And so our house-sitting/dog-sitting week came to an end. A great experience all round and we managed to tick off this stretch of coastline walking. Despite the winter weather, soggy and slippery ground in places and me coughing and spluttering, we managed to cover the stretch between Sandbanks and Lymington … roughly 26 miles (every little helps)!
This, our second ‘Trusted House-sitter’ assignment, has been another success – a beautiful house which we managed to leave in good shape. And we’ve loved getting to know another area of the country, a perfect retirement area I would say – I’ve never seen so many bungalows. But most of all we have absolutely fallen in love with our big furry friend Bugle and getting to know his funny ways. His favourite thing is to walk between your legs, from the front and from the back … and when you’re only 5ft 4in, a Bernese Mountain Dog coming through is fairly noticeable! Being nine years of age he’s a couple of years past his sell-buy date, so you can imagine our relief that he made it through the week. We’ll miss him bounding up to meet us, dragging his toys as a welcome gift, knocking on the door when he wants to come in from the garden and generally craving company and cuddles.
So bye bye Bugle and farewell to the land of bungalows and beach huts … it’s been a blast.
By contrast to yesterday, we woke up to a grey, damp, cloudy day – I know it’s winter but it could do with being a bit more inspirational for walking. I’d woken up with a sore throat and the beginnings of a cold. Also, Caroline and Jim were due to arrive mid-afternoon so we could easily have talked ourselves out of getting those boots on today, but oh no, we wrapped up and set off for a shorter day on that coastal path.
We caught the bus to Mudeford Quay, today’s starting point. Immediately greeted by row after row after row of beach huts as we walked away from the quay along the promenade.
Leaving Mudeford Quay
Along this busy stretch of promenade we passed numerous holiday homes priced from £99,000 and bundles of beach huts, one priced at £80,000!! (madness)!! This was definitely the most populated stretch of coastal path we’ve experienced so far but I still kept up my ‘Good Mornings’ and ‘Hellos’ despite the required frequency. This was generally reciprocated but naturally there were the odd few head down/eye aversions … “who is this woman? Do I know her?…”.
After some promenade walking we were taken up onto the higher paths and through some woodland areas. Spectacular views. Took every choice to stay up at the cliff top level (not going to repeat yesterday’s mistake) … but round about Highcliffe we had no option but to take the zig zag path down to beach level.
It was a short sandy walk before we were presented with the option of going back up … and up we went …. but it was SO easy, there were wooden steps and a handrail and everything!
A left turn took us through an area called Chewton Bunny, pretty woodland – saw two bunnies and a lively waterfall. Then unfortunately we were up on to the Christchurch Road which was incredibly busy and noisy. And all because the holiday parks are unwilling to share their stretch of coastal path! Once we were signposted off the main road, were taken on a trip around the Barton-on-Sea houses literally, an easy off road path that led us to the seafront. And so ended the walking for today – just short of 5 miles.
Caroline and Jim joined us for the rest of the day – a drive and stroll around Lymington followed by a delicious lasagne dinner served up by Steve. And of course lots of playtime with Bugle.
Friday 24th January 2020
(Thursday was a bit of a write off day as my cold and sore throat were taking a hold – hoped that a day’s chilling would pay off).
Unfortunately today I felt much the same but decided I needed to plough on – it would be worth it! No return of Tuesday’s blue skies as yet – still grey but at least no rain.
Today’s plan (and believe me Steve puts in a lot of planning!) was to cover about 10 miles, in two phases. So we drove to Bournemouth and set off from the Pier heading towards Sandbanks. Again we made the decision to take the ‘high road’ which took us up a steep hill past the ‘Marriot Highcliff Hotel’ … speaks for itself. Love a good climb at the beginning of a walk though and the views were spectacular.
Views of South Haven Point
The clifftop path came to a natural end and we were brought back down to the promenade, dodging between the many walkers. No hellos today – far too many people and my throat was too sore anyway! For some reason the sand is piled up at the back of the beach most of the way along and the paths swept clear – it looked just like snow clearance.
When we got to Sandbanks the promenade was no more … it was now a case of walking on the shoreline, but still very easy walking. We viewed the amazing seafront properties, ranging from Art Deco blocks to modern architect designed houses.
Kept an eye out for Harry and Doreen (Redknapp) but they weren’t about. To get to the end point of this part of our walk we had to go out into the Sandbanks streets full of swanky houses – oh my …. such home envy!!
Finished up at the Ferry Point where we hopped on the bus back to Bournemouth.
Our bus, coming over by Ferry from Swanage
Once back in Bournemouth we stopped for a bite to eat and made the decision to save phase 2 of the walk for tomorrow – best to spread it out!! Another 5 miles under the belt and tomorrow’s another day!
Saturday 25th January 2020
After a sleepless night of having to sit up due to tickly cough I was feeling pretty washed out. So didn’t exactly jump at the chance to join in with the Lymington Parkrun. Steve went of course and came first in his age category and 26th overall, so one very chuffed Rosie. I did manage to get up and take Bugle for his morning walk in the meantime.
