A Great Day out at Durlston Country Park

As winter has now almost certainly arrived, the perfect place to go for a wintery walk is in and around Durlston Country Park in Swanage.

As part of the Jurassic coast world heritage site not only does it have incredible picturesque views but there is also plenty of opportunity to look out for wildlife and over 500 different types of wildflowers. Durlston Country Park is home to 33 species of breeding Butterflies, 500 Moths, thousands of other invertebrates as well as over 250 species of Birds recorded and at different times of the year is host to a number of migrating birds. This time of year you may be able to spot birds such as the Redwing and Fieldfare as they come to feed upon berries and stay throughout the winter.  Additionally if you are lucky enough, you may be able to spot bottle-nosed Dolphins or even the occasional Seal off the coast. 

Durlston Country Park is home to Durlston castle, Check out the many quotes and poems engraved into the walls around here. The Castle was built as a restaurant by George Burt rather than as a place to live and he also commissioned a 40-ton limestone globe known as the ‘Great Globe’. This is one of the largest stone spheres in the world, and carved into this is an 1880’s world map; this is a fascinating look at how much the world has changed since this time, with the dissolution of a number of European empires, the colonization of Africa as well as countries changing names, size or disappearing all together, a lots has certainly changed. Durlston also makes great place for stargazing with very little light pollution and a new astronomy centre it makes it the perfect place to look up at the night’s sky.

Walking from Durlston Castle towards Anvil Point you will pass the Tilly Whim Caves, these caves were limestone quarries that were active mostly in the 18th century and they are filled with local history. Extracted was Purbeck Stone a valuable limestone, this stone as used to help build much of London including St Paul’s cathedral, this stone was also used extensively in the Napoleonic wars for building fortifications along the south coast. The Quarrymen would use metal punches, wedges and hammers to split the rock so that it was easily worked with transported, most of the quarrymen were also skilled stonemasons who would work with the stone within the quarry. The name ‘Whim’ came from the specialist wooden crane that would lower the finished stonework from the quarry into ships below which would the stone to its destination. Quarrying in the caves stopped in 1812, they were reopened in 1887 as a tourist attraction but were eventually deemed unsafe and closed off to the public. Today the caves are home to a number of bats and seabirds and you can still see the quarry entrance and quarry’s ledge although these are blocked off.

Up the hill you will reach Anvil Point Lighthouse; this lighthouse was built from locally quarried stone and was completed in 1881, it warns ships between Portland Bill and Christchurch Ledge about the coastline. Originally the lighthouse used a paraffin vapour burner but has since been modified, the Fog signal discontinued, and is now fully automated. It is currently known as a site of special scientific interest and you may often see climbers scaling the cliff face around here.

Steeped in history and wildlife Durlston is the perfect place to walk the coast and take in the views, bring a camera and get some pictures of the beautiful landscapes and wildlife, or why not bring binoculars and who knows what you might see? Many of our properties are within walking distance, making this a great place to visit any time of year.

Robyn Tatchell


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