It was a beautiful morning on the Tuesday of our week in Lyme Regis as we set out to conquer the Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast of England. It’s on the South West Coastal path and is clearly visible across the bay from Lyme – at least on clear days.
The coast around Lyme Bay is very unstable and landslips in recent years have meant that the Coastal Path route has been diverted in-land between Lyme and Charmouth (much of it along relatively busy roads) and also between Charmouth and Stonebarrow. However, we managed to find ways of avoiding walking on he tarmac.
By choosing our departure time carefully we were able to walk along the beach from Lyme to Charmouth. Consulting the tide tables on the web we reckoned that leaving around 11, with the tide falling (low tide was about 1 p.m.), would work well for us. When the tide’s inn the route is cut off at a few points and dangerous. The walk across the beach was a bit hard going at times but we managed it in about 45 minutes at an easy pace.
The beach here is a good hunting ground for fossils and a fossil walk was setting out at the same time as we left Lyme.
Walking across the firm sand was easy, but there were a couple of fairly lengthy stretches which required “boulder hopping” which was trickier and harder going.
But we soon made it to Charmouth where we could see a group of people in the shallows with nets, trying to catch specimens of local marine life.
Looking back across the beach to Lyme
The Charmouth Heritge Coast Centre is right on the sea front and provides information on fossils, fossil hunting and the local coastal and marine wildlife. It was set up in 1985 to encourage safe and sustainable collecting of Jurassic fossils from the local beaches.
We didn’t have time to visit, but stopped at the cafe for cup of tea (only £1 for a generous mug) and a slice of very delicious Dorset apple cake with cream It disappeared too quickly for me to take a photo!
There was another inland diversion of the coastal path from here but we could see a few people climbing the slope up the cliff so we decided to follow their example – not advisable really as the cliff top is unstable and drifting off it means trespassing on private land at some points.
Anyway, this is the view back towards Charmouth and Lyme as we climbed
and down to the fine sandy beach under the cliffs to the east of Charmouth.
We were heading up to Cain’s Folly, the seaward edge of Stonebarrow hill, a height of about 140 metres.
It had been a gradual climb, nt too taxing but we had to lose most of the height as the path now started to take us down into the valley between Stonebarrow and our destination – the Golden Cap.
And there it was, straight ahead. 191 metres (627 ft) high.
It was a stiff climb with a particularly steep section for the final ascent on the summit
but when we reached it the views, on a bright, clear sunny day, were fantastic.
Looking east towards Seatown, West Bay, Chesil beach and Portland
Looking west towards Charmouh and Lyme Regis.
We stopped for a while before setting off back down the hill. To vary our route we cut inland towards the old hamlet of St Gabriel, past the ruined church
and then into the small settlement. It was once a much larger village but landslips has meant that much of it has succumbed to the sea.
We followed the track from the village up towards the main ridge of Stonebarrow. Looking back we could see the summit of Golden Cap.
We walked along the ridge and then took the lane down into Charmouth (this was the official diverted Coastal Path route). By now the tide was coming in and it wouldn’t have been safe to cross the beach back to Lyme. We didn’t fancy a long, boring walk along the road (albeit with a short cut across the local golf course) so waited for the bus. A short ride, but expensive at £3-50 for an adult single fare.