Dorset is a delightful county in which to walk. Footpaths radiate from every village and all walks can usually be shortened or lengthened according to fitness or time available. The South West Coast Path is generally well known but is often more difficult to form a circuit. Ideally a Dorset walk should include a cafe, pub or even the possibility of a swim. Some circuits are quite demanding as there can be several climbs, sometimes, if it has been raining these can be a bit muddy and slippery. So take your time, rest every so often to admire the iconic coastal images. You can take these opportunities to take photographs and match those often seen in brochures. By taking your time many a Dorset walk can be undertaken by anyone with reasonable fitness.
First up is preparation for your Dorset walk. If you are not experienced in walking then make sure you do not bite off more than you can chew – plan short walks to start with then you can increase to the more challenging longer distances when you are comfortable with walking all day under the burning sun (trivial information for a pub quiz – “Dorset does get more sunshine than Devon or Cornwall”)
Before you set out on your first trek check out your footwear and clothing – this is often overlooked by holiday makers as a walk does not pose too many dangers – or does it?
No-one wants to have blisters on their feet or worse so here are a few tips to go by (this list is by no means the finite list but aimed to make things more comfortable for all)
Priority one is good footwear – walking boots are recommended for all but the very easiest walks – new boots do take time to get used to so keep the first couple of walks relatively short to “break them in”.
Clothing – Even in summer the weather can demand a waterproof/windproof coat to keep you warm and dry – you may even want to consider some waterproof over trousers when the forecast is a bit dodgy – take it from me walking with wet pants is not that pleasant and can spoil a wonderful walk.
A hat – I am the constant target for jokes by the family when I am out due my ridiculous looking hat (which I love) that keeps the sun off my thinning hair and ears that are susceptible to sunburn! On returning from the walk I usually have the last laugh as I am the one who has no need for the after sun lotion (Ha ha)
Extra clothing – you never know when you may need that extra layer when the sun goes in or the wind picks up the temperature will drop so make sure you have an additional layer or two.
Rucksack – a day pack is a vital piece of equipment this will enable you to carry you spare clothes and other items that you wish to take with you.
Sunscreen – very important even on a cloudy day the rays of the sun are powerful and the fresh sea air will only enhance the effect of those rays.
Drink – make sure you have some water to keep you going and possibly a warm drink on a cold day.
Food – nutrition is important so take something along to keep you going until you arrive at a “watering hole” like a pub or cafe (always a good plan to have one if these enroute) to satisfy your hunger.
Safety – It is always handy to have a first aid kit with you and also a mobile phone to call for assistance if needed.
Well what is a Dorset walk without your four legged friend? – As a rural county Dorset does have many farm animals, please ensure that your dog is under full control at all times. When walking along the cliff paths it is best to keep your dog on a lead as those pesky rabbits play close to the edge. They are “oh so tempting to chase” which only leads to disaster.
A printed map of your route (with directions) is handy – there are many websites that have pre-planned walks that can easily be printed off. An Ordnance Survey Map of the local area with the Orange Explorer maps being my favourite. OL15 is the one that covers the Dorset coast in most detail which also has a great App which you can download when you purchase the map.
This list is by no means complete and is just a guide to help with the enjoyment of your walks around our county.
Next is to decide your route there are many and varied. Some will take in the beautiful countryside where you will come across small hidden villages. Getting off the beaten track you will find chocolate box cottages, interesting churches and the occasional pub (or two). Here you will be able to quench your thirst and eat some glorious local food. Alternatively you can take to the rugged coastline with wildlife, rocks and views that will leave you with some marvellous holiday memories. Many people are like swallows returning to the same place year after year – there is something magical and enchanting about the coast here that is like a magnet – you will be drawn back to it not matter what.