We spent the weekend in on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, there with some friends on what appears to be becoming an annual event, where we all travel to the same place and go on a walk together. The morning after the walk, after the goodbyes and the settling of the question of who would organise next year’s trip, we went to Lulworth Cove for a few hours. This is a perfect Dorset tourist honeypot – very adequate parking, several tearooms, a fish and chip takeaway, at least two fudge shops, a small museum, and a large partly-hewn rock, unveiled by Prince Charles in 2002, engraved with the declaration that the cove had achieved World Heritage status.
People were everywhere. Cars queued to come in and queued to leave. From Lulworth there is a well maintained path that curves over the back of a hill towards Durdle Dor. This path was also strewn with fairweather hikers (an accurate description of my presence too). On the other side of the hill the space opens up a little, the people a bit more scattered, the possibility of solitude a bit more viable.
My father maintains a straight forward theory: if you are willing to walk a little distance you can always escape the crowds. I have found this is invariably true. Of course, you have to be of the point of view that escaping the crowds is ultimately beneficial, otherwise why would you bother? The benefits amount to experiencing a place in silence, free of human chaos, as nature intended, you might say. It is strange that the purer experience is considered the one you have in solitude, and I have often wondered if there is an inherent truth to this, something like an original connection with landscape that is void if modern paraphernalia, or if it is purely conditioned by culture, perhaps born out of the nature lover’s predjudice against the aggressive footprint of mankind. Or does it have some deeper history, of men in biblical times going into the desert for an extended period of wandering?
Either way, we sought out the quietude of a long shale beach which as I remember is called St Oswalds Bay. Here the sea waters are shallow, and a natural barrier of rocks that sits about fifty metres from the shore makes the water tranquil. When the sun came out the colours of the water turned such a subtle range of cloudy pale blues and turquoises that I sat for quite some time on a rock and just gazed. I can hardly remember seeing anything quite so beautiful as those circulating blues.