South West Coast Path: Day 2

Swanage to Wool


This was a day. Yep, it sure was.

I had decided to take the ridge-top Purbeck Way inland from the coast, as I mentioned before, because I hadn’t been able to find accommodations closer to the coast path. I had to make my way up and over to Wool as a result, which is only maybe 15 miles by road, but noooo, I had to Choose Adventure™ and walk all the way there along winding hilltop paths and through muddy pastures  and past angry cows. My route wound up being something closer to 18 or 19 miles.

This doesn’t look so bad…

I left Swanage at 7:30am, heading back up toward yesterday’s ridge, and quickly got lost. After charming a lady at a campground shop with my accent and desperate joy at the sight of her vile Nescafé machine, I obtained directions and got lost again. By the time I had found the path and trudged halfway up a tall, steep hill, I noticed that the thorny bushes had stolen my favourite scarf somewhere along the way. Well, I wasn’t going back down for it. Onward, scarfless.

Mud and prickly bushes. Not pictured: My dang scarf.

This inland path offered gorgeous views of the valley below, and the light, ever-present autumn mist gave everything a romantically mysterious cast. My heart was light and my bladder full by the time I descended into Corfe Castle, a picturesque village named for the picturesquely-ruined castle that towers over it. I wish I could have stopped and explored, but £9 for admission was beyond my budget. Sighing, I turned away from the castle and followed a sign for the public WC. After searching for some time, I stopped a nice old lady and asked her where it was. She chuckled indulgently and told me to go back the way I’d come, telling me exactly where to turn and where to look. I thanked her, and followed her directions.


No toilets.

Corfe is not a big place at all. I wandered around in increasing distress for 20 minutes, carefully retracing my steps, verifying the exact angle of the sign’s arrow to make sure I was going the right way. The nice old lady was stopped in the street, chatting with a friend, this whole time. I swallowed my pride and interrupted her, trying to lend as much American twang to my voice as I could. She blinked a moment, unsure whether she was capable of laughing this off. Then she pointed at a spot maybe 20 feet from where we stood, with a clearly-marked WC on it.

To be fair, it was NOT AT ALL in the direction the sign had pointed.

Corfe Castle. Not pictured: the dang toilets.

Refreshed, I put a paper bag over my head and escaped that cursed village, rejoining the Purbeck Way, which led me through some fairly isolated pastures and past some quite grumpy cows. I’ll write about Cows and Other Hazards another time, but there was a lot of clambering over obstacles and singing gentle ‘please don’t trample me’ songs.


Just south of Wareham, maybe 5 miles east of Wool, I ran out of footpath and had to follow a road the rest of the way. Walking on pavement sucks and it hurts and it tires you out about twice as fast as the soft, forgiving ground. And you have to be ready to throw yourself into the bushes in an instant, because these are tiny country lanes and people love to speed recklessly through them. When I finally crawled into my B&B and saw the size of the bathtub, I could have cried.

I literally took a photo of a bathtub, so that I would never forget how happy it made me.

Here’s where things went wrong.

Freshly bathed, cradling a nice cup of tea, and sprawled on my enormous, soft bed, I thought, “Maybe I’ll go to the pub.” Sure, I ~wanted~ to go to bed right then and there, and going out would require all kinds of sacrifices such as taking my slippers off and putting clothes on, but I must Choose Adventure™, remember. What’s one drink? It would help me sleep. They would have food there.

I walked into the pub just as the entire population of Wool was starting to pour in, most of them rather eccentrically dressed. It was Oct. 30th, and I had stumbled upon the village Halloween party. There were decorations everywhere. There was a geriatric DJ setting up for the dance party and karaoke. I started chatting with some friendly locals, and when the lady at the bar asked whether I wanted a full pint or a half-pint of cider, I boldly requested the full pint. Then more full pints.

At some point later, I was dancing.

At some point yet later, I was karaokeing the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”.

At some point later still, I was back in my B&B, being violently and voluminously sick.


2 thoughts on “South West Coast Path: Day 2

  1. I could write a book on my experiences with looking for signs for toilets and then looking for the toilets that didn’t appear where the signs were pointing, that’s if I found the signs in the first place, then dealing with the toilets themselves. I might do it.


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