For several weeks I had been feeling the call to be in Hardy’s Wessex and this delightful circular walk from Fleet to Langton Herring and back alongside the tidal lagoon was an apt reminder of what I had been so deeply missing.
I have lost count of the times I have visited Dorset and can’t believe that I have never walked alongside the Fleet. Many years ago I traversed the South West Coastal Path in the area but upon reaching Abbotsbury took an inland route up to Portesham and around and down into Weymouth. This in itself was a superb downland walk but I had been missing another joy.
Leaving the “new” Church Holy Trinity in Fleet (the old Church having been mostly demolished by a great storm in November 1824) a short climb up the lane took us to a junction of footpaths by Sea Barn Farm. We turned right along a gravel track and then briefly walked alongside the B3157 before beginning what was to be a beautiful walk. The track followed a tinkling stream down a wooded valley, alive with birdsong and the hopeful yellow of celandines and primroses.
It wasn’t long until coats were discarded and we marvelled at the unseasonably hot weather. After a long climb out of the woods we were rewarded with our first glimpse of the Fleet.
The Lagoon is almost eight miles long, starting from Portland Harbour at Ferrybridge and becoming less tidal and less salty towards Abbotsbury. The name ‘Fleet’ comes from the Saxon word ‘floet’ which describes a tidal inlet between the present-day Fleet village and Chesil Beach, probably from around 547AD. It is said that the old sailors (and pirates) could tell how far they were along the coast by the size of the pebbles alongside Chesil Beach.
We soon reached the beautiful village of Langton Herring – time for a rest. I wonder how many times over the years I have been thankful for the benches in churchyards on which to rest my feet as I open my Thermos Flask.
Thank you St Peter’s Church. Upon leaving the village I heard a local resident chatting over her garden fence to a neighbour saying that today was the first time she had let her “girls” out to enjoy the sunshine this year.
We now doubled-back on ourselves and happy with my normal walking direction of “sea on the right” we proceeded along the Coastal Path. There was barely a soul about and the feeling of peacefulness and stillness is something I really only find by the sea. Swans, little egrets and over-wintering birds could be seen on the lagoon. The song of a skylark filled the air. The sun, low in the sky made the tops of the waves look like little silver tinsel sparkles. Serenity.
I lingered and lingered. T trudged on ahead of me walking at normal pace, but I did not really want to leave the area. Only the Welsh have a word for it – Hiraeth. It is the feeling I have when I am not by the sea, in the wooded valleys, or up on the Dorset downlands. How blessed to be visiting again and feel at home.
Eventually we took a left turn up into the small hamlet of Fleet and past the remains of the old Church – the sunshine fading and temperature quickly dropping.
Only a short walk – 4 and 3/4 miles . Super for an afternoon. Full route details here: OS Map – Landranger 194.