandwiches. It was clear that he has made a habit of asking passers-through for a morsel, and fair play to him.
As we mounted the brow of the hill, the English Channel came back into view, lapped into a bubbling frenzy by the gale-force winds of Storm Gareth. We ran down the hill, across the final two arable fields towards Kimmeridge Bay. As three of us took in the sights that beheld us, we noticed James had quietly slipped off down a side path towards the beach. By the time he emerged on the pebbly shore below us, he had already stripped down to his pants and was bracing himself for the sea. The rest of us, stubbornness taking hold, knew that we could not be outdone and began to accept our fate and mentally prepare ourselves for the freezing waves that now had to be conquered as a matter of duty. The fossil hunters were so engrossed in their endeavours that they barely noticed a group of half-naked men diving into the freezing sea and emerging pink and shivering.
Blustery cliff edge near Kimmeridge Bay.
The sea was so cold that the storm winds had a warming effect as we emerged after our quick dip. Standing in the wind also dried us off in a few minutes, meaning that there was no need for towels or to wet our clothes as we put them back on. Once dried, the cold remained as a tingling in our skin which energised us for the second half of the walk. It was time to turn east and head back along the coastal path, to complete the loop. We climbed the hill and were met by Clavell Tower and even more spectacular views in all directions. To our right we looked down on Kimmeridge Bay, still foaming and raging in the wind. And to our left, there were the cliffs below the coastal path that lay ahead.
Looking east from Clavell Tower.
Along the coast we walked, with the wind at our back and the pub in Kingston calling. The views along the cliff faces are incredible here, and the rough sea and high winds added to the drama of this coastal stretch. We traversed some precarious bridges, made more so by the wind. Lionel had to be kept on the lead for parts of this as the wind was so strong he was almost blown off the edge. We came to the last hill, atop which we could look over the Encombe estate, an impressive house and grounds with sprawling walled gardens, stable blocks and lakes. From the top here, with the sea at our backs, it was a short walk on to Kingston where we had time for a pitstop and a pint.
Arriving at the Scott Arms in Kingston was a welcome break for us to rehydrate, recuperate and reminisce. Our legs were aching and our faces were tingling from the unrelenting wind but we had a huge sense of achievement, having covered twenty-one kilometres of prehistoric coast and tackled the violent, freezing waves of Storm Gareth head on.
After a pint of Guinness and a packet of crisps we felt ready to take on the mere three and a half kilometre final stretch back to Corfe Castle. The ruined ramparts were in sight and we could beeline directly for them across the fields. As we summited the final hill and came down into the shadow of the castle itself we came across a conveniently-placed river in which to wash our boots and dog ahead of the long car journey back to London.
– Written by Arthur Guinness & Lionel, March 2019 –
The Lost World is part of our second series of Signature Adventures. The Map & Guide will be available in the coming weeks: https://www.vespucciadventures.com/signature-adventures