Numbers increased again today, with Colin, the original organiser of these trips, arriving with Simon at Primrose Cottage. Meanwhile, Sue, Andrew and I picked up Gaynor and Jacqui from Ammonite B+B. G and A then strolled into Swanage whilst Sue and I provided Jacqui with a tour of the Bee Orchid beds that she'd missed yesterday.
Somehow the whole group eventually managed to coagulate - for the record:
Organiser Sue and David
Stalwarts Betty and David
Sisters Jacqui and Gill
Gaynor and Hilde
Liz and Rachel
Martin, Sue and Andrew from 'up north'
Nelia and Jonathan
Colin and Simon
The very scenic stroll around Durlston Head got the three of us off to a great start, though I think others may have short-cut this section. After admiring the orchids and the sea birds - mainly guillemots and gulls, plus a few scavenging jackdaws - we found ourselves back at the car park 50 minutes after setting off. A fine walk to Peveril Point (pictured - top) and its National Coastwatch Institution lookout point maintained the quality of today's outing. Then it was a stroll along the sea front to Swanage and a morning coffee.
The rest of the party had long since moved on from here, so we continued as a threesome out of the seaside town, past beach huts whose occupants were sporting Royal Family masks. It's QE11's diamond jubilee weekend.
The rocky spikes of Old Harry soon beckoned, beyond a golden buttercup meadow (pictured - middle) and by the time we reached the headland (pictured - bottom) known as Handfast Point we had caught up with half of the rest of our party. Lunch was taken here, in a zone of wide tracks, vertiginous cliffs and whizzing mountain bikes, whilst the vanguard had moved on towards Studland for lunch on the beach.
Wonderful wild flower meadows on the stroll to Studland sported a variety of species, including broomrapes and lilies - providing Sue and me with a foretaste of our forthcoming Alpine adventures.
From Studland the SWCP ends in style, with a stroll along the beach all the way to its conclusion at South Haven Point, where one sign indicates the start of the classic trail and another sign alerts one to the fact that it's 650 miles of coastal walking to reach Minehead.
Today we traversed the beach soon after high tide, so the sand was firm enough to grant us an easy passage. There's a nudist zone where today a lone elderly man played (frisby) with himself in a rather ostentatious manner. Not a pretty sight!
We all finally met up at the end of a walk that only two of our party, Sue and David E, had actually completed in full. Congratulations were in order. And self-timed photos. Then a tanned gent turned up and watched as many of us fumbled to find our old age bus passes.
"I started from Minehead on 26 April" he observed "it has taken me six weeks. And you?"
"We started in May 1997" chimed Sue E, proudly demonstrating her mathematical expertise by adding "it has taken us fifteen years..."
A number 50 bus curtailed that conversation and whisked us back to Swanage, where a street party was in full flow. We adjourned for tea and cake/biscuits at our various lodgings before reconvening at Primrose Cottage for a barbecue and beer celebration. Sue and Colin both received presentations in recognition of their organisational efforts and I think I spotted the odd bottle of champagne being quaffed.
The evening climaxed after dark, when most of us (Sue, me, S+D, B+D, J+G, Andrew, Liz, Simon + Jonathan) took a stroll under a full moon up Knowle Hill to admire a selection of firework displays and try to spot some of Dorset's many jubilee beacons. It was a perfect activity with which to round off the mini era of our SWCP travels.
What next for this group? Who knows?
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