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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Walk 113 Swanage to Worth Matravers (Dorset)

 Walk  113 Swanage to Worth Matravers (Dorset)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 195
Distance: 12 miles or 18km approx.
Difficulty: quite challenging
Terrain: cliff paths, some road
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Difficult both ways. No 44 bus goes from Swanage to the village at 12:11 and 14:11, the latest return journey appears to be 12:43.Taxi to the village might be the best option.

Start the walk from the pier and go westwards out of Swanage. You will pass a couple of pillars of Purbeck stone on the land side of the road. The Dorset coast and countryside are the setting of Thomas Hardy’s novels. He stayed in Swanage in 1875 and the town is referred to as Knollsea in his novel, The Hand of Ethelberta.

Continue the walk to Pevril Point. From here there is a view back to Old Harry Rocks and another forward to Durlston Head. Near the coastguard building are underground tunnels which connect to disused gun emplacements. Peveril point is made from limestone does not erode easily compared to Dalston Bay which is clay and does.

The walk passes around Durlston Bay, and goes through the country park The whole of the area is known as The Isle of Purbeck and it was joined to the Isle of Wight about 50000 years ago.

The next main feature is the globe at Durlston Head, a nearby plaque shows that the head is 1491 feet above sea level. The Great Globe is made from 40 tons of Portland Stone. From this point, the first Dolphin Watch was set up in 1967 – bottle nosed dolphins are the most frequently seen species. Much of the Dorset coast is known as the Jurassic Coast and it was England’s first World Heritage Site.

Just before the Tilly Whim Caves is Freestone an old tourist attraction which is no longer open to the public because of a rock fall. It was used extensively in the Napoleonic Wars for fortifications, however, after 1815 there was little activity apart from smuggling. It was closed in 1976.

A bit further round are the Tilly Whim Caves. These were originally limestone quarries mainly worked during the 18th century. The name comes from a quarryman named Tilly and type of crane used then called a Whim. Skilled stonemasons worked much of the stone on site e.g. into sinks and troughs.

A short walk from the caves is Anvil Point. The lighthouse here is open to the public for most of the year. It was built in 1881 and was opened by Neville Chamberlain’s (the former prime minister) father who was Minister of Transport. It provides a way-marker for ships passing along the English Channel.

In about a couple of miles look out for the rocks of Dancing Ledge. It was called this because it was the same size as a ballroom floor and is a remnant of the Purbeck quarrying industry; it was last used in the 1930s. Stone from here was shipped to Ramsgate in Kent to build the harbour there. A swimming pool was once blasted into the rocks at Dancing Ledge for use by local preparatory schools. The cave at the eastern end houses some Great Horseshoe bats – an endangered species.

The walk continues along Seacombe Cliffs where there is further evidence of quarrying. Further along is Winspit which provides an interesting landscape of quarrying remains and World War 2 gun emplacements. The quarry closed in 1950 but it was used for a 1979 episode of Doctor Who.

The next main feature is St Adhelm’s or St Alban’s Head. Look out for the metal sculpture on the cliff top. This commemorates the radar research carried out at nearby Worth Martravers between 1940-42 – crucial to the war and modern telecommunications. The chapel on the Head is thought to date back to 1150 and is dedicated to the first Saxon bishop of Sherborne (in west Dorset). The square building has corners which point to the 4 main points of the compass. It is thought to have been a chantry where mass was said for sailors and it was also a beacon for shipping.

Continue the walk across Emmetts Hill, with views to Chapman’s Pool. Descend the steep steps and navigate into Worth Martravers. This is a picturesque village that dates from the 14th century and was the home of the wealthy Martravers family. Most of the current buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries. In 2004, local fishermen had their work sabotaged by The Lobster Liberation Group. The local pub, The Square and Compasses, has an annual stone carving competition marking the importance of quarrying to the area.    

Photos show: Worth Martravers; St Aldhelm's Chapel; Dancing Ledge; Tilly Whim Caves; The Great Globe; Winspit.

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