Dorset Purbeck – Dorset
The rugged Purbeck shoreline is one of the wildest and most beautiful stretches on the south coast, punctuated by huge sea arches, limestone caves, and secluded coves with natural rock pools. In the waters around Poole, wildlife thrives and orchids bloom on the chalk downlands.
Much of this wonderful region has managed to remain relatively unscarred by development. To the west and south of Poole, one of Europe’s largest natural harbours, parts of the shoreline and the islands are wildlife havens, with three designated nature reserves. Inland, army firing ranges, although forcing the abandonment of hamlets such as Tyneham, have left large swathes of grassland untouched and rich in wild flowers and butterflies.
On a hot, sunny day, Stair Hole is an idyllic azure grotto with small caves and tunnels leading out to the ocean. For many, however, the greatest attraction along this coast is the ancient, gnarled archway of Durdle Door. Swim through this vast opening at dusk or dawn for a truly memorable experience. Along this coastline there is abundant evidence of quarrying, which was carried out during the 18th century to supply building stone for London’s Georgian squares. In some places, such as spectacular Winspit, excavations have left blue lagoons, while the slopes of the cliff-edge quarries are carpeted with wildflowers, and bats roost in the caverns. At Dancing Ledge, a large, quarried platform makes the perfect plunge pool.
As in other parts of Dorset, the local produce in this area is bountiful. Clavell’s Farm or the Bere Regis rural farm shop are both recommended for their delicious breads and cheeses. While exploring inland, stop by the river Frome for a swim and enjoy a picnic, then walk through wildflower meadows and take in the superb views from Durston or Corfe Common.
For the best underwater wildlife, don’t miss out on a trip to Kimmeridge Bay. The small beach has huge slate ledges with large rock pools that are rich in marine life, especially on spring tides when the bay can be empty of water during the afternoon. At higher tides, a unique snorkelling trail is in operation, and you can even collect a waterproof guide-sheet and route map from the visitor centre.