THE PORTLAND BILL CHALLENGE WALK
About the walk and my early footsteps.
This day challenge walk is a little self indulgent, as you will be following some of my earliest footsteps. I was adopted and my adopted mother was born in Weymouth. We went annually to Weymouth and have vivid memories of the times we had there. Roller skating along the esplanade to the Clock Tower and to a roller skating rink closeby - now gone. Playing on the sands of Castle Cove. Walking along Chisel Beach and being told you could always know where you are because of the size of the pebbles. We often walked along traffic free roads to Portland Bill and its lighthouse. Frequently the lighthouse keepers allowed me to ascend to the light, once to set it going. Closeby was Pulpit Rock which I climbed frequently.
When I did my walk around the entire coast of Britain - 7,000 miles - in 1978, the South West Coast Path was not complete and not a National Trail, but I included the Isle of Portland on my walk. Seventy years later in August 2019, I went back to Weymouth to see and trace my early childhood. Whether the walking and exploration as a young boy created my love of the outdoors is questionable, for at the age 6 1/2 I knew what I wanted to do with my life! So I explored Weymouth, found the Clock Tower; my adopted mother’s family home; the beach at Castle Cove where I played on but no wooden boat, and walked around Portland Bill in gale-force winds seeing many people and beach huts. What a contrast to my early days - no cafe, no cars, no car park, but now hundreds of people!
So, this walk reunites me with many places associated with my childhood. It is a rugged walk around the cliffs of Portland, seeing many rock-climbers, who were not there many years ago. The naval boats in the harbour have long gone but the cliff edge cranes still remain. The views to Weymouth and Lulworth Cove remain the same, as does the sweeping view along Chisel Beach to Golden Cap. The prison on the east cliffs still remains.
So set off and enjoy a coastal walk around much Naval history, for Weymouth played a major part in the D Day landings. Little records those historic days but a monument close to Clock Tower records some of the selfless acts that our forces endured. The walk starts and ends at Clock Tower on the esplanade in Weymouth. You encircle Portland and retrace your steps back to the Clock Tower.
Enjoy the walk!
Revd. John N. Merrill