Wednesday, 3 November 2010
We decided to explore Wareham by doing a combination of the walks available on the excellent Visit Swanage and Purbeck website: a walk along one of the two rivers and a tour of the town centre. There is also a walk around the town walls, which we had hopes of doing, but will now save for another day.
We began the walk at the Quay. It now faces the narrow River Frome; it is hard to imagine that Wareham was once an important port. We then walked up to the church of Lady St Mary.
The majority of what you see today is Victorian, but the tower and porch are 17th century and the St Edward chapel dates from 1100. It features pointed arches, transitional between Norman and Gothic. Adjacent is the Priory Hotel, which was indeed once a monastery.
From here a series of paths and then a road lead to the main track beside the water meadows ...
... towards Swineham point.
We met a friendly woman walker here who warned us that the planned route back to town was muddy and might not be passable as we were wearing walking boots rather than Wellingtons as she was. It has to be said that these dire warnings turned out to be greatly exaggerated.
From here the return leg follows the meandering route of the Frome. The river is lined by rush beds on both sides, with a long series of moored boats.
It was a bit muddy and slippery, and it was now raining, as we approached Wareham and in my determination to make light of it I did manage to fall over ...
Once back in Wareham, we embarked on the town walk which initially took us to the west, past the a handsome old brewery and then the site of Wareham Castle. At the top of Pound Lane was the town pound ...
... where stray animals were kept. Clearly not too many at a time! We then walked along West St past the Rex cinema, located in what once was the Oddfellows Hall.
At the end of West Street is the central cross-roads which forms the core of the town: West St meets East St, and North St meets South St. On the corner is the Town Hall of 1870 with its splendid corner clock tower.
A short distance along East St are Streche's Almshouses.
They date originally from 1418, but were rebuilt in 1712. The bellcote once adorned the previous town hall of 1768, but was relocated here - rather successfully - when the present town hall was built.
We now went up North St to see the magnificent Saxon church of St Martin, which stands on the town walls (see photo at the head of this post). The chancel and nave are pre-Conquest and date from the 11th century. It was locked, so we were unable to see the wall paintings or the effigy of Lawrence of Arabia which are within.
We now walked back down North St and then South St to the Quay, passing on the way the Queen Anne Manor House dating from 1712. We could see the parapet above the three storey building, but little else behind the high hedge and overgrown grown trees in the front garden.
Conditions: mild, cloudy then rainy.
Distance: 3.5 miles for the river walk and another 1.5 around the charming town.
Rating: three and half stars.
There was remarkably little bird life on the water meadows, but we were thrilled to see a kingfisher fly along a length of the river, just above the water before darting into the bushes on one bank.