Corfe Castle to Poole
The Jurassic Isle of Purbeck
Corfe Castle to Poole: 19.5 miles in 2 days at a leisurely pace
A gentle saunter around the Jurassic coastline of the Isle of Purbeck, starting inland at Corfe Castle, where the Normans built a stronghold in the strategic gap in the Purbeck Ridge, with far-reaching views in every direction. Dropping down to the coast through a green valley bright with gorse and blossom, you follow the Purbeck Heritage Coast through a landscape of chalk cliffs and limestone quarries, as well as spectacular chalk stacks offshore, and grasslands with more species of native and anciently-introduced wildflowers than in any other area of Britain.
The remnants of the Norman fortress at Corfe Castle remain in view, high above the rooftops of the village, for several miles as you drop from the Purbeck Ridge through a gorse-and-bracken heathland riddled with prehistoric barrows to a green pastureland seamed with tumbledown stone walls. Thorn bushes, stunted and deformed by the winds that blow in off the sea, line the ancient green lane as you follow the Purbeck Way down to the coast, and the steep hillsides either side of the stream are terraced with strip lynchets cut in them centuries ago to increase the area of land available for crops.
Joining the South West Coast Path you are into a landscape of chalk grasslands, heaped with bracken and brambles and dotted with wildflowers and the butterflies they attract, including the rare Lulworth skipper. The path is a thick white scar rising and falling around turf-thatched headlands made of chunky strata of limestone blocks tunnelled through with square-edged caves, and generations of quarrying have left fascinating features such as Dancing Ledge, a ballroom-floor of limestone high above the waves crashing into the cliffs and cutting gashes in the soft rock. The famous white chalk stacks off the coast at Swanage are breathtaking in their beauty, and a four-mile swathe of golden sand leads you on to the ferry to Poole.