– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –
For the fifth ‘Hill with a View’ this week, we are coming back to the Purbecks, in fact to the highest point in the Purbecks, and some fabulous views to go with it. Today, we feature Swyre Head……but have a care, there are two!
Swyre Head stands at 208 meters (682 feet) above sea level at its highest point, and its highest point is on the top of the Bronze Age bowl barrow that sits atop it. This barrow is some 25 meters in diameter and has been modified to flatten the top. A large square stone slab surmounts this suggesting that it was once used as a windmill mound. It is thought that these modifications might have been made by Lord Eldon who owned Encombe House in the valley below back in the 19th century.
Swyre Head stands some half a mile inland of the coast path, not far from the village of Kingston. There is a second headland bearing the same name 11 miles to the west. In the picture above, our Swyre Head is the headland to the right which slopes steeply down to the cliff top.
The views from this hill are just fantastic, stretching to Kimmeridge Bay and beyond that to Mupe Bay in the west. To the east, there are equally spectacular views across the Encombe valley to St Aldhelm’s Head. This beautiful bowl shaped valley with its old manor house sitting at the bottom was once owned by Lord Eldon and changed hands just a few years ago for a sum nearing £25M.
One of the strange things about Swyre Head is that it was once a Marilyn (a hill with a prominence of at least 150 meters), having been promoted in 1999, but it was demoted again from that list in June 2015. Clearly the hill hasn’t changed so I can only assume that more modern measuring techniques have changed its perceived prominence, which is now quoted as 148.3 meters. The headland is therefore now a Sub-Marilyn, a category of hills aimed at those falling just below Marilyn status. It is of course also a HuMP and a TuMP!
Whilst we are on the subject of hill classifications incidentally, we have this week only covered a fraction of the categories that exist. In the UK there are Munros, Murdos, Corbetts, Grahams, Donalds, Furths, Hewitts, Nuttalls, Wainwrights, Birketts, Marilyns, Simms, Deweys, Hardys, HuMPs, TuMPs, Sub-Marilyns, Sub-HuMPs, etc etc….. The list goes on! I said at the beginning of the week that it was complicated 🙂 !
Walking west from Swyre Head brings you to a gate bearing the name ‘Heaven’s Gate’. As you stand on this headland on a beautiful day such as this, with those views, and with the sound of skylarks singing and sheep bleating, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were indeed in heaven. It seems appropriate to end this week’s theme on this point.
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