After breakfast we drove to Mudeford Quay where we took the ferry to Hengistbury Head. Very efficient little service – pleasant boat crew.
Windy ferry trip
As soon as we stepped off the ferry we were greeted with the inevitable line up of beach huts – they certainly love a beach hut in these parts.
Now today was definitely a few degrees chillier – an icy bite to the wind. I was well and truly layered up – thermals + 2 long sleeved tops + two waterproof jackets, with hoods. It was a pleasant first couple of miles to the walk with some uphills and downhills (for added interest), bit of walking through sand dunes and great views from the high points.
And then it was just about an easy walk alongside Christchurch Harbour and promenading through Southbourne and Boscombe into Bournemouth. But really, just how many beach huts does a stretch of coastline need – I have never seen so many!
In the distance we could see a pier and jumped to the conclusion that it must be Bournemouth … turned out to be Boscombe Pier however, so it was another 3km to completion (mind tricks)! Saw at least 6 swimmers along this stretch of beach – yikes – what is it with these people (I have a mad friend Helen who swims all year round)!! 🤣
So after 6 miles we enjoyed a cuppa and a slice of coffee and walnut cake back at Bournemouth Pier. Then it was a bus ride back to Mudeford Quay, a drive back to our house in Barton on Sea, a walk round the block with Bugle and then snuggling down for the evening with our furry friend.
On Sunday 19th January 2020, we drove down to Barton-on-Sea, a beautiful cliff top village in Hampshire. We’re here to do a week’s house-sit, including looking after a magnificent Bernese Mountain dog called ‘Bugle.’ Bugle’s owners, Sally and Gary, are the editors of a local magazine called ‘The Barton Bugle’ in which there is a regular feature based on Bugle’s life and antics. And so our charge is apparently quite a celebrity in the area – walking him should be interesting!
Bugle – our playmate for the week
Sadly on our first day, Monday, we￼ had to drive up to Oxford to say our goodbyes to Sheila, Steve’s Stepmum, who passed away at New Year. It was a beautiful blue sky day and Sheila’s life was celebrated as we said our￼ farewells. After lunch with the family we drove back down to the South Coast to resume our house-sitting duties. Bugle was pleased to see us on our return and after a walk around the block (Bugle is elderly and only manages short walks) we all settled in for a cosy evening.
Tuesday 21st January 2020
So today we were ready to get back on that coastal path. Unfortunately this stretch of the coast doesn’t have an official coastal path but we worked out our own coastal route to Lymington and off we set, all excited on our first day back. When we got to the beach Steve said “shall we take the clifftop path or go further down towards the beach?” Now, being all eager to get back to those smells, sounds and feel of the lapping waves we opted for the lower path.
Setting off from Barton on Sea
Beach huts at Barton on Sea, striking rock formation
Magnificent weather today, clear blue skies and bright sunshine but still some frost and ice lingering. The manageable path continued for a while as we meandered our way through throngs of dog walkers and large groups of ramblers busily clacking their walking poles as they chatted and rambled.
But inevitably the path ran out … and we had to clamber over some slippery rocks, then plough through some sticky clay underfoot to make our way down onto the shingle beach. We trudged along the shingle for some time (not great on the calves), praying that the tide would be on our side. Noticing that the shingle route stretched for miles ahead, we made the decision to get up onto the clifftop path. Oh we have such a chuckle about how great hindsight is!
Now, getting up to that path was no mean feat – first a spot of rock climbing was required and then a scramble up a steep vertical ascent on all fours … planting my hand into a gorse bush in the process. It was a relief to get to the top and find the path much more manageable, although pretty muddy and slippery in places – we really had to take it easy and watch our footing all the way.
A little further on the path had been fenced off due to cliff erosion. There was me thinking it would mean an early finish to the day’s adventure but of course, Steve in true Mrs T form, was “not for turning.” And so it was a careful squeeze through the barbed wire fence on to the farmer’s land for a stretch until we could safely return to the clifftop path.
At Milford-on-Sea we stopped for a cuppa and snack. A sweet old man started chatting to us in the queue, firstly commenting on Steve’s size and then trying to flatter me by remarking “is he your son” … then quickly realised his mistake and added “I mean, are you his daughter!?” Turned out he lived in Barton-on-Sea and he was so impressed that we were looking after Bugle for the week – he was quite a fan!
We passed so many fabulous beachfront properties – quite the place to come and retire I would imagine.
The day’s walk was completed by pacing the long winding embankments through the salt marshes – plenty of bird life to be seen …. as well as huge clusters of twitchers and photographers.
We had interesting views of the Isle of Wight for most of the day, partly shrouded in low mist at times and watched as the ferry made its way back and forth.
And so into the picturesque town of Lymington … greeted first by its spectacular sailing club, then past the outdoor swimming pool and into the streets lined with arty shops, bars and cafes.
The sailing boats of Lymington – the path took us right through the middle
Hope to discover more of Lymington during the week – after 10 miles of walking we were ready to jump on the bus back to Barton and catch up with our large furry friend Bugle. It was a wonderful first day back on the path.