Thursday, 14 July 2016

Hiking the Dorset SWCP: Part 1

The SWCP, or South West Coastal Path stretches from Poole Harbour in Dorset to Minehead in Somerset, taking in 630 miles of coastline on England's glorious south western peninsula.

It's quite a thing to behold, and I'm pleased to say that as part of our training for hiking Peru's Inca Trail, we set out to walk the miles of Dorset coast using the SWCP.

Here is a guide to how to conquer such a feat, and a few tips, including pub stops along the way. Part 1 will cover Poole to Weymouth, and Part 2 covers Weymouth to Lyme Regis. There's a few hops, skips and jumps to join up the path, but as you'll be doubling back on occasions, we wont worry too much about that.

As for getting about, a car is helpful, but also the Purbeck Breezers for transport on Purbeck in the summer months.

Shell Bay to Studland 

Assuming you've taken in the 7 miles of golden sands and promenade of Bournemouth and Poole beaches, start this 'out and back' walk at Studland. Leave the car in Sandbanks and hop on the chain ferry, then follow the sand all the way to Middle beach. Stop for a much needed cup of tea and slice of cake at one of the cafe's before heading back, and keep a weather eye for nudists!

See the Shell Bay to Studland route now on MayMyRun.

Top Tip: This walk is almost all on sand at beach level, so bring a towel for a refreshing dip at the end.
Pub Stop: Knoll Beach Cafe
Distance: 5 miles Start/End: Shell Bay
Gain: 52ft

Swanage to Studland

After exploring the seaside town of Swanage, head left along the beach until you find the wooden steps. From here, you climb up the hill and are treated to stunning views of the bay. Follow the path as it crests and you will see Bournemouth and Poole Harbour in the distance. At Old Harry Rock, follow the path to the left all the way to the Banks Arms, where you'll find local beers and fish and chips waiting on the large garden. If you can tear yourself away from the lovely garden, it's a short walk to the main road and bus stop where you can hop on the 40 bus back to Swanage.

See the Swanage to Studland route on MapMyRun.

Top Tip: Start with tea and cake from the tea room in the carriage of an old train at Swanage station.
Pub Stop: The Banks Arms
Distance: 4 miles Start: Swanage, End: Studland
Gain: 200ft

Swanage to Winspit

From Swanage, head right along the quay and up the hill. Follow signs to Durlston through a residential area and woodland to the welcome centre. Here the SWCP picks up and follows the coast all the way past Dancing Ledge to Winspit, a disused quarry. There's a few steep climbs with steps, but poles shouldnt be needed.

From Winspit follow the path up to Worth Matravers, stopping at the Square and Compass for some live music and local cider, then take the road through Langton Matravers to Swanage.

See the Swanage to Winspit route now on MapMyRun.

Top Tip: Make the most of the photo opportunities at the Durlston Globe and Winspit Quarry
Pub Stop: The Square and Compass
Distance: 11.6 miles Start/End: Swanage
Gain: 900ft

Chapmans Pool to Kimmeridge

Start your walk from Kingston village or Houns Tout car park. Head down South Street and through the sheep fields towards Chapmans Pool, but turn right off the track at the sty. Cross the fields to pick up the path and find the famous steps out of Chapmans Pool. Once out, follow the path up and down (and back up again) until you reach Clavell Tower and the path dips into Kimmeridge Bay.

Head out of the bay towards the village, stopping at the Clavell Arms for a comfort break before continuing past Seabcombe House and through the farm. Cut through the fields back to the path you were on earlier and follow the route back, turning left at the top of Houns Tout to catch the path back to Kingston, and hopefully a plate full of jerk chicken!

See the Chapmans Pool to Kimmeridge route now on MapMyRun.

Top Tip: Things start to get hilly and there's a lot of stinging nettles, walking poles and doc leaves recommended.
Pub Stop: The Scott Arms and Clavell Cafe
Distance: 11 miles Start/End Kingston Village
Gain: 1250ft

Tyneham to Lulworth

Park and leave a donation at Tyneham before either heading south to Worbarrow Tout (for the views) or east to the mouth of Worbarrow Bay. From here it's a steep climb out of the bay to Flowers Barrow before you dip into the tank graveyard. Watch you footing and heed the warnings, this is a military training zone. Follow the path over a few more climbs before winding down to Lulworth Cove. After freshening up, head left along the beach and climb out of the cove through Fossil Forest and pick up the path back to Tyneham.

See the Tyneham to Lulworth route now on MapMyRun.

Top Tip: Check the Lulworth ranges are open before setting off and make time to explore the abandoned village of Tyneham.
Pub Stop: Lulworth Cove Inn
Distance: 11.4 miles Start/End: Tyneham Village
Gain: 1812ft

Lulworth to Preston

Park at Lulworth and take the path over the ridge towards Durdle Door. After taking some pictures, follow the path keeping Portland in view. As you near Ringstead Beach you'll see signs for the White Nothe and then the path becomes a lot flatter, eventually dropping into the beer garden of the Smugglers Inn.

From here, you can continue to Preston, or Weymouth, or head up the road to catch the 30 bus back to Lulworth Cove.

See the Lulworth to Preston route now on MapMyRun.

Top Tip: Stop to admire Durdle Door and Man o' War beach.
Pub Stop: The Smugglers Inn
Distance: 7.1 miles Start: Lulworth, End: Osmington Mills or Preston
Gain: 900ft

Happy Trails!