Walk - Graston Copse - Hive Beach

Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2021. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.

Route Description

  1. From Graston Copse Reception walk down through the park to the bottom field and turn right, walking inside the railings to pick up the footpath through the field beyond. Take the footpath to the left of the road and follow it past Burton Mill to Grove Road.
  2. Carry on along the road, turning left onto Darby Lane and left again onto Church Street to take the path alongside the stream to the footbridge. Crossing the stream, take the footpath to the right and head across the field to come out beside the toilets and onto the main road beyond.

Note the cliff behind the garage opposite. The golden rock is a type of sandstone known as Bridport Sands, formed at the front of a giant delta, and despite its vivid golden appearance its natural colour is blue-grey, which was changed by oxidation on contact with air.

  1. Cross the road, turning right and then almost immediately left, after the garage, to take the footpath up the steps to the left a moment later. Walk ahead a short distance and then bear slightly right across the field, towards the right-hand houses, to come out on Beach Road.

On the hill opposite, beyond the car park, is a bowl barrow known as Bind Barrow, dating back to the Late Neolithic (Stone Age) or Bronze Age, between 2500 BC and 701 BC. It was damaged by military activity during the Second World War, leaving an area of concrete on the top, and there is a wartime gun emplacement and pill box nearby.

Lyme Bay was Hitler's target invasion zone, with Bridport and Hive Beach identified as the ideal landing spot for his 1940 Operation Sealion invasion plan. The whole stretch of coastline from Bridport to Portland became the UK's 'Stop Line' against invading forces, and there are many lookouts, gun emplacements and pill boxes on the slopes between the coast and the high ridges behind.
Later in the war, when the Allies were planning a raid on Dieppe, soldiers took part in exercises near Bridport, with Burton Bradstock the main focus. British Commandos and US Rangers used the cliffs between Hive Beach and Freshwater to train for the cliff climbing necessary to silence the guns stationed at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy.

In Burton Bradstock village there is a seat, dated 1994, marking the 50th anniversary of D-Day and recalling the US Troops billeted in the village.

On Beach Road turn right and walk down to the beach.

Burton Cliff is a dramatic tower of Bridport Sands that looks as though it belongs in a desert landscape. The sandstone is broken down into horizontal strata, or layers, which were formed as sand was deposited at the bottom of the sea during the Lower Jurassic period, about 175 million years ago. Some of the strata are harder than the ones between them, making them more resistant to erosion, or weathering, so that they stand out on the cliff face. There is more calcium carbonate in these bands, acting as a cement, and it is thought that this was as a result of stormy seas washing in more organic material, such as seashells.

At the top of the cliffs, and elsewhere on the beach, there is a layer of younger oolitic limestone. Oolitic limestones form in shallow sand banks and they are composed of tiny round structures like pearls, known as ooliths. These started out as grains of sand or fragments of seashell, and as they rolled around in the sea they became coated in calcium carbonate. There are chunks of this limestone on the beach, where they have fallen from the cliffs, and like the rest of the local coastline they are rich in fossils ammonites, shellfish and sponges.

Because of the danger of rockfalls, keep clear of the cliffs. Another hazard is the sea, which shelves steeply and has a strong undertow, so don't be tempted in. Dogs are not permitted on the beach between June and September inclusive.

  1. Coming back up from the beach, with your back to the sea turn left onto the South West Coast Path, towards Freshwater and West Bay, and follow it above Burton Cliff, ignoring both the road to the right, and the footpath to the right a short distance beyond (unless you want a shortcut back to Burton Bradstock).

The calcium-rich high cliffs give rise to an area of maritime grassland, providing a good habitat for wildlife, and clumps of pink-headed thrift grow in abundance along the cliff-edge, as well as mallow plants with their much larger pink and purple blooms. Many other plants flourish here, including the yellow-flowered bird's-foot trefoil, pink pyramidal orchids and aromatic wild thyme. The flowers attract insects, such as grasshoppers and the wonderfully-named green tiger beetles and bloody-nosed beetles. Butterflies found here include common blues and wall browns, as well as the Lulworth skipper, and nationally endangered miner bees and wasps burrow in the soft soil towards Freshwater.

Look out for herring gulls, fulmars and peregrine falcons nesting on the cliff ledges, and in the summer keep an eye open for dolphins swimming offshore.
At Freshwater, follow the South West Coast Path inland as it heads to a footbridge over a stream.

The spectacularly sculpted banks of shingle on the beach at Freshwater are the result of careful work carried out by the Environment Agency to protect the free flow of the River Bride, continually under threat from the perpetual motion of the pebbles on Chesil Beach.

  1. Ignoring the bridge, take the footpath to the right, joining the lane at Southover.
  2. On the road turn left and walk to the main road, either turning right here to retrace your steps back to Graston Copse or bearing left to visit Burton Bradstock before making your way back to Burton Mill to retrace your steps from there.

Nearby refreshments

The Anchor Inn, specialising in seafood, and the Three Horseshoes, specialising in local fish and game, both in Burton Bradstock, or the Hive Beach Café.

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