Smuggler's Path, White Nothe, Ringstead Bay - The 1st Attempt
White Nothe is an imposing chalk cliff that rises 160 m above the surrounding sea. It is a landmark that through the ages has been used as a navigational aid. None more so than for the passage of smuggling operations. The inaccessible slopes made it a haven for smuggling operations. A steep zigzag path runs from the top of White Nothe down to the sea which is the focus of this explore and brewing outdoor coffee.
I drove down the private toll road towards Ringstead Beach taking in the sea views littered with the giant Cruise Ships mooring in the bay before parking in the beach car park. Today's plan was to walk along Ringstead beach to the foot of White Nothe before ascending the Smuggler's path to the park and thereafter descending a different route returning to the beach.
Ringstead Beach with White Nothe in the background
For this trip I was battling the clock a bit, so imperiously strode off towards the beach - temporarily forgetting to pay for the car park. Having made good time, I remembered the car park fee and sharply turned on my heels. After paying the fee at the kiosk I set-off slightly more hesitantly, tapping my pockets nervously to check I hadn't forgotten anything critical. I struck out to the beach and headed eastwards towards White Nothe. The walk around Ringstead Bay passes Burning Cliff, the shale cliffs that periodically ignite and whom our seasonal blend is named after. With no sign of any flames, I continued along the beach towards the eastern end of the bay. This area is naturist beach but in this unseasonably cold May the beach lay desolate; probably visitors had migrated to sunnier climes. Fully clothed, I strode on. The beach abruptly transitions from shingle to white pebbles at the start of the White Nothe area. A not-for-the-feint-hearted ladder takes you 20 ft up from the beach onto the base of the Smuggler's path and it is here where my best laid plans started to unravel.
The ladder taking you to the base of the Smuggler's path patrolled by Hang Gliders
I hadn't actually done this walk for over a decade and wrongly presumed it would be easy to follow. The warning signs started not far from the top of the ladder when the path split off like Red Arrows spiralling in different directions. How many smuggler's were there and did they each have their own path?!
Following my rarely used for this type of activity instincts I took a path that resulted in taking me to a dead-end viewing point over the beach. Just as I was about to turn back the Mother of all shadows cast over me and I thought I was about to be plucked off the cliff top by a wandering Albatross. Without thought I flung both hands round my head, adopted the brace position and played dead only to find I hadn't been plucked off the cliff. Looking up, I saw a squadron of Hang Gliders riding the favourable onshore breeze as it rose up the headland. For one wonderful second, I wondered if they were a coastguard team before realising there were more reliable ways of patrolling the coast. However, this surveillance was an added pressure I didn't need. Luckily, they didn't seem to be that adept at hovering. I retraced my steps and charged onwards.
Unfortunately, the initial split in the path was nothing compared to the number of branches that followed. I decided to take a path that led to higher ground near a rocky outcrop that gave me a good vantage point towards White Nothe. The last zig-zagging section of the path to the top of White Nothe is clearly visible within the shorter grass. Annoyingly the section of undercliff between where I stood and the the bottom of the zig-zag looked lush and verdant with an absence of any obvious paths. After a bit of deliberation I descended down a feint path which took me to a gravel bed under a tree surrounded by brambles and thorns.
The joy of seeing the end in sight unravelled when the verdant undercliff hid any signs of the path
With my heavily-laden backpack causing my turning circle to be comparable with the QE2 - any dead-end proved problematic. I slowly circled underneath the tree bed, stooped over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, incorrectly convincing myself there must be a path leading out. Many turns later, I couldn't even see the way I had got here. Determined not to brew my outdoor coffee captive underneath the tree I steeled myself to find the way I came in. Following what I considered to be my own slightly new path I managed to retrace my steps up towards the rocky outcrop. Looking at the time I had eaten up and without a clear way to get to the Smuggler's path I decided to retrace my steps and make a slightly different destination to White Nothe beach to enjoy a coffee. Going back over the path and soaking up the views across towards Portland I could feel my energy levels rising. With a spring in my step, I descended like a mountain goat to the fork in the path which I knew was the one to take me to the beach. White Nothe beach is rarely visited due to the challenge accessing it and probably all the talk of smuggling. A nice feature is the turquoise waters in the shallows caused by the white pebbles and boulders at the bottom.
Finding a great spot perched on a boulder with a very handy plateau I began to brew up. I had packed our Katana speciality coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo as I had wanted a bright coffee full of vibrant fruit flavours on this fine afternoon. I had picked a stainless steel Kalita wave 155 to brew on for a number of different reasons:
- The Kalita is a pour-over method which makes for a clean cup and allows all of those tropical fruit flavours of the Katana coffee to shine.
- Being stainless steel it is a really robust brewer for travelling.
- Rather than water dripping through a single hole, the Kalita features a flat bottom with three small extraction holes. This eliminates any channeling but also means that it throttles the flow to an extent which is really helpful when brewing on uneven surfaces outdoors.
A delightful brew with a sweeping view
I brewed up with the sound of waves lightly crashing onto the foot of White Nothe. Despite a light onshore wind I could smell the delicious aroma of the coffee being brewed. The pointless circling of the bramble-enclosed tree a thankfully distant memory. I let the coffee cool in the coastal airs and lied back on the boulder, thinking of all the landings that must have happened at this beach in the smuggling days gone by. The smugglers landing on the beach, looking towards the summit and bracing themselves for carrying the contraband barrels and boxes up to the White Nothe top. Smugly, I lounged back, sipped my coffee and relaxed!
White Nothe Beach