Dorset walk around Lodmoor and Redcliff
PUBLISHED: 11:23 13 December 2016 | UPDATED: 11:23 13 December 2016
Edward Griffiths takes in a Roman temple with wonderful vistas and then visits an urban nature reserve renowned for its rare feathered winter visitors
The area around Bowleaze, Preston and Sutton Poyntz was extensively occupied by the Romans and Romano-British. The exposed foundations of ‘Jordan Hill Roman Temple’ at the start of this intriguing walk are very similar to the Roman temple on Maiden Castle outside Durnovaria, or modern-day Dorchester. Excavations have also found evidence of Iron Age Durotrigian occupation. At Preston, a Roman villa with a 21ft square floor mosaic was discovered in 1844, and occupation debris was found in 1935 at the mouth of the River Jordan, which you cross at Bowleaze Cove.
This walk also takes you to the RSPB Lodmoor Nature Reserve, an area of wetland, ponds and reed beds much loved by over-wintering birds. Following this treat, we make our way to St Andrew’s Church in Preston before heading through paddocks and a holiday park to cliff-top fields above Redcliff Point. The return along the South West Coast Path gives stunning sea views.
• Distance: 4.5 miles (7.35km)
• Time: 3.5 hours
• Exertion: Not too strenuous. Mostly level but a few fields with stiles. Some mud after rain
• Start: Bowleaze Coveway above Bowleaze Cove, Weymouth (Grid Ref: SY698819)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194
• Public transport: First 503
• Dogs: On leads in RSPB Lodmoor Nature Reserve, near paddocks and on roads
• Refreshments: Bridge Inn or Spice Ship, Preston and the Spyglass Inn, Bowleaze for lunches and bar meals
1. Before starting the walk, take the signed footpath into the ‘Jordan Hill Roman Temple’. From the Temple field, there are lovely views over Preston to White Horse Hill, over Chalbury hill fort to the barrow-topped Ridgeway and along the coastal cliffs. Return to Bowleaze Coveway and turn towards Weymouth along the pavement, past the café and the Spyglass Inn. At the roundabout, take the beach path above the sea-wall and road with views over Lodmoor and towards Portland. Before the farthest end of the sea wall, with the huge triangular stone on the beach, turn down the steps and use the refuges to cross the B3155 to ‘Beach Car Park’.
2. Turn right across the corner and the car park entrance. Walk into the ‘RSPB Lodmoor Nature Reserve’ footpath. Meander along, parallel with the road, past ponds and reed beds before bending right towards the road. Emerging onto the shared cyclists/walkers path, turn left over the sluice bridge, then instant left back into the reserve to pass the shelter/hide. Continue meandering along the reserve’s path for a good ¼ mile before reaching the wider ‘Preston 1’ path T-junction. Turn left. Past the ‘Beachdown Way’ sign, continue along the path, stopping to check for birds at viewpoints both sides of the long straight path.
3. Past the end gate, signed ‘Overcombe 630m’, turn right along Southdown Avenue and into Oakbury Drive with left houses and right nature reserve. Keep on round the left bend before passing left Budmouth Avenue, right Elm Close and left Kingsbere Road. Turn right into Mellstock Avenue and walk round left and right bends to Preston Road. Turn left. Reaching Chalbury Corner roundabout, keep straight on into A353 Preston Road. Continue for ½ mile, passing Riverbridge Road where the River Jordan passes under the bridge. Past the Spice Ship, opposite the Sutton Poyntz turning, turn right into Church Road for ‘XIVth Century St Andrew‘s Churc’.
4. Go through the lych-gate and leave by the south-east corner gate into the older part of Church Road. Follow the hedged meandering track, passing Seaview and Waterside Holiday Parks. In another 20 yards, take the right footpath-stile/gate into the fenced path. Zig-zag left-right at an arrow, then left again (no arrow) between caravans 18 and 19 and rows of more caravans. Meeting a hedged grass footpath left of 39 and 40, go over the end stile and keep straight on for ‘Redcliff Point ¼’, passing right stables, then hedged and fenced up past paddocks, a Coast Path arrow and another stable. Exit into a rolling field and go straight on into the valley, on a faint path bending left, then fork right up to the three-way pointer post.
5. Bear half-left for ‘Redcliff Point’ - not to the facing hedge stile but on the path along this hedge to the Coast Path stone. Turn right along the cliff-top for ‘Bowleaze Cove ½’. Nearing the high point, to avoid cliff falls, fork right at the Coast Path post and continue on grass paths with more Coast Path posts as indicated and descending towards the sea-end of the ‘Riviera’ holiday apartments. At the Coast Path stone, turn left for ‘Bowleaze Cove ¼’ along the path, down steps and along the fence. Down and into the Coast Path between buildings, through the funfair and over the bridge where the River Jordan flows to the sea, emerge into the car park. Through into Bowleaze Coveway, turn left back up the road to where you started.
RSPB Lodmoor Nature Reserve
The large reed bed, open water, salt marsh, wet grassland and bushes of this nature reserve, just a mile from Weymouth town centre, is home to a huge variety of birds. Bearded tits and Cetti’s warblers can be seen all year and it is a popular spot for wading birds. Look out for grey herons and little egrets hunting on the water’s edge. During the winter months bitterns arrive from Europe, these are hard to spot – so be patient. Winter is also the best season for watching wildfowl, with pochards, teals, tufted ducks, shelducks and gadwalls around the reserve. Keep your eyes peeled for marsh harriers hunting over the reeds. Find out more at rspb.org.uk/Lodmoor.