On the Purbeck Ridge

On the Purbeck Ridge
Looking west along the Purbeck ridge towards Flower’s Barrow hill fort with Portland in the distance

Whenever I walk the Purbeck Ridge, it takes me right back to my childhood. It stretches from coast to coast, from Ballard Point near Swanage to Flower’s Barrow above Tyneham village, some 20 Kms of awesome ridge walking if you walk it from end to end. I joined it on this day at the Creech viewpoint and walked through to Corfe Castle as part of a larger circular route.

On the Purbeck Ridge
Looking east along the Purbeck ridge towards Grange Arch and Corfe Castle

I say it takes me back to childhood because when I was young, we used to be ‘dragged along’ this ridge by my parents. In those days, I would walk it somewhat reluctantly whereas now I just love to be there. The thing was, we had no car so a day’s walking along this ridge started with a bus ride to Wareham and then a 10 Km walk along the road and up the steep Creech Hill to reach the start of our ridge walk at Creech viewpoint. We would then walk the length of the ridge before rounding Old Harry Rocks, dropping down into Studland and walking to South Haven Point to catch the ferry across the Poole Harbour entrance. There we would pick up another bus home. It was a long walk for a young lad!

Grange Arch
Grange Arch, a folly now in the hands of the National Trust

Part way along stands the Grange Arch. This folly was built in the 18th century by Dennis Bond, the then owner of Creech Grange which sits in the valley below. It was built as a feature that could be seen from his manor house and today it is in the hands of the National Trust. Standing in the shadow of the arch, you can look down upon the house through the gap deliberately left in the trees.

At Grange Arch
In the shadow of Grange Arch, looking down on Creech Grange

I did experience something on this day that I have never experienced in all the times I have done this walk, which must be thousands! A group of motorcyclists passed me and for a moment, I had thought they were breaking the law riding on a bridleway. However, when I checked later, I discovered that this track is actually a Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT) and not a bridle way so it is legal to ride motor vehicles along it. In any event, they were, shall I say ‘older’ motorcyclists and they were riding sedately.

On the Purbeck Ridge
Motorcyclists on the Purbeck ridge – a rare sight

The morning was absolutely spectacular with bright sunshine more reminiscent of spring than winter. The day was so clear and the views down both sides were just wonderful. The sheep certainly seemed to appreciate their surroundings 🙂 ! In the picture below, you can see the hills stretching into the distance ahead. I wasn’t intending to walk the complete length on this day.

On the Purbeck Ridge
The Purbeck ridge stretches out into the distance

I think it is the expansive openness that I love about these hills, as well as the lovely, grassy, ‘bare-foot’ path under foot – mind, it was too cold for bare foot walking on this day! Oh, and of course they are chalk so in wet seasons they drain fairly quickly. The hills are not high but they feel lofty, and normally the skylarks bring a beautiful accompaniment to the walk. Despite the weather, they weren’t singing on this day though……in fact, the brightness wasn’t to last. As I approached my turn off point at Corfe, heavy clouds came over, and this even more took me back to childhood days.

It was on just such a day when I was eight or nine and we reached this point when the heavens opened and we were caught in a torrential downpour! Now, back in those days, we had no lightweight waterproofs, in fact they didn’t exist. The only thing remotely like a lightweight waterproof was a Pac-a-Mac – does anyone remember those? They were awful, cheap, see-through plastic, full length raincoats with kind of rubber buttons and they ripped as soon as you caught them on anything. Anyway, we didn’t even have those. There was absolutely no shelter up there and I can clearly remember us trying to get out of the rain by crouching beside a haystack…..which did nothing! The upshot was that we got soaked through to the skin and had to go into a pub in Corfe just to dry off.

Now, I was walking in my school clothes – we had no walking gear at all and just walked in everyday clothes, including shoes. My school blazer was maroon in colour and when I took it off to dry out, my white shirt was a rather fetching shade of bright pink where the colour had run 🙂 !

Corfe Castle
Corfe Castle stands in a gap half way along the ridge

It is interesting to think back to those days, we had no rucksacks and I don’t remember carrying much water. I think we just took an ordinary shopping bag with one or two bits and pieces in. But we managed fine 🙂 ! My abiding memories from those days and from many walks along this ridge are getting caught in the rain that day, and the sound of the skylarks overhead on most of the walks. In my seventies, the sound of skylarks still takes me back to the freedom of childhood summer days on the Purbeck Hills. Happy memories!

On the day I walked it last week, it was equally wonderful even though it clouded over somewhat. I dropped down into Corfe and then turned south to head for the coast, but that’s another story.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my ramblings, and I hope you enjoy exploring with me.

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All words and pictures in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and may not be reproduced without permission.

4 Comments

    1. Ha ha, yes, I remember that, or in those days we would zig zag up the hills – you wouldn’t want to do that today! Somehow it feels like the wants of those days have become the ‘needs’ of today!

  1. Our poor sheep in New South Wales, descendants of those brought here by our ancestors, are no doubt craving the green grass of England. All they get these days is dusty ground, and feed that’s dropped in a long line by a tractor. I’m sure the drought will end one day. Your photos are so evocative, I can’t help but wonder why my great-grandfather left Dorset.

    1. Ah, thanks Trish. We see on the news how things are down there and it saddens me! Maybe your great grandfather was tired of the English weather 🙂 At least wet weather brings greenery though.

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