Where Dorset Meets Devon

There is a path all the way along the cliffs — over West Cliff, down again to Eype mouth, round Thorncombe Beacon, among the tumuli, over Dog-house Hill and Ridge Cliff — from West Bay to Seatown. It is a fine bracing tramp, but if you are game for more the real climb is yet to come. Giant Golden Cap looms ahead, six hundred feet high, and you will lose the path before you get to the top.

For the path is not so brave as you. Half way up the slope it slinks inland and joins a lane which goes behind the Titan's back, between him and his neighbour Langdon Hill. This also is a pleasant road to follow, and a solitary. If when you get to the crossroads you keep the westward way, you will get to tiny Upcot and thence, if you like, back to the coast near the summit of Cain's Folly. If you turn northward you will come to Morecombelake. In either case you will be skirting the unkempt Chardown Hill. So you will if from Morecombelake you follow the old track, instead of the nice new road, to Charmouth and Lyme. Not only will you skirt Chardown, but you will go sheer over Stonebarrow Hill and get a splendid view. For the land will drop, drop from your feet right down to the Char, and you will be able to follow its course up the Marshwood Valley.

But these are hypotheses ; it is with the great fact of Golden Cap that I am concerned. Well, as I was saying, I lost the path. So I scrambled straight upwards till I reached the top. There I rested and looked round. On either side the edge of the land rose and fell, first the grey face of a cliff, then a green dip with a town in it, as is the fashion all along this coast. Portland Island bounded my view on the east, Beer Head (I think) on the west. Inland I seemed to be looking over half a county, where all the greens of the world were gathered for review. Just at my feet lay St. Gabriel's farm, and near by, forlorn in the corner of a field, the shards of the old church.

It is a lonely parish, Stanton St. Gabriel. Its thousand acres hold but fifty souls. On its seaward edge, one might be in a deserted land, alone with rabbits and crows.

That is to say, as far as the sight of humanity goes.

Between Seatown and Charmouth I do not think that I saw a man. But there must be few places in England where one is for long out of hearing of civilisation. Sometimes, when one is alone in a wide country, one hears far off the voices of men, sometimes bells ringing, and always the distant barking of dogs. But these sounds only intensify the sense of loneliness.

It is rough going, the descent from Golden Cap along the Wear Cliffs. At one point I found myself in a deep gully which, in bad weather, would probably carry a brave torrent, and had to scramble up the wet clay slope on the other side. Such incidents delayed my progress, and the sun was already sinking behind Lyme. Cain's Folly still lay between me and Charmouth, holding I knew not what terrors. So the next time these inhospitable cliffs showed an inclination to deposit me on the beach I took them at their word, and made the rest of my heavy way to Charmouth through the shingle. As a matter of fact, if I had only persevered up Cain's Folly I should have found a path. But I did not know that.

It was quite dark by the time I reached Charmouth, but the rest of my journey was on a good road, and soon the sprinkled lights of Lyme became my visible encouragement.

Extracted from Where Dorset Meets Devon (1911) Francis Bickley