Dorset – October 2015

Friday 23 October

The start of October half-term holidays and for most of us (Rob, Tudor, Izzy, Goers, Corinne and I) the evening was filled with roadworks and slow moving traffic down to Swanage. Fiona escaped that excitement by catching the train earlier in the afternoon. The highlights were watching the fish whilst crossing from Sandbanks to Studland, admiring the wood panelling in the lounge of the YHA and taking on bets on when Geors and Corrinne would arrive…

Saturday 24 October

We met at 9am for a planning meeting. The forecast was not promising (rain and wind up to force 5) so the options were limited. Having discussed our varying levels of experience, fitness and what we wanted to get out of the weekend as well as what the wind and tide would be doing we agreed that the best plan would be to spend the day exploring the relatively sheltered waters of Poole harbour.

We drove in convoy towards Shell Bay and parked up in a convenient layby. It was raining but we donned waterproofs and carried out a quick recci of our chosen launch spot before unloading the boats and kit and getting changed. A note on boat unloading/loading – for Geors (and more specifically for the Mazda Bongo) – this was no mean feat. Each load/unload required a stepladder, someone to go up the ladder, at least one other person to hold the ladder, two/three tall people to assist with manoeuvring the kayaks and a few others to offer ‘helpful’ advice.

Once everyone was happy we departed for our first destination – ‘that sticking out bit of land over there’. The rest of the morning was spent crossing from point to point along the SW shore of the harbour – taking in numerous sightings of grebes, oyster catchers and an egret or two. Fiona squeezed under a wooden pier; Corinne played chicken with a ferry and we abided by the polite notices on private islands (‘KEEP OFF. NO LANDING’). It was grey and overcast with fairly strong winds but pleasant enough. I was dry and warm for once – thanks to my new dry suit – so I wasn’t complaining!

After negotiating some shallow sections of water just before Round Island, we stopped for lunch at Arne Bay. A curious seal took a shine to Rob and followed him towards the shore– prompting shouts of ‘he’s behind you’ – inevitably as soon as he turned the seal promptly vanished. Our lunch spot contained some amazing trees with exposed roots, providing convenient seats.

After lunch we spent time extracting ourselves and the boats from the black, sticky mud before successfully re-launching into the harbour. We contemplated heading for the north side of Brownsea Island but changed course given the increasing wind, the ominously dark clouds and the need to retain some energy for Sunday’s trip. Instead we headed back through the channel between two islands; crossed eddy lines; played in the waves from passing ferries and observed the oil well and more bird-life. On our return to our launch site, we were relieved that the tide had not left us with half a mile of mud to contend with.

We spent the evening sampling some traditional Dorset delights in the Red Lion pub – including local cider, ales, sausages, ham hock and apple cake!


Sunday 25 October

Daylight saving gave us an extra hour overnight. We could have spent this time sleeping but Rob had other ideas…and we left the YHA at 8.05 to drive to Kimmeridge Bay. The plan was for a 22km trip to Durdle Door and back with the additional option of rock-hopping along the way.

After parting with a hefty £10 per car* we dropped the kayaks off at the slipway then got organised (a.k.a faffed). The weather was amazing. Clear blue skies, warm sunshine and NO WIND. As a result the sea in the bay was completely flat – like a mill pond. Further out – on the rock ledge to the right of the Bay – there was some impressive looking surf but we skirted round that with ease and were on our way.

The morning’s paddle was so lovely. We were spoilt with brilliant weather, calm seas and amazing cliffs and strata lines courtesy of the Jurassic coastline. The wind (what little there was) was behind us and we were going with the current / tide. We spotted some enormous jelly fish and Rob and Corinne had fun rock-hopping. We arrived at Lulworth cove and were tempted to stop for lunch and a rest but we pushed on so that we could take advantage of the tide.

Between Lulworth cove and Durdle Door we met a group of kayakers from the New Forest. Sharing stories, it transpired that they had paid £5 to park at Ringstead and were heading for Lulworth cove before heading back. We found a rock arch to duck under and admired the huge strata lines in the cliff in the bay behind then it was onto the main attraction. We were at Durdle Door surprisingly quickly and it really is an impressive arch! A bunch of people were coasteering in the area and jumping off the far side of the arch, which looked like fun!


The return section back to Lulworth cove for lunch was slightly harder – some wind against tide and kayakers hungry for lunch but we made it in good time and lined up our kayaks alongside those from the New Forest club – it was pretty impressive seeing all 15 in a row.

The longer return trip back to Kimmeridge was hard work. We were paddling into a head wind but fortunately the tide/current had turned, which helped enormously. Izzy discovered what happens if you don’t pull your kayak far enough up the beach when you have a toilet-stop but aside from that it was uneventful!

We were all relieved to see Clavell tower appear in more detail as we got closer and closer to Kimmeridge. What was less pleasing was the surf forming on the rock ledge once more; fortunately we realised that if we skirted far enough round to the right we could avoid the breakers although it was a little lumpy for a short time.

We ended the trip with well-deserved cups of tea and slabs of cake in the Clavell café before heading back to London.

It was a brilliant weekend! Huge thanks go to Rob for leading; Goers for organising; Alex H for YHA membership and Corinne / Rob for the photos.

*Fee is £10 for a car with a boat/kayak on the roof; £5 for cars without boats… unclear what the fee is if the kayak is in the car.

Sally Widdop


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