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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Walk 114 Worth Matravers to Kimmeridge Bay (Dorset)

 Walk  114 Worth Matravers to Kimmeridge Bay  (Dorset)

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

Map: L/R 195
Distance: 8 miles or 12 km.
Difficulty: very challenging especially if muddy
Terrain: cliff paths
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Very difficult. No 44 bus goes from Swanage to Worth at 12:11 and 14:11, the latest return journey appears to be 12:43. There appear to be no options for Kimmeridge. Taxi the only other option.

Follow the roads and tracks out of Worth Martravers and take the path westwards towards Houns-Tout Cliff. The steps up to the cliff top here must be one of the longest and steepest straight climbs on the coast anywhere in England. There is a good view back to St Aldhelm’s or St Alban’s Head. This stretch can get very muddy and needs great care if it is. I fell into the mire three times! Although a relatively short walk allow good time to complete it.

Continue walking to Egmont Point where there is a view of Swyre Head - an old Saxon Barrow. Kimmeridge Ledges provide interesting rock formations – the area is popular with geologists and surfers.

Clavell Tower is to the east of Kimmeridge Bay. This was built in 1831 by the Rev. John Clavell as  an observatory and folly. By 2005 erosion meant that the tower was very near the cliff edge so it was dismantled and rebuilt further back by The Landmark Trust. The writer Thomas Hardy courted one of his early loves, Eliza Bright, here and used the tower as a frontispiece for his Wessex Poems. The building also inspired the novelist P D James when writing her novel The Black Tower.

Continue round and down the steps where there is a good view of Kimmeridge Bay and beyond. The cliffs are famous for the fossils found in the alternate layers of limestone and clay. This is a very popular location with educational groups of all ages. In the past locals used to gather bituminous shale from the shore for extra fuel in winter. Reportedly, “Kimmeridge Coal” has an acrid and pungent smell when burnt.

Look out for the wild cabbage that grows here, it is the ancestor of modern cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Unusually, due to its position, Kimmeridge Bay has two low tides each day.

Photos show: Looking eastwards near Chapman's Pool; Swyre Head; the path near Kimmeridge Ledges; Clavell Tower; Kimmeridge Bay.

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