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Walk - Studland to Swanage

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Route Description

A spectacular walk that takes you from the village of Studland past the famous landmark of Old Harry – the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site - and on to Swanage. There are superb views over Poole Bay to Bournemouth and across the Solent to the matching cliffs of the Needles on the Isle of Wight. There are good opportunities for bird and butterfly watching and a rich variety of wild flowers in spring and summer.

  1. Walk past the Bankes Arms, the name of which acts as a reminder that much of the area was part of the Kingston Lacey and Corfe Castle estate – left to the National Trust by Ralph Bankes in 1982. Take the path on the left (signed with a Dorset ‘tombstone’ Coast Path sign) when you reach the public toilets.

The Bankes Arms pub, the name of which acts as a reminder that much of the area, was part of the Kingston Lacey and Corfe Castle estate – left to the National Trust by Ralph Bankes in 1982.

The route now takes you along the coast through fields that the Trust has returned to pasture after years of cultivation. The underlying chalk provides the right conditions for many of our most attractive wild flowers – these now carpet the ground throughout the spring and summer and attract plenty of butterflies. Some are migrants which have reached the south coast from the continent – look out especially for red admirals, painted ladies and clouded yellows.

Contrast the open grassland with two small woods – Warren Wood close to Studland and Studland Wood just before Handfast Point. These are both traditionally managed hazel coppice, sections of which are cut down to ground level every few years. The harvested poles can be used for fencing and hurdles, while the combination of open and shaded areas makes for a healthy ground cover of woodland flowers including wild garlic.

Looking back towards Studland you will see the impressive sweep of Studland Bay leading up to the busy entrance of Poole Harbour.

At Handfast Point you can look across to the Isle of Wight and contemplate the fact that the two were once joined by a continuous ridge of chalk. This was breached by the sea as sea levels changed during the last Ice Age. Old Harry and the other offshore stacks here are evidence of the continuing processes of coastal erosion. These striking chalk stacks and natural arches were created by wave erosion. The sea eroded weaker spots in the chalk to form arches which gradually get bigger until they eventually collapse and leave a seaward pillar as an isolated stack. They were once part of the chalk ridge which led right out to the Isle of Wight. Old Harry is the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

The 200 cliffs are home to many seabirds – the largest cormorant colony in Dorset, fulmars and the great black-backed gull can be seen all year. You may also glimpse a peregrine falcon, and in summer, house martins nest on the cliffs.

The high-level route continues from Handfast Point and the much-photographed rocks of Old Harry.

The path leads out to Ballard Down. Keep a look out for nesting seabirds and the beautiful Chalkhill Blue and Adonis Blue butterflies enjoying the chalk-loving plants of Ballard Down.

  1. Follow the South West Coast Path as it descends towards Swanage.
  2. Except at very high tides or in severe weather, it is possible to walk along the narrow promenade, from the sea front road. It is reached by going down in a little valley some rough steps. After about 200 yards/185m along the beach turn up to re-join the official route on a grassed area on the cliff edge
  3. Continue forward into the chalet estate. Turn into Ballard Way and continue until at a shop and post-box turn sharp left onto Redcliffe Road. Continue ahead as the road becomes Ulwell Road.
  4. The Coast Path passes along the town’s sea front into town.

The small seaside town of Swanage was once an important quarrying port, as well as a popular destination for tourists. It continues to attract many visitors. It is home to Britain’s oldest diving school, an attractive Victorian Pier, and the Wellington Clock Tower. Up until 1867, the Clock Tower had stood at the southern end of London Bridge.

Public transport

A frequent bus service (Bus 50) from Poole to Swanage stops in Studland Village. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.


Old Harry Rocks, Dorset Photographer Chris Parker (2013 Photo Competition entry)

Old Harry Rocks, Dorset Photographer Chris Parker (2013 Photo Competition entry)

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