Walk - Eype & Bridport
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2018. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the car park at Eype drop down the path to the beach. Turning left onto the Coast Path, heading eastwards, follow it around the old Forest Marble quarry workings and along the coastal edge of the common.
The original harbour was much further inland, and ships had to navigate a narrow passage along the River Brit, which was silted up and little more than a creek by the 1500s. A basic pier was built at the mouth of the river in the 1670s, and in 1721 an Act of Parliament was passed, permitting the diversion of the River Brit, from the eastern side of the valley to the western side, and the creation of a harbour. Bridport Harbour was built in 1744 and it became one of the busiest along this coastline. There was a thriving wool trade in the area, as well as a world-famous rope-making industry. Bridport had also been a major player in the shipbuilding business since Alfred the Great established it, in the ninth century AD. It had a fishing fleet which in later centuries sailed as far as Newfoundland to fish in the colder waters there.
The continual wash of shingle into the mouth of the river by the great storms at sea soon choked the harbour up again. Following wide-scale damage caused by the Great Storm of 1824, it became apparent that the harbour needed better protection from the ravages of the sea. In the 1860s parallel piers were built to provide this. However, it was still necessary to use the sluice gates at the rear of the harbour to build up an adequate body of water to sweep away the accumulations of shingle when the gates were opened.
- Coming to the first of the houses at West Bay, carry on downhill along the path and then the esplanade, until you come to the quay.
- Turning left at the bottom to skirt the harbour, walk to the roundabout and cross the road beyond to go into West Bay Holiday Park, immediately opposite.
Note the Salt House by the roundabout. This was used by the fishing fleet to store the salt, used on the long journey home from Newfoundland to preserve the catch (usually cod, but sometimes seal as well). Generally they would sail southwards down the coast of America and come straight home. Occasionally they would return via the Mediterranean, stopping off to sell the cod there, or exchange it for other goods.
- Walk through the holiday park to the end of the drive, where waymarkers lead you onwards, along the footpath running through the meadows beside the river. Ignoring the paths leading uphill towards the mast to your left, carry on ahead until you reach the main A35 road.
Here you are walking along the Monarch's Way, the route taken by King Charles II in 1651, when he was fleeing from the Roundheads after being defeated in the Battle of Worcester. This 615-mile path travels from Worcester to Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex, where Charles took a boat to Europe.
Walking through here you will see the information board about damselflies and dragonflies. Following the waymarkers along the footpath you will see that they are accompanied by other markers featuring a dragonfly motif. Attracted by the many species of wildflowers which grow alongside the river and in the meadows, these beautiful insects themselves draw other unusual species to the valley. On a quiet, still day maybe you'll catch a glimpse of a long-legged heron standing in the water, fishing, or the blue and orange flash of a shy kingfisher darting along above.
- Crossing the road via the underpass, carry on in the same direction, ignoring the first path on your left. Go through the gate by the cottage, carrying on along the same path when another path forks off to the right a moment later. After a while you will arrive at Skilling Hill Road.
- Turn left on the road and walk past the school on your right and the sports pitches on your left. Carry on ahead along Broad Lane, crossing the bridge over the A35 and walking past the entrance to Highlands End Holiday Park.
- Take the footpath on the left, up steps in the bank just before the junction, and follow it to the road at Eype. Taking the road to the right, walk to the footpath on your left a moment later, following it along the edge of fields to rejoin Mount Lane on a corner.
- Turn right, turning left a moment later on the footpath beside the postbox in the wall. At the bottom turn right to carry on along Mount Lane again to return to the beach car park at the start of the walk.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs and tea shops in Bridport and West Bay.