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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Walk 116 Lulworth Cove to Weymouth (Dorset)

 Walk  116 Lulworth Cove to Weymouth  (Dorset)

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

Map: L/R 194
Distance: 13 miles or 20 km.
Difficulty: moderate/quite challenging in parts
Terrain: mainly cliff paths
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Train and bus are possible to Lulworth but involve a train and a bus - bare bones service. Taxi best option. Good bus and train links from Weymouth to surrounding areas.

This walk features some of the most outstanding views on the English coast. It is worth popping into the Heritage Centre at Lulworth Cove to learn about the area’s geology. Follow the coast path westwards and up the steps to Dungy Head. The view back makes clear the horseshoe shape of Lulworth Cove. Forward are the outlines of Weymouth and Portland with the dramatic cliffs of St Oswald’s Bay in the foreground.

Next up is the iconic ‘Durdle Door’, an arch of limestone rock. A unique species of butterfly, The Lulworth Skipper, was discovered here in 1832. The walk continues up to Swyre Head, the highest point of the Purbeck Hills which form this part of the coast. (The area between Durdle Door and here is known as Scratchy Bottom!)

A little further along is Bats Head. There is a small gap near the point of the head and it is thought that erosion will eventually lead it to looking much like Durdle Door.

Continue along to White Nothe then Ringstead Bay – an area popular with divers. Burning Cliff, which overlooks the bay, is owned by The National Trust and is so called because in 1827 a peat fire, possibly started by lightning, burnt for six years.

A mile or so further along is the settlement of Osmington Mills. The mills were water mills which were used to grind corn. The Smugglers Inn, once the house of notorious smuggler, Emanuel Charles, dates back to the 13th century. John Constable came here in 1816 on his honeymoon and the views inspired his paintings of the Weymouth coast.

Continue along passing Black Head and an activity centre and on to Bowleaze Cove. This is a popular area for holiday makers with the Waterside Holiday Park an additional attraction. However, it is the long white building that sits above the village which is most impressive. This a grade 2 listed building designed in a Spanish Riviera style. It was owned by Pontins between 1950 and 1960 but was back as a hotel when I went there. The exotic sounding River Jordan exits on to the beach. Curiously, remains of elephants have been found in the area.

Continue along Furzy Cliff where there is a panoramic view of Weymouth and Portland. Descend on to the sea front where a piece of sculpted rock marks the recent building of sea defences. The entry promenade road into Weymouth has a row of colourful B&Bs/guest houses. Further along there is a mixture of Georgian and Victorian buildings. Look out for the pavilion jutting out on to the beach, this was built in 1960 to replace one destroyed by fire in 1954.

There are several things to look out for on the front. The ANZAC memorial (Australia and New Zealand) commemorates the troops from these countries who were stationed in Dorset and moved to fight in Palestine. The colourful clock tower commemorates the jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. The war memorial on the Esplanade features 3 events: 749 men killed off nearby Lyme Bay when they were attacked by torpedoes when training in 1944; also in this year 802 men died when their troopship sank in the channel; approx. 3000 American troops died after they left here for Omaha beach on D Day.

Further along is a full size replica of a bathing machine used by King George 111 during one of the 14 summers he spent here between 1789 and1805. On first arriving he was so impressed by the views that he exclaimed ‘I never enjoyed a sight so pleasing’. However, Queen Mary thought it a dull and stupid place!

Do not miss the impressive George 111 statue. Part of his cure, for what was then known as ‘the king’s madness’, (in fact a chemical imbalance in his body which damaged his nervous system) was to bathe in the sea water. The king’s visits helped to establish Weymouth as a popular resort and the statue was funded by ‘the grateful inhabitants’. The railway station is close to this area.

Photos show: Durdle Dor; Osmington Mills; Bowleaze Cove; View to Weymouth and Portland; George 111 statue in Weymouth. 

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