Distance – 4 miles
Grade – Easy/moderate – one steep climb up to the top of Ballard Down.
Description – A scenic walk starting and finishing in the delightful village of Studland, with amazing coastal views, including the famous Old Harry Rocks.
Parking – National Trust car park, Manor Road
Notes – 1) Studland can be very busy in the summer months. 2) Please do take care along the clifftops and keep dogs on a lead (at Old Harry, the gap between the mainland and the remote stacks is named ‘St Lucas’ Leap’ after a greyhound fell from that point whilst chasing a rabbit).
Refreshments – The Bankes Arms, Joe’s Cafe South Beach (seasonal), Manor Farm Tea Rooms (seasonal), The Pig – on the beach.
Route Description – From the car park entrance, take the track immediately on the left that crosses to the church (A) At the church, take the path left to reach Church Road, and then follow this road to its junction with School Lane. At this point, you will see Manor Farm straight ahead of you – take the narrow road that passes in front of the farm and climb the hill to the Glebeland Estate, once a WW2 army camp but now private houses. Continue along the same road until you reach the topmost part of the estate where the road turns sharply to the right. At this corner, go through the gate on the left and follow the track that climbs diagonally up the sides of Ballard Down to reach the top of the hill at the Rest-and-be-Thankful stone seat (B).
At the ridge top, turn left and follow the track along the ridge in an easterly direction as it drops gently down towards Ballard Point. Along this part of the walk, there are amazing views to the south over Swanage Bay, and to the north over Studland and Poole Harbour. When you reach the trig point, bear slightly to the right and go through the gate onto a track that continues to drop down to the point – keep the fence on your left. When this track reaches the point, it takes a left turn to continue to drop in a northerly direction. When the fence ends, continue to follow the cliff edge path all the way down to Old Harry Rocks (C).
At Old Harry, the path again takes a sharp turn to head west, continuing to follow the coast path along the clifftop all the way back to Studland. When you reach the road by the public toilets, turn right and climb the short hill back to the start.
Points of Interest –
(A) St Nicholas’ Church – the church is well worth a visit as it is one of the most complete Norman churches in the county, dating from the 11th century when it was built on the site of an earlier Saxon church.
(B) Rest-and-be-Thankful – this lovely, old, and broken, stone seat was erected in 1852. Most of the inscriptions are now illegible but it is still a great place to sit and rest after the steep climb. The views from here take in Swanage on one side and Studland and Poole Harbour on the other, making the climb up worth the effort. In the summer these chalk hills are alive with the sound of skylarks, and the blue of chalk associated butterflies.
(C) Old Harry Rocks – this iconic Dorset landmark is a popular spot, especially in summer. The chalk stacks were once part of a continuing ridge that stretched all the way across to The Needles on the Isle of Wight. Erosion has taken its toll over many centuries but, although Harry’s wife crumbled into the sea some years ago, Old Harry himself continues to stand.
Blog Posts for further information –
This is a walk that definitely needs to be savoured in order to take in all that it offers. And at the end of it, on a winter’s day enjoy sitting by a log fire in the Bankes Arms, or in summer, sitting in the beer garden with views across the coast.
Until next time,
The Dorset Rambler
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