Friday, 19 November 2010

Corfe Castle and the Purbeck Ridge

Corfe Castle

Another foray from our base in Poole. We parked at a lay-by just off the main road underneath the castle and walked up to the village proper to start the walk near St Edward's church. WE should have begun opposite the 18th century Greyhound pub, but in fact we walked round to the front of the church to see the fine 13th century tower with its impressive gargoyles (the rest of the church is Victorian (1859-60) by TH Wyatt in a matching style.

A benefit of this mistake was that we saw the tiny town hall of 1774, which boasts a plaque claiming to be the smallest town hall in England.

We decided to save a visit to the castle for another day and began the walk by going round the side of the castle mound and descending with it up on out right. The ruins of the Norman keep were clearly visible, as was the line of a later outer protective wall with various bastions. Corfe was a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War and the castle was deliberately shattered by explosives after it was finally captured by the Parliamentarians.

After crossing a lane and then the small river Corfe, the follows the Hardy Way heading upwards to join the Purbeck ridge at Knowle Hill. As it climbs, there are fine views back towards the castle (see above) and later the village, in this case with the smoke of a train on the Swanage railway line in the air above it.

As you walk along the ridge, there are fine views to the south toward another lower ridge, with the village of Church Knowle and its low mainly 13th century church in the valley below. Further on, by moving higher up the ridge views to the north become available: Wareham Forest, part of Hardy's Egdon Heath and Poole Harbour.

After a short dip, the route climbs Ridgeway Hill (168m) where there are further wonderful views towards the sea to the south: St Aldhelm's Head is hidden by the hill on the left.

This marks the edge of the ridge walk. You turn right and and right again to descend along a road through the pretty hamlet of East Creech. After a bit more road you enter Norden Wood, accurately described by our walk book as "exceptionally beautiful". The winding and undulating route also has scattered pools formed from one-time clay pits.

After a mile or so you emerge from the wood to cross a field towards the ridge and the turn left to follow the same line but part way up the slope. This section was the least pleasant for us because it was by now raining quite heavily.

However, the rain mercifully stopped as we emerged from woodland to this fine view of Corfe Castle across open fields.

From: Dorset Walks (Pathfinder Guides)

Map: Explorer OL15 (Purbeck and South Dorset).

Conditions: 10-12 degrees, sun, cloud and rain; wet underfoot.

Distance: 6 miles.

Rating: four and half stars. Great variety and fantastic views.


We saw what we think may have been a Hobby hovering effortless at the edge of the ridge. More probably, it was a kestrel.

We also saw a single lone butterfly. It seemed to be a Small Skipper - but maybe it was my first sight of a Lulworth Skipper.

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