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Dorset walk around Swanage and Herston

PUBLISHED: 11:25 07 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:25 07 November 2017

Ballard Down from Swanage Promenade

Ballard Down from Swanage Promenade


Edward Griffiths enjoys a bracing coastal walk through the foothills of Ballard Down and Nine Barrow Down

The stone quarrying history of Swanage and Langton Matravers is well known but, between the two, there were quarries at Herston as well. Their output and trade were generally included with that in Swanage and, following the building of sizeable council estates on the outskirts of Swanage, Herston is now physically part of its bigger neighbour as well.

This walk takes a long sweep north out of Swanage to the foothills of Ballard Down and Nine Barrow Down to look over Swanage and Herston. We visit Godlingston Manor, dating back to the 14th century, and Swanage Railway’s Herston Halt before strolling the full length of High Street back to the harbour.


• Distance: 4½ miles (7.25 km)

• Time: 3½ hours

• Exertion: Fairly easy. Some mud after rain.

• Start: Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre, behind New Look, High Street on harbour edge (Grid Ref: SZ032788)

• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195

• Public Transport: Purbeck Breezer 50 and 40

• Dogs: On leads when requested

• Refreshments: There are plenty of pubs, cafés and take-aways in Swanage

The walk

1. Walk in front of the balconied Victorian terrace. Pass around The Mowlem Theatre and continue along the promenade. Past the pier with the clock-shelter, continue to the end where you pass the Bistro and bend away from the sea. Pass left and right turnings, and the Crows Nest Inn, to the one-way system with All Saints’ Church facing you. Continue into the ‘No Entry’ Redcliffe Road. Reaching five-ways junction, cross over past the corner shop and continue up Redcliffe Road. Around the left bend into Moor Road, take first right Hill Road. Up to the bend, go straight into the ‘Old Harry and Studland’ footpath.

2. Emerging between fenced fields, see Giant’s Trencher ahead at the end of Nine Barrow Down. Ballard Down is ahead and to your right. Through the footpath half-gate onto a hedged track, keep straight on to the crossing Tarmac footpath-drive before the National Trust’s early 17th-century Whitecliff Farm. Turn left down the fenced drive to the corner. Go through the facing gate/kissing-gate for ‘Ulwell ¼’. Cross the field on the raised track to another gate/kissing-gate in the hedge. Through, follow the left paddocks’ fence to another gate/kissing-gate. Through, follow the raised track half-left down to the last gate/kissing-gate onto a track past the left 1764 cottage to the road, signed back ‘Footpath’.

3. Turn right past Old Buttress Cottage. With Giant’s Trencher ahead, cross to the left. Past right Ulwell Farm Caravan Park, turn left at Ulwell Cottage. Pass right Village Inn and Caravan Park. At the left bend and footpath pointer, turn into the caravan park. The footpath runs along the left fence, below all the caravans, to a footpath-stile but, if it’s obstructed by anything, take the first left driveway instead between caravans. Up to the right bend, go left at ‘Chitty’ to the same footpath-stile. Over, turn right along the fence to the corner junction of fields. Go over the left footpath-stile and follow the promised new diagonal fence up the field and under two lines of electricity wires to the footpath-stile onto a chalk track. If the fence hasn’t materialised yet, go over all of the existing stiles in a line to the same chalk track.

4. Turn left and walk down. Through the gate onto a drive, turn right with Godlingston Manor behind the right wall. Continue through all of the farm buildings and up into the field. Follow the left hedged track up and over. When the hedge ends, turn left and follow the track clockwise to the footpath-gate onto the hedged lane. Turn left up the lane, bending left at the top. Descending to a left bend, turn right. Past Herston Caravan Park, continue up the lane and pass left ‘Prospect Farm’ footpath-stile. Down around right/left bends past Alderbury Barn, continue to Swanage Railway’s Herston Halt bridge. Over, take the left steps down to the ‘Herston’ stile. Over, bear half-right up and over the field to the far corner bridge with two kissing-gates.

5. Through, follow the right fence to a stone-stile onto the A351’s wide verge. Cross the road and turn left at Herston Cross into the ‘No Entry’ end of High Street. Cross Bell Street with the Globe Inn and keep straight on. Up and over, see St Mary’s Church tower ahead, and pass left Newton Manor. After right Gordon Road, keep straight on into High Street when the road bends left. Keep rising. Over the top, pass Black Swan Inn right then ‘Mill Pond and St Mary’s’ down to your left. Continuing along High Street, pass ornate Purbeck House Hotel. This originally Georgian building was rebuilt by George Burt in Victorian gothic style in 1875. Then pass Swanage Town Hall, also built by Burt in 1882-83 and faced with the 17th century façade from London’s Mercers’ Hall in Cheapside. This was designed by Edward Jerman, a pupil of Sir Christopher Wren, in 1670. Now the shops begin. Continue to pass left Institute Road before turning left to Swanage Museum where you started.


Winter walks in Dorset - When the weather gets colder, there’s not much more refreshing than a brisk walk across the countryside, and there’s plenty of that here in Dorset…


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