Bienvenue en France

Another fine morning with another fine day in prospect, albeit with a similar cold northerly(ish) wind. We decided against giving the legs a rest and embarked upon one of neighbour Chris’s favourite walks. This would start and end in Kingston (where I spotted a very handy looking pub to refresh foot-weary walkers), taking us to Kimmeridge Bay and along the coast to the curiously named Houns-tout Cliff – sounds vaguely French.

We parked in Sheeps Pen car park and struck out towards Swyre Head through some of the aforementioned sheep. We started in the shelter of one of this region’s many skilfully made dry stone walls. Carol’s phone beeped with a message which at least indicated the presence of some kind of mobile signal. “Welcome to France” it proclaimed, wittily. Gobsmacked! How wide is the English Channel at this point? It must be 100 miles-ish ‘cos it takes ferries 4 – 6 hours to make the crossing from here. At the campsite we can’t pick up a signal from England but here, near the coast, we seemed to be picking one up from France. Nah, surely not.

The coastal view from near Swyre HeadPleased to be back in our beloved France, we continued along a very windy, exposed ridge towards Kimmeridge itself and Kimmeridge Bay beneath. I failed to spot a pub in Kimmeridge – must be some kind of oversight – but the church was quaint, housing several graves of la familie Clavell Mansell who seemed particularly keen on the rifle regiment.

Fossil hunters in Kimmeridge BayWe’re on the so-called Jurassic coast or fossil coast. Kimmeridge Bay was full of people calmly pulling apart the cliffs and smashing small bits of rock against large bits of rock looking for fossils. I began wondering if there had been a bay here at all originally or whether it may have been picked into existence by masses of fossil hunters. You’re not supposed to use hammers but you don’t seem to need a hammer to break bits off the cliff. Folks were managing admirably with their bare hands.

Clavell Tower behind its original foundations at the cliff's edge Overlooking Kimmeridge Bay is an imposing folly called Clavell Tower. There’s that name again. Clavell Tower is now owned by the Landmark Trust, the same chaps that own Wortham Manor where we recently stayed to celebrate Rosemary’s birthday. They’ve had to do some serious work on this property, dismantling it and moving it back from the cliff’s edge. Clearly I wasn’t the only one worried about the rate of erosion caused by those fossil hunters.

I took my phone out to tweet. Unbeknownst to me it had received a message: “Welcome to France. Calls to the UK are 35ppm …”. Mon Dieu, moi aussi!

We continued along a roller-coaster coast towards that intriguingly named Houns-tout Cliff. As we approached the scale becomes evident; it looked like a beast of a climb. We carried on perhaps just a little daunted and scaled it. As I reached the summit I came across a chap sitting on a bench admiring the view. From his accent, I suspect he was German. As we were taking a snap or two, his phone beeped. He laughed. It seemed that his phone had just welcomed him to France as well. Weird!

Corfe Castle from the comfort of a pintThe descent of Houns-tout Cliff was even more precipitous than the ascent but it was the only realistic way of finishing our 10 miles and getting to that pub I’d spotted in Kingston for a well deserved beer. It had good views of Corfe Castle in the distance, too.

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