Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the car park in West Bay Road walk the short distance towards the sea along West Bay Road to take Station road, on your left. 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.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Turn right to walk through Burton Bradstock taking the main road towards Weymouth.
  3. 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. 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.

  1. 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. At Freshwater, follow the South West Coast Path inland until it crosses the stream on a footbridge.
  2. 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.

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 Eype & 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).

  1. Going into the Station Yard car park, turn left on Station Road and then right on West Bay Road, turning left on George Street to catch the bus outside The George.

Nearby refreshments

There are several restaurants, tearooms, cafés and pubs in West Bay, as well as the ones in Burton Bradstock.

Public transport

Buses run regularly between Bridport and Weymouth, stopping at Burton Bradstock. For details visit www.travelinesw.com  or phone 0871 200 22 33

Parking

There are plenty of car parks in West Bay. The largest is in West Bay Road (DT6 4EL). Others include East Beach (DT6 4EW) and Station Yard (DT6 4EW).

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