Corfe Castle from Challow Hill
This is a great walk which we had done before, today with our friends Dave and Chris. Parking was unusually difficult and we ended up among the last to able to park at the Norden Park and Ride. The reason soon became clear: it was a steam train Gala day with five different engines pulling trains between Corfe and Swanage. At first I thought it was just something for the anoracs, but we became progressively engaged with it.
We walked down from Norden, seeing waiting photographers and steam but not much else. There was a nice view up to the north end of Corfe Castle.
We walked past the National Trust car park and along the road to take a small road on the left after the railway bridge. A path immediately on the left enabled us to begin the quiet steep ascent of Challow Hill.
From about half way up there was a great view back to Corfe station with two trains temporarily stopped.
From further up there was a fine view over Corfe town and the green countryside to the west.
We gained the top of the hill and set off along the ridge. It was increasingly cloudy and hazy, so not too conducive to photographs. This was the best I could manage, looking back.
We headed on along the ridge. Even if the views weren't great it was exhilarating to be up there. Eventually we had our first view of Swanage and Swanage Bay, under heavy cloud.
There was a great view back along the valley that separates our ridge from the one just behind the coast. It was dominated by beautiful shades of green.
We paused for a sandwich (or doorstep) lunch and while we eating it the weather improved markedly.
At the end of Nine Barrow Down the oath heads downhill to skirt Godlingston Hill and towards the Studland to Swanage road. The bulk of Ballard Down can be seen ahead and the Monument can just be made out just beyond the highest point on the left.
We decided to skirt Ballard Down at low level and then took a path to the right down into Swanage. When we reached the back of the beach there was a lovely view towards Ballard Point with the groynes in the foreground.
Some figures can be glimpsed in the sea over to the right. Closer inspection revealed that this was a group of about ten people doing their best to paddle a large board or raft. There were two other such groups as well. Some sort of training exercise no doubt - but for what?
We walked along the sea front and turned right to reach the station. I succumbed to the occasion to the extent of taking a picture of 34073 Sir Keith Park (a Battle of Britain class 4-6-2 locomotive, designed for the Southern Railway by its Chief Mechanical Engineer Oliver Bulleid). We also saw 34070 Manston and two others whose names elude me. This was quite nostalgic for me as I saw these engines in service on Southern when I was a schoolboy, some time ago. It turned out that Dave had also been a trainspotter aged 11 or 12.
We greatly enjoyed the train ride back to Norden, happily paying a pound each to sit in First Class.
Conditions: grey becoming sunny.
Distance: about 7 miles.
Map: Map: Explorer OL15 Purbeck and South Dorset.
Rating: four stars.