Walk - Langton Herring from Sea Barn & West Fleet Farms
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2022. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- Walkers from Bagwell Farm Touring Park join here. Walkers from West Fleet Holiday Farm join at 2. Walkers from Sea Barn Farm, turn left out of the farm and make your way up the drive, crossing Fleet Road to West Fleet Holiday Farm and join at 2.
- At West Fleet, turn right and walk past the Bar in the Barn, turning right onto the footpath beyond it, and then left to cross the stile into the field beyond. Turn left again and walk around the left-hand boundary of the field, past the farm, and turn right with it around the far end of the field, to the stile in the wall ahead of you once you've turned the corner.
- On the far side of the stile turn left, and walk down the edge of this field to the Coast Path at the bottom.
- Go through the gap in the wall and turn right to walk along the wall to the corner, where four paths meet.
- Turn left, carrying on along the Coast Path, signed to Abbotsbury, and follow it around the Fleet Lagoon, until you come to the track heading uphill towards the coastguard cottages.
The Fleet Lagoon formed after rising sea levels from the end of the last ice age 20,000-14,000 years ago washed up sediments from the seabed into what is now the 18-mile shingle barrier of Chesil Beach. (The beach derives its name from the old English ceosel, meaning gravel or shingle). The shingle ridge was driven landwards during this process and Chesil Beach started forming about 7000 years ago, reaching completion some 2000 years later. At that stage it was predominantly sandy, with layers of shell and coarser materials being washed up on top; but as the rising sea levels reached the cliffs of East Devon, the subsequent erosion produced much bigger boulders, which were washed onto the barrier ridge by longshore drift.
It has been estimated that something like 60 million cubic metres of gravel accumulated in this way, and it has been suggested that the beach is still on the move, shifting around 15cm eastwards every year from the Portland end, and travelling northwards at a slower rate from Abbotsbury.
John Fowles (whose novel 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' was set in nearby Lyme Regis) wrote of Chesil Bank: 'It is above all an elemental place, made of sea, shingle and sky, its dominant sound always that of waves on moving stone: from the great surf and pounding “grounds of seas” of sou’westers, to the delicate laps and back-gurgling of the rare dead calm…. '
Although the shingle ridge divides the Fleet Lagoon from the sea, there is still a narrow channel between the two at Portland Harbour, and seawater percolates through the material of the ridge. Meanwhile, freshwater is washed into the lagoon from the hills and fields on the landward side, resulting in an enormous body of water whose temperature and salinity (saltiness) vary tremendously from place to place. This has given rise to a wide variety of seaweeds (over 150 different species), which in turn provides food and shelter for a large number of molluscs and fish, attracting the great flocks of seabirds to be seen around the lagoon throughout the year. There are large numbers of swans and geese, as well as ducks, herons, egrets and gulls, and many other wildfowl. Land species include pheasant, partridge and quail, and look out overhead for birds of prey like buzzard, kestrel and annual migrants like red kite, harrier and hobby.
- Turn right onto this track, and follow it up past the cottages, carrying on uphill beyond them until the hill flattens out and you come to a stile in the wall on your right.
- Crossing this stile, walk diagonally across the field to the gate by the houses. Going through the gate, turn right onto the track running beside the houses and follow this into the village of Langton Herring.
- Follow the road around to the left, past the red-brick church, to the bridleway on your right.
Take time to explore the village, which has a range of interesting architecture including a number of listed buildings, and maybe pause for refreshment at the Elm Tree Inn. The sixteenth-century inn's features include a resident ghost, the mast of a ship once used by a mob to hang a local miscreant fisherman, and smugglers' tunnels connecting it to the nearby church.
Turn right onto this bridleway and stay with it past the farm and between the barns beyond, to carry on along the track going straight ahead when another heads to the left.
- Stay with this track as it heads through the next field, curving around with it and heading into the woodland on your right when you reach the end.
- Carry on along the track as it drops downhill through the woods, and when you get to the T-junction at the end, turn left.
- The track turns to a path which winds through the trees, eventually fetching up just short of the main road.
- Instead of going out onto the road take the public bridleway to your right, continuing along the verge beyond to arrive back at the entrance to Bagwell Farm. From here you then carry on down the drive, heading away from the main road to West Fleet Farm. For Sea Barn Farm, continue down the drive, cross Fleet Road and carry on. Sea Barn Farm is on your right.
The Victoria Inn at the start of the walk, or the Elm Tree Inn in Langton Herring, or in Weymouth.