Dorset walk around West Lulworth and Daggers Gate
PUBLISHED: 15:48 30 October 2017 | UPDATED: 15:48 30 October 2017
Edward Griffiths explores the fascinating geology of the Jurassic Coast and admires some famous landmarks that regularly feature in geography field trips
The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site is a magnet for geologists, but the rocks aren’t all from the Jurassic era. Much simplified, they start with 250 million years old Triassic in East Devon, then become 200 to 140 million years old Jurassic in the middle between Lyme Regis and Portland, and end with 140 to 65 million years old Cretaceous to Old Harry Rocks.
This fairly strenuous walk takes us up onto the downs above West Lulworth for an overview. It then descends to the South West Coast Path for a closer look at the towering chalk cliffs of Swyre Head and Bat’s Head, the classic formation of Durdle Door (carved by the sea from the Portland and Purbeck rocks), and Lulworth Cove where the sea has cut through into the Wealden Clay. The Portland and Purbeck rocks along here were tilted almost vertically at the same time as the Alps were formed. You can see this at Durdle Door, Stair Hole and the cliffs either side of the entrance to Lulworth Cove. When the sea breached this wall of rock, where a stream had already cut its way through to the sea, it encountered softer Wealden Clay behind so it easily carved a circular basin, only stopped by the wall of chalk at the back. You can read more about this area’s geology and history in The Official Guide to the Jurassic Coast which you can find at local Tourist Information offices.
• Distance: 4¼ miles (6.75km)
• Time: 4 hours
• Exertion: Fairly strenuous with some steep ascents
• Start: Church Road, West Lulworth. Parking opposite church allowed from 30 September (Grid Ref: SY823807)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194.
• Public Transport: First 15
• Dogs: On leads on roads, in fields with livestock or where requested
• Refreshments: Lulworth Cove Inn, Boat Shed Café and Finlay’s Café at Lulworth Cove
1. Go through the lych-gate into Holy Trinity Church yard. Walk left of the tower and out of the iron gate into Church Street. Turn right down the lane. Opposite a terrace of white cottages, go up the left footpath-signed stepped path to a junction with a track. Continue up the track under trees and onto a fenced path between fields. Keep ascending. Into an open field with views back to Lulworth Car Park and the sea behind, follow the right hedge up, then noticing Portland left. At the top of the field, by an aerial mast, there’s a footpath-post and a four-way signpost.
2. Take the main track, signed ‘1½ Daggers Gate’, to the hedge gap. Through, follow the chalk track down alongside the left hedge with wide views all around. Past a right Permissive Route and a left footpath, pass West Down Farm and keep straight on with long views. Continue down to Daggers Gate. Cross the road to the Grain Store entrance with a bridleway signpost for ‘Ringstead and White Nothe’. Through the gate, fork left at the milestone for ‘Ringstead and White Nothe’ up the hedged track, then with open fields right. Over the top, see Dorchester forward right. Through the facing gate, continue along the fenced grass track facing Portland.
3. Through the next 1½ bridleway-gates onto high downs, follow the right fence to the next gate with a footpath-signpost. Don’t go through but double back left onto the cut grass path for ‘Newlands Farm and Scratchy Bottom’ over the field with the sea down to your right and three hills ahead. Keep following the grass track until, later along here, veer left to join the higher grass track against the gorse line. Through facing 1½ gates, follow the fenced track down to the right footpath half-gate. Through, follow the used path down the steepening field (missing the caravan park) to the 1½ footpath-gates with left trees. Through, follow the fenced track down to more footpath-gates. Through these, follow the right fence down the valley all the way to 1½ footpath-gates out onto the Coast Path at Scratchy Bottom.
4. Turn left up the hill with Swyre Head and Bat’s Head behind you. After more closely visiting Durdle Door, continue along the ever steeper Coast Path, above Man O’ War Cove and St Oswald’s Bay. At the top signpost, go through the right 1½ ‘Coast Path Diversion’ footpath-gates and follow the right fence and gorse up the field to rejoin the original Coast Path. Over the top, there’s a first glimpse of Lulworth Cove. Now descend the cobbled and stepped path to Lulworth Car Park. Wander through to visit Stair Hole and Lulworth Cove. Then walk up the lane away from the Cove, past the Car Park and along the raised pavement. Pass the Coast Path gate in the opposite hedge and continue through the short avenue of trees to Bindon Road. Turn left and cross the road to the pavement. Go right/left into Church Road where you started.
• The ultimate Dorset walking guide - With Durdle Door, Brownsea Island, Jurassic Coast and a whole host of other stunning sights, Dorset is an amazing place for a stroll