Walk - Graston Copse - West Bay
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- 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 the mill to the Grove Road.
- 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.
- Cross the road, turning right to turn left after the garage and take the footpath up the steps to the left a moment later. Walk ahead a short distance and then bear right across the field, towards the right-hand houses, to come out on Beach Road. Turn right and walk down to the beach.
Note the golden cliff behind the garage. The coastline between here and West Bay is internationally famous for its towering golden cliffs of Bridport Sands sandstone, with their fossil-rich limestone layer on the top (see the Hive Beach Walk).
In 1940, Hive Beach and Freshwater, a short distance to the west, were earmarked by Hitler's strategic planners as the best landing spots for a German invasion in the Second World War. This gave the area a high profile in the UK war effort, and many American and Canadian troops were billeted here, joining British commandos in training exercises in preparation for the Normandy landings (see the Hive Beach Walk).
- Coming back up from the beach, 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). At Freshwater, follow the South West Coast Path inland until it crosses the stream on a footbridge.
- Turn left with the Coast Path to follow it across the bridge and through the holiday park, heading back towards the coast and climbing steeply beyond the last caravans. Carry on around East Cliff, dropping very steeply downhill on the far side into West Bay.
- Going into the Station Yard car park, if you are feeling energetic and wish to do the circular walk, bear right to come out on Station Road, turning right here to follow the directions from 7 (below).
For the one-way walk, taking the bus back to Burton Bradstock, bear left through Station Yard car Park, to the far left-hand corner. Turn left on Station Road and then right on West Bay Road, turning left on George Street to catch the bus outside The George (Please follow the West Bay inset map for details).The bus stops outside the Anchor Inn in Burton Bradstock. Take the first left after the pub and then turn right on Church Street to retrace your footsteps via Darby Lane and Grove Road to the footpath back to Graston Copse.
Bridport had a crude harbour as early as the thirteenth century, when primitive sluices existed at 'Bridport Mouth', further inland than West Bay. In 1385 local merchant John Huddersfield obtained permission from Richard II to collect a ha'penny toll for every horse-load of goods imported or exported, with the proceeds to go to the construction of a 'haven' or harbour, and this was built around the end of that century. By the middle of the sixteenth century, however, the estuary to Bridport Haven had silted up and the first piers were built a century later, on a framework of stilts. By 1721 this, too, had become choked with sand and the pier had fallen into disrepair, and an Act of Parliament was passed, permitting the diversion of the River Brit, from the eastern side of the valley to the western side, to create a harbour.
After the new harbour was built in 1744 it became one of the busiest along this coastline. There was a thriving wool trade, and a world-famous rope-making industry (see the Bridport Walk). Bridport had a major shipbuilding business, established by Alfred the Great in the ninth century, and a fishing fleet which in later centuries sailed as far as Newfoundland for its catch.
The continual wash of shingle into the mouth of the river soon choked the harbour again, however, and the Great Storm of 1824 caused wide-scale damage. Parallel piers were built in the 1860s, although sluice gates were needed at the rear of the harbour to build up enough water to sweep away the shingle when the gates were opened.
The Old Salt House by the riverside was used by the fishing fleet to store the salt, needed on the long journey home from Newfoundland to preserve the catch (usually cod, but sometimes seal as well).
- For the circular walk, continue roughly eastwards on Station Road to take the turning on the right after the houses and pick up the footpath on the left, following it uphill and into the next field, continuing uphill to the fence at the top. Turn left here and walk along the fence, carrying on along the path into the golf course to follow the waymarkers to the track. Be aware of golfers and golf balls. Stay on the track, turning left with it at the end to go into the caravan park.
- Take the third turning on the right and follow the waymarked path along the track behind the caravans, bearing left at the shower block to continue on the footpath ahead. The path hugs the right-hand hedge and then bears left uphill to reach Burton Road via a set of steps.
- Turn right to walk through Burton Bradstock, turning left after the Anchor Inn to return to Graston Copse as in 6 (above).
There are several restaurants, tearooms, cafés and pubs in West Bay, as well as the ones in Burton Bradstock.