Section 2. West Bay to Abbotsbury - Jurassic Coast Path Walking Holiday
Distance - 9.5 miles Grade - Moderate - What these grades mean.
Highlights - Trekking the World Famous Chesil Beach before an inland walk to historic Abbotsbury
A complete contrast in scenery and walking today as the rolling hills and sheer cliffs from Lyme Regis disappear to be replaced by smaller compact sandstone faces leading you steadily into the graceful arc of Chesil Bank.
Your last climb for some distance takes you over the steep grassy slopes at East Cliff above the run of famous sandstone cliffs which offer a vivid display of different layers and colours. It was here that local records report a mermaid was washed up in 1760, though this was more likely, one presumes, to have been a sea cow. The brave can then ford the mouth of the River Bride while the rest of us head inland along its banks to cross below Burton Bradstock. Burton Bradstock is a delightful resting spot, a simple and very unspoilt village of thatched cottages with its old spinning mill house, interesting 14C church and triangular green. If you have worked up a thirst then there is a 300 year old thatched pub on hand.
Back on the Jurassic Coast Path, cross the diminishing cliffs and look out for peregrines above and dolphins below. At Bind Barrow you pass a Bronze Age burial Mound and then a much more recent World War Two pill box before finally arriving on level ground at Chesil Bank. Chesil is the old Saxon word for stone....and you are now going to walk a lot of them!
This immense pebble ridge is one gigantic strip of living geology which is on the move, heading 5m further inland every year. It’s the finest example of a barrier beach in the world and rightly a protected site of scientific interest at the core of The Jurassic Coastal Path. Formed over 8,000 years ago and stretching over 17 miles in a perfect crescent, 100 million tonnes of rock reach up to 25 metres high in places but never wider than a few hundred metres. It’s quite surreal, unique and ever changing, the rocks starting the size of peas in the West slowly turning to huge potato sized pebbles at its other end in Portland. This natural feature was used to their advantage by the local smugglers as they could gauge where they had landed in the dark by the size of the stones. Expect to hear more in the public realm about Chesil as the screenplay for On Chesil Beach , the novel set here by the Booker Winning Author Ian McEwan began filming here in 2011.
The Dorset coast path then collides with the stones near the much loved Cogden beach - you'll be sometimes on and sometimes off the stones for the next few miles as you head landward onto wooden boardwalks at the tranquil, tiny lagoon of Burton Mere, source of the local thatch and reed and now a well known site for wading birdlife.
The next walking section takes you along the shingle bank to West Bexington and as you tackle the pebbles you will come across patches of thrift, sea spinach, sea kale, sea holly & yellow-horned poppy as well as the chance to spot wild carrot and wild parsnips. Through the West Bexington Wildlife Reserve (Dorset Wildlife Trust) contrasting patches of reed bed & scrubby wet meadow hold Cetti's and Grasshopper Warblers, Snipe and Little Owls, attracted by the rare presence of dormice and voles here.
Some respite from the pebble ridge comes at the fishing village of West Bexington, with its handy hotel for refreshments and here there is a choice of routes as the Inland South Dorset Ridgeway option takes off inland.
The South Dorset Ridgeway Option – West Bexington to Osmington Mills 17 miles
For those short on time the South Dorset Ridgeway option, which is an official Inland option, can save one day on your itinerary by missing out Weymouth and the Isle of Portland.
For the rest of us, the Jurassic Coast Path continues on the stones past "Labour In Vain" farm, which apparently refers to the poor soil here rather than your efforts to complete the Chesil Beach scramble.
The path suddenly then heads inland to the beautiful village of Abbotsbury. After the stones, the glorious green pasture and hill ridges are a superb contrast. Cross Chapel Hill below the stark and iconic 14C St Catherine’s Chapel with complete panoramas now for miles back over the Chesil Bank, ahead to the Isle of Portland and, in the foreground, tomorrows walking twist ....the Fleet.