Dorset walk around Sandbanks and Studland
PUBLISHED: 14:31 24 March 2016 | UPDATED: 14:32 24 March 2016
Edward Griffiths enjoys a walk of contrasts, featuring urban glamour and the wild coastal beauty of dunes and heathland (Photos by Edward)
The mega-expensive Sandbanks peninsula dubbed ‘Britain’s Palm Beach’ by the national media, and the gorse-clad heaths, extensive dune system and vast empty beaches of Studland Peninsula couldn’t be more different. Yet both are explored on this fine walk of urban and wild contrasts.
Journalist Piers Morgan, who presented a documentary on this extraordinary area of Dorset, said: “Sandbanks is actually a tiny little sand dune on the Dorset coast. But it’s no ordinary dune. On it, and around it, lie stunning golden sands, clear turquoise ocean water, luxury yachts, vintage champagne spilling out of every well-heeled resident’s mouth, and houses that are currently going for an absurd £10 million apiece.”
Across the water (by ferry) the Studland peninsula is quiet and peaceful. At this time of year Sika deer are apt to be wandering freely over the heath, some over-wintering migrating birds will still be ‘at home’, and cyclists and walkers can enjoy the wide open spaces of Studland before the summer crowds arrive.
• Distance: 7¼ miles (11.5km)
• Time: 5 hours
• Exertion: Easy but with some sandy tracks. Some mud after rain.
• Start: Sandbanks Beach Car Park, Poole (Grid Ref: SZ045877)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195
• Dogs: On leads on roads. Dogs are free to wander on the beaches until 1st May. For a list of all year round local dog-friendly beaches go to visit-dorset.com
• Public Transport: Wilts and Dorset 50 visit-dorset.com
• Refreshments: National Trust’s Knoll Beach Café and Visitor Centre for lunches, snacks and teas
1 Make your way to Sandbanks Beach by Sandbanks Beach Office and turn right along the Promenade before continuing along the beach with houses right. Meeting Haven Hotel’s white wall, continue past the groyne’s end onto the concrete path. Continue to the iron ladder up into Ferry Way Car Park. Take the ferry across Poole Harbour entrance to Shell Bay on the Studland peninsula. Follow the hand-railed pavement past the National Trust’s Shell Bay sign and noticing the three-way Coast Path pointer on the beach. Pass the bus stop, right ‘Shell Bay’ restaurant, National Trust car park and toll booths. In 100 yards, go round the right National Trust Emergency Exit gate onto a gorse-clad sandy bridleway-track. Walk straight on to Poole’s inner harbour beach.
2 Turn left along the meandering path nearest the water’s edge through gorse and heather. Reaching a line of WWII concrete blocks, make your way back to the road, cross over and continue along the gravel edge with a left wood. When the wood ends at an orange-topped ‘tern’ path post, join the wide track parallel with the road with Poole Harbour right and glimpses of Little Sea left. Down to a track coming from a right gate, keep straight on. Meeting a horseshoe bend, continue parallel with the road, noticing a track like yours heading off into the slightly-right distance ahead. This will be your route.
3 Descend past another right emergency gate. In another 100 yards, turn right and cross the road to a three-way pointer. A right bridleway goes to Greenlands Farm but take the 1½ National Trust gates onto Godlingston Heath bridleway-track. Follow the track onto glorious open heath, just like the North York Moors, undulating slightly and meandering for nearly ¾ mile. Over the brow of a hill with WWII low stone and concrete structures dotted about, and with Agglestone Rock ahead, go straight on at an angled crossing. In 50 yards, turn left at the bridleway crossing. Down past a bridleway-post, take the left fork sandy descent and continue through stunted birches. Pass the right footpath for Agglestone Rock. Down to a right footbridge before a ford, cross it and walk up, past the ‘Godlingston Heath’ sign, to 1½ bridleway-gates.
4 Through, follow the track up through trees and out at Wadmore Farm gates’ junction. Keep straight on, passing a bridleway crossing. Reaching the road, turn right. Before the ‘Bankes Arms Inn’ sign, turn left down the ‘Middle Beach’ footpath into the fern-clad mossy hollow. Emerging at the cantilever-gate, turn left. Past a right turning and left Middle Beach car park, descend the Tarmac drive to the slipway onto Middle Beach. If high tide, take the nearby signed alternative path to the beach. Begin the return walk along the beach, firmer nearer the edge, passing Studland Beach slipway and Knoll Beach Café and facilities.
5 Enjoy the stroll, noticing Old Harry Rocks, the Isle of Wight and the coastal stretch from Poole to Bournemouth and Hengistbury Head. Reaching Shell Bay, continue to the ferry and cross to Sandbanks, observing the expensive properties to the left, just inside the harbour. From the ferry, you have a choice of routes back to where you started: 1 - Turn left along Panorama Road, passing some of these expensive properties, each with its own private landing-stage into Poole Harbour. Keep straight on to the junction with Banks Road, go left to the roundabout and finish where you started; or 2 - Return the way you came along Sandbanks Beach back to your starting point.
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