Holly and I had the week after Easter on leave from work. Most of it was spent resting up, letting the cats get some time running about outside in the fledgling spring weather, and playing video games (us, not the cats). We still did some stuff outside, however. When we saw that the weather in the week would be nice, we decided we would take a day trip down to one of our favourite spots in the world, Swanage in Dorset on the south coast, to welcome in spring properly by the sea.
We chose the day we’d travel a few days ahead of time so we could plan to get up early and make it there in time for breakfast. Unfortunately, we picked the day based on weather reports, which turned out to be a bit optimistic. Even in the morning when we woke up to a thick fog in Twickenham, the weather suggested Swanage was cloudy, rather than foggy, and would be turning sunny by late morning. We headed down anyway. Our plan to get down in time for breakfast semi-backfired; we arrived about half-past nine and being in the mid-season few places were open until ten.
And despite passing through a lovely sunny spell when we crossed the Sandbanks Ferry, we found Swanage, much like Twickenham, to be in a cloud of fog. There wasn’t much wind, and so the water was very calm, which added to the eeriness of the scene. There was still quite a few people around though, because it was the school holidays and this is England, where we visit the seaside based on the calendar not the actual weather. At the stone jetty on the quay plenty of families were crab fishing, and the fog made it look like a scene from a movie in a small movie set.
Usually during summer there are a lot of boats moored up in Swanage Bay. This time, I had no idea, because the fog was so thick I could only see the boats closest to the shore.
After a mediocre breakfast in one of the few open places (followed by a rebalancing coffee at Chococo), we decided to take one of our loved walks from Swanage, along the coast path round Durlston Bay to Durlston Castle.
The cliff edge in the fog was something to see. Primarily so you didn’t fall over it.
Our walk to Durlston usually starts by walking up the hill at Peveril Point to meet the coastal path at the top. Usually we do it in the sun. This time, walking as the mist rolled over the hills from the sea gave it an all together different feel.
This walk was reminiscent of one Holly and I took a few years ago when a similarly thick fog descended on Twickenham one cold November’s day. On that occasion we took a stroll along the Thames in the eerie calm of a dark and foggy evening; this time we walked along the coast, but some of the views were largely similar.
The paths, normally sunny with a forest idyll vibe, took on a much more sinister atmosphere with the mist. You almost expected Death himself to be standing on the corner, in his black garb with scythe in hand, waiting to escort you to the other side (if there were such a thing, of course).
We soon reached Durlston Castle – the walk seems to get easier every time; I remember as a kid thinking it was the furthest I’d ever walk, now it’s just about the same length as the walk Holly and I make to the station every morning – and decided to just keep on going until we felt like turning around. Beyond the castle the coastal path is less covered and a bit closer to the cliff edge.
Past the castle lies a few more spots. We soon came to the entrance of the long-abandoned Tilly Whim Caves.
I love the fact that, despite the fact the caves were closed to the public for safety reasons in the seventies, there is still only an upturned piece of fence blocking the entrance (although admittedly there was also a far more robust gate at the path, from where I took the picture).
The next major landmark along the coast is the Anvil Point Lighthouse. We’ve walked close to it on numerous occasions, but I’ve not made it down and up the valley that sits beside the building on the route since I was a kid. We didn’t make it this time either – the lighthouse was close, but when that gully was also covered in such a thick mist we couldn’t see it or the lighthouse, we decided against it and rested up for a bit atop the cliff.
Whilst we were there, the sun began to burn through the fog a little bit, returning some blue to the sky. This contrasted nicely with the green of the grass and the white of these tall metal structures, whatever they are.
By this point it was certainly time to get lunch, so we started heading back to Swanage to get some food.
After spending the rest of the day in Swanage, during which the fog gave up on burning off and returned us to a misty haze, we headed back home. At the Sandbanks Ferry, where that morning there had been sun and the ability to see Brownsea Island, there was just fog. You couldn’t even see the ferry until it was docking, and Brownsea Island had disappeared completely.
And with that, we were on the way home, where the next day we had much better weather, because of course we did.