We’re coming up for our busiest period of the year at Webtogs right now, and getting outside has had to take a back seat whilst we get things ready for Christmas. Saturday though was a rare treat, a day out with the family. Dorset doesn’t have much in the way of real wilderness, it’s pretty much tractor land where we live, with a few too many posh houses for my liking and lots of agriculture. Dartmoor, Exmoor & the Brecons are the most logical wild options close by to, us but today saw Cath take us off to the one really wild option we have within the county – the coast. So we got up, got the caffeine going, strapped our boots on, got in to the car and headed southwards to Tyneham.
The village itself has a hell of a story having been abandoned since the end of the second world war, when the army requisitioned it for training for D day towards the end of 1943. There are a couple of other villages that have also suffered a similar fate, though for different reasons such as Derwent in the Peak District and Imber on Salisbury plain. They all evoke strong responses in people for lots of reasons, but for me, the emotions are stirred by the fact that houses some families had called home will never be so again. We drove through the Purbeck hills searching for the bluster of sea air when we came up the hill overlooking the village. Although the village was emptied to train troops for the D Day landings, after the war, the army held on to the land, and the villagers were not allowed back in. As a result, the village can only be accessed on certain weekends as it remains part of an army firing range. When you approach it, there are rather a lot of signs and flags warning you that you can get yourself blown up if you are not careful. I think that always adds a certain frisson to a walk, knowing that you are walking on land which you can’t usually traipse upon, and that you could find something that goes boom…..
It had been a beautiful start to the day though, so we drew up in to the car park at Tyneham with anticipation of a great stroll. Our route was a 2 mile walk and we hoped that Ifor, our 3 year old, would walk the whole way as we want to build up his stamina. Driving in to the village was a little underwhelming as you cannot see too many abandoned buildings. We togged up though, and headed off. I tweeted yesterday that bad weather is great for making you feel alive. We had no rain for Saturday however with the Sun gracing us for the most part, but the wind was strong, ever present, and the recent hours spent in front of a screen were blown away rapidly, leaving me with energy for the short trail ahead.
There are many calculations for distance covered based on incline, weather etc, none however that allow for distance covered with a child. Based on Saturdays experience, I think 1 hour 15 mins per mile is about accurate! With Ellis on my back, we took a leisurely pace to the beach interrupted by the last Blackberries of autumn, puddles, rusting tanks and lots more puddles for Ifor. The sea swung in and out of view as we passed through through Tyneham valley. Large numbers on each hill and the occasional hunk of metal reminded us we were on MOD land, and it wasn’t long before we were at the beach. It’s been a while since I have been to the coast, and it was great to be reminded just how noisy waves crashing on a pebble beach can be. There is something incredibly wild about the Jurassic coast, so we spent some time just letting the sights, sounds and smells soak in.
A biscuit, glug of milk, and we were off back up the cliff path back towards the village. We were rather glad to have Ifor’s littlelife animal daypack as the path ran rather too close to the cliffs, and the reigns were invaluable in keeping him by us. The path along the cliffs saw the sun come out, and we had beautiful views down the coast to Kimmeridge and Worth Matravers. Finally back at the car park, a rather tired Ifor & Ellis woolfed their lunches down, before we wandered off to have a look around the remains of the village. Spooky was the order of the day, particularly the schoolhouse which has been restored, and the graveyard of the church. Generations of families lay beneath the salty turf, yet no burials for 60 + years made it even more sombre than your average graveyard.
Heads lolling in the back of the car from the two boys, we headed home after a great stretch. Walking on the Dorset coast is fantastic, but adding the history and emotion present in Tyneham made it a day out that will stay with us for a while. If you want to take a look at all the photos we took, click here for our flickr stream of Tyneham.