Dorset walk around Tyneham and Flower’s Barrow
PUBLISHED: 11:32 22 August 2017 | UPDATED: 09:28 23 August 2017
This challenging coastal walk rewards Edward Griffiths with exhilarating views over Worbarrow Bay. He also visits a ghost village whose residents were evacuated in 1943
One of the South West Coast Path’s steepest climbs leads from Worbarrow Bay to Flower’s Barrow, an Iron Age hill fort on Rings Hill. However, before tackling this, we have a lesser ‘practice’ ascent from Tyneham village to Gad Cliff before an easy stroll with exhilarating views of Worbarrow Bay. The colourful cliffs of Worbarrow Bay are formed of the orange, yellow and brown sands and clays of the Wealden beds, all contrasting with the bright white chalk and light-grey limestone either side. The south side of Flower’s Barrow is steadily being devoured by the sea’s attacks on the Upper Chalk ridge which runs all the way to Old Harry Rocks beyond Swanage. The path over Whiteway Hill to Povington Hill provides the more gentle part of this walk. From Povington Hill viewpoint, there are outstanding views to Corfe Castle and all along the coast to St Aldhelm’s Head.
The village where time stopped
On 19 December 1943 the population of Tyneham, a village situated in a hidden valley northeast of Worbarrow Bay, were evacuated by the Ministry of Defence and their properties take over, so that ‘troops could perfect their training in the use of modern weapons of war’. Though originally only a temporary measure, in 1948 the Army placed a compulsory purchase order on the area and it has been used for military training ever since. For over 70 years the area has been free of agricultural pesticides and public encroachment, as a result wildflowers and wildlife have thrived. The Tyneham area is now rich in diverse natural habitats due to the occupation and stewardship of the Ministry of Defence. Summer is our time to enjoy it, when the Range Walks are open to the public - and this includes the whole of August every year (22 July to 3 September 2017). Lulworth Range Walks and Tyneham Village are also open most weekends but not all, so do check before setting out at dorsetforyou.gov.uk/lulworth-range-walks.
• Distance: 4¼ miles/6.75 km
• Time: 4 hours
• Exertion: Quite strenuous. Total ascent 1027ft
• Start: Tyneham deserted village, Purbeck (Grid Ref: SY882804). Tyneham Car Park requests £2 towards preservation of the site
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194
• Public Transport: None
• Dogs: On leads as required by notices
• Refreshments: New Inn, Church Knowle for seasonal special lunches and Sunday carvery
1. Heading south through the car park on the driveway, go down to the gate and through the woods over Egliston Gwyle (stream) bridge. With the main track going right to Worbarrow Bay, go through the facing kissing-gate where two ascending tracks start. Take the left fork, between yellow marker posts. Stopping frequently to admire the views to North Portland, Mupe Rocks stretching out into the sea, the secretive cove of Arish Mell in the chalk cliffs, and the highest cliff with Flower’s Barrow earthworks on top, go round one right and one left hairpin. Passing gunnery target Number 7, go through the facing 1½ gates and turn right up against the fence.
2. Past the Coast Path stone, go through the half-gate for ‘Worbarrow Bay’ and follow the path below the crumbling edge of Gad Cliff above Brandy Bay, then descending slowly and enjoying the views ahead. When the ‘island’ of Worbarrow Tout comes into view, the path becomes ever steeper to the bottom kissing-gate. Through, cross to the information board - or climb Worbarrow Tout first. Pass the Coast Path stone for ‘Lulworth Cove’ and go down the steps by the right stone wall. Turn left down the stony path and, before the beach, turn right at the Coast Path stone for ‘Flower’s Barrow ¾’. Down the path past the picnic benches, cross the stream footbridge and, up the path, go through the fence-gap onto the Coast Path rising through gorse between yellow posts to the Coast Path half-gate.
3. Through, begin ascending the grass path, keeping close to the left cliff-top fence. The next 1½ gates signal the start of the serious climb on the post-marked grass path and giant steps. Go slowly. Through the top half-gate, explore Flower’s Barrow, keeping inside the yellow posts. Behind the information board spot Lulworth Castle and East Lulworth church. Leave past the Coast Path for ‘Whiteway Car Park 1½’ through the east bank gap onto the clear track with views left to Wareham and Poole Harbour. Through a facing gate, there are views right to Gad Cliff, Worbarrow Tout, Swyre Head and St Aldhelm’s Head. Descend to meet a left track coming up from the ‘Firing Range’ then climb slowly for ¼ mile to Whiteway Hill O.S.185m trig point.
4. Descending for ¼ mile, see Povington Hill ahead. Through 1½ gates, the track from the left road goes right past the Coast Path stone for ‘Tyneham Church’. This is your return route but firstly, keep straight on through the kissing-gate for ‘Whiteway Car Park ½’. Follow the fenced path uphill, parallel with the road now, for ½ mile to the kissing-gate onto the car park viewpoint area at 191m. From the information board, see Corfe Castle, Nine Barrow Down, Swyre Head, St Aldhelm’s Head and back to earlier views. Now, return to the Tyneham Church track and enjoy the long slow ¾ mile descent to the kissing-gate into Tyneham village and Church of St Mary the Virgin where you started.
• Dorset walk around Corfe Mullen and Sleight - Edward Griffiths follows in the footsteps of Romans on this route between Hamworthy and Badbury Rings. Along the way he enjoys some fine views over the Stour plains towards Poole