Walk - SWCP Lulworth Endurance Run
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 the entrance to the main Lulworth car park head to the far right-hand corner of the car park. Turn right here onto the footpath following the hedge, heading due north for about 200m. At the very top of the path bear left to follow it along the hedge through the fields, climbing gently uphill to the campsite. Going into the campsite turn right on the drive towards the road and run to the T-junction. (1 mile, ascent 55m)
- Turn left at the T-junction to pass in front of the farm buildings, turning left a moment later onto a lane. Carry on along the lane, passing a track on the left and continuing along the footpath ahead at the end of the lane. When a bridleway joins from the right a little way on, carry on along the left-hand side of the hedge, climbing fairly steeply to pass a little to the south of the summit. Keep going ahead as the path drops a few metres and then pulls uphill again to pass to the south of the trig point at 178m, where two beacons act as navigation markers for ships approaching Portland harbour. Contouring around the hill from here, the path approaches a hedge, where a number of paths and tracks join from the right and leave on the left (1.75 miles, 110m)
This is an ancient landscape dotted with the burial mounds and barrows of the Bronze Age people who lived here 4000 years ago, and scored with the remains of their field systems, as well as those of the medieval communities farming here a thousand years ago.
- Carry straight on along the hedge, following the bridleway over the top of the hill, passing another path on the right. In the next field bear right and then left to follow the track along the right-hand hedge, passing some farm buildings and coming out onto a lane. (1.5 miles, descending)
- Bear right on the lane and follow it around to the left, ignoring the drive to the left a moment later but forking left a little way beyond to run uphill through the field above the heathland. (0.25 miles, 20m)
- As you leave the field to run into the heathland a small path drops downhill on the left, and then another. Take the third, just before you reach the National Trust car park, and follow the footpath steeply downhill, branching off to the right after about 200 metres to go through into the field below on the right. Go straight ahead across this field, crossing the lane to run the length of the field beyond, travelling downhill to the far right-hand corner and carrying on to the road. (0.75 miles, descending)
To the west is Glebe Cottage, a listed building converted in the eighteenth century from the ancient chapel of the deserted medieval village of West Ringstead, which is now a collection of lumps and bumps and pathways in the fields to your right as you run down the road.
- Turning left on the road, run gently downhill to the lane on the left after the car park. (0.25 miles, descending)
- Turn left onto this lane to pick up the South West Coast Path, following it uphill and carrying on ahead along the path as it heads into the bushes at Burning Cliff. Crossing the stream, bear right with the Coast Path towards the sea. (0.5 miles, 40m)
This is part of the National Trust's Ringstead and Burning Cliff. The cliff was named after a landslip in 1826 triggered a spontaneous oil-shale fire which smouldered for several years. The Kimmeridge shale of this part of the coastline contains up to 70% organic material, which makes it burn easily when it is fractured (as in fracking), and a small fire is thought to happen somewhere in the area every few decades, burning in a series of small explosions and giving off oily, sulphurous fumes.
- Ignoring the paths to right and left, keep following the acorn markers of the Coast Path to run steeply uphill past the little wooden church of St Catherine by the Sea. After the church fork right with the Coast Path and then right again, following the path past Holworth House to White Nothe. (1 mile, 90m)
At the end of the nineteenth century Holworth House was used as a holiday home by the vicar of London's Stroud Green, Dr Robert Linklater. His widow built the chapel when she sold the house in 1926.
As you head towards the headland of White Nothe ('White Nose'), you can see how the cliffs have slid into the sea over the millennia, creating a secluded undercliff which is a haven for wildlife. The headland itself is formed of a harder chalk with a better resistance to the erosive effects of wind and water. Whitenothe Cottages, high on the headland, were built by the Victorian Coast Guard service. At 495 feet above sea level these are the highest homes on the Dorset coast. The zigzag path to the right on the headland featured as a smugglers' path in John Meade Falkner's 'Moonfleet'.
- From White Nothe you are still climbing for another quarter of a mile, and then the path reaches the summit and flattens out. (0.25 miles, 30m)
- As another path heads off to the left, carry on along the Coast Path, bearing right with it at West Bottom, below the Beacons, to drop steeply downhill to Middle Bottom. There is a sharp climb ahead, and another descent to the Bat's Head peninsula, with its Bat Hole rock arch. Offshore there are a number of chalk rocks and stacks – the Cow and Calf, The Cow, The Blind Cow, The Bull – as the path pulls gently over Swyre Head and descends to the coastal end of the valley at Scratchy Bottom. (1.75 miles, a lot of descent, 150m ascent)
- Ahead is the spectacular rock arch at Durdle Door, named from the Anglo-Saxon 'thirled', meaning 'holed'. Carry on along the Coast Path across Newlands Warren, following the acorn waymarkers as various paths leave in both directions. (0.25 miles, 30m ascent)
- Fork right with the Coast Path when a track leaves on the left above the chain of islets in Man o' War Cove, notorious for shipwrecks, and climb towards the top of Hambury Tout for the last ascent of the run. (0.5 miles, 80m)
- From the top of Hambury Tout the Coast Path drops steeply back to the car park at the start of the walk, where refreshments await! (0.25 miles, descending)