Saturday, 19 February 2011

ENGLAND – The Isle of Purbeck

The Isle of Purbeck – Four Days of Walking on the Jurassic Coast

Having seen something of Europe, it occurred to me that I had not seen very much of my own country. A caravan would lend itself to visiting some of the more rural places so while we purchased a cheap but cheerful 1991 two berth caravan and made it homely. It would see quite a lot of use up and down England during 2006. I kept a handwritten diary of our most of our travels during this time and the more interesting trips are reproduced here.

Day 1 ~ 18/04/2006 ~ Swyre Head & Kimmeridge
Only an hour and a half from home, we arrived at Swalland Farm, Kimmeridge, a working farm with a small field for a few caravans. With only a tap on site, we were totally dependent on the caravan. It did offer an amazing view of the sea, with Swyre Head rising steeply behind us as a backdrop.

Once set up for our stay, we set off on our first walk, a six to seven mile walk, starting with a climb to the top of Swyre Head. This was the first of many steep climbs and the view from the top was worth the effort, offering glimpses of Corfe Castle, Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island, the sea and cliffs. We followed the ridge path, eventually dropping down into Kimmeridge, a pleasant small village that we both agreed we could live in. Once down to the bay, we climbed the cliff path, passing Clavell Tower and following the coast path to Rope Lake Head where the foot path led back to the caravan. In the evening we found that both the television and radio had packed up – so we would spend a lot of time reading this trip!

Day 2 ~ 19/04/2006 ~ Tyneham Village to Lulworth Cove
Tyneham is an abandoned village, or rather was seized by the Ministry of Defence during the Second World War. It lies within the Purbeck firing ranges and the residents were forced to leave on a ‘temporary basis’. Sixty years later, the village is still in MOD hands. This day of walking was to be the longest and most difficult of the trip. It was also very foggy so we could hardly see anything. The route took us in a loop from Tyneham back to Kimmeridge, before climbing again to Tyneham, then down to Worbarrow Bat where we stopped for lunch. We then climbed the almost vertical path to Flowers Barrow, before descending again to Arish Mell, a small cove, passing abandoned and rusting tanks, used for target practice. Another steep climb and descent into Mupe Bay followed, leading us along the Jurassic Coast to Lulworth Cove. Another impossibly steep climb up to Bindon Hill was next. The ridge path took us back to Arish Mell where we were to make one our final steep ascent at Flowers Barrow. The ridge path continued all the way back to Tyneham. We explored the remains of the village, heavily shelled except for the small school house and church. This was an exhausting eleven miles.

In the evening, we dined at The New Inn at Church Knowle. We enjoyed a fantastic Poachers Pie and will definitely visit again.

Day 3 ~ 20/04/2006 ~ Corfe Castle & Old Harry

This would be a day of rest, taking in the remains of Corfe Castle, a thousand year old castle, laid to ruins in 1646 during the civil war.

We continued to Studland Bay where we took a short walk of two and a half miles, to Old Harry and back, following the coast path and the Purbeck Way across Ballard Down. We had lunch in The Bankers Arms pub. We then took the scenic route back, stopping for a pint at Kingston at the Scott Arms. With many hours of daylight left, we decided to visit Lulworth Cove again. The cove was very pretty and definitely somewhere to visit by sea, but we endured a downpour. This part of coast demonstrates why it is of such geological importance, with rock formations, twisted arches of strata and Stair Hole, worn through by the sea over millennia.

Day 4 ~ 21/04/2006 ~ Durdle Door
On our last day, we would complete a seven mile loop from Lulworth Cove, heading west by inland footpaths as far as West Bottom and back along the coast path. We had obviously adjusted to the steep climbs because this route seemed much easier despite the steep gradients involved. At a height of 169 metres, we were reminded how close France is to this area – as our mobile phones picked up French networks.

The coast path took in a series of small bays; West Bottom, Middle Bottom then up to Bat’s Head. This cliff top offered views of The Cow and Calf rocks and the small Bat’s Hole, a small soft spot in the headland where the sea has driven a tunnel through.

A little while later, Durdle Door came into view. We paused for a coffee while admiring one of the most remarkable coastal features in the country. Twenty minutes later, the loop was completed. After lunch, we hitched up for the drive home. Four days in the Isle of Purbeck complete immerses you in the wilderness feel of the area.

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