The Dorset Walk — Creech, Corfe Castle and Knowle Hill
Matt Wilkinson and Mark Bauer explore Purbeck woodland, heath and hills
Published in September ’09
Not the least of Purbeck’s joys is its variety. Anyone who lives there can find whatever type of landscape they enjoy walking in, within a few miles of their home. This route reflects that variety: perhaps only sea-cliffs are missing, but there are good views of the sea at the beginning and end of the walk.
It also offers three short and easy diversions. The first looms over the start and finish point of the walk: Creechbarrow, which is attached like a pimple to the inner Purbeck ridge. From the top one can look down on Wareham and beyond, while there are said to be traces of King John’s hunting lodge that once crowned the summit. At 633 feet above sea level, Creechbarrow is only 33 feet lower than Purbeck’s highest point, Swyre Head.
The next possible diversion is to the Blue Pool, the flooded former clay pit whose water is said to change colour in different lights. More convincing are the lovely walks in the surrounding woodland and the interesting museum of the clay industry.
Finally, the walk passes close to Purbeck’s iconic landmark, Corfe Castle. One can spend a whole day exploring the ruins and their surroundings, including the picturesque village. If nothing else, a walk up to the ruins is well worth while.
Distance: About 7¼ miles.
Terrain: There are some boggy patches, but there is normally a diversion or a plank bridge. The climb up Knowle Hill is quite short but steep.
Start: On the lane which runs over the saddle to the south of Creechbarrow.
How to get there: From the Wareham by-pass, turn south into Grange Road, signed to Creech, Steeple and Kimmeridge.
Map: OS Explorer OL15 (Purbeck & South Dorset); OS Landranger 195 (Bournemouth & Purbeck).
Refreshments: The nearest to the route are the tearoom at the Blue Pool and tearooms and pubs in Corfe Castle village.
1. Walk on down the hill, with striking views of Poole town, Harbour and Bay. At the bottom, turn right and walk through the pretty duckponded village of East Creech. Continue out of the village and at the next T-junction turn left. Walk carefully up the right-hand side for 300 yards to where the road bends sharply left. Continue straight ahead onto a path through woodland. The path meanders to avoid several boggy patches but basically continues straight ahead and emerges onto the road.
2. Turn right and, in just over 200 yards, right again down the paved drive to the Blue Pool. Where the drive swings to the left into the car park, continue straight ahead, then follow the path ahead which runs to the left of the little green pay-booth. (To visit the Blue Pool, turn right here.) Stay on the path for about 200 yards to a fork, where take the broader, right-hand option. Go through a gate and, within 100 yards, strike off left on a path which runs across the heath, passing through a narrow band of conifer trees; head just to the right of the Rollington Hill radio mast on the skyline. The path is fairly easy to follow across the heath and continues in the same direction.
3. Reach a gate and enter woodland. Go straight ahead, following the fence on the left and ignoring a plank bridge to the right. However, the path then crosses its own plank bridge, shortly after which it forks. Fork right and follow the fence on the left as it bends left and emerges onto a paved drive. Go straight across the drive and follow a path for some 100 yards to another fork. Here fork right onto a grassy path with a stout timber fence on the left. Cross a railway line and bear round to the right to reach a rough drive. Turn right and reach the main A351 with pretty Cats Eye Cottage to the left.
4. Cross the road on a slight left-right dog-leg and walk along a broad track. After the buildings of New Line Farm, the track swings to the left, following the former course of the clay tramway that gave the farm its name. Leave the track and walk straight ahead over a plank bridge. Walk along the edge of the woodland, with a good view of Corfe Castle to the right. Emerge from the woodland and follow the right-hand edge of two fields. At the end of the second field, go through a gate into a lane and turn left. Follow the lane for a little under ½ mile until it bends sharply left in front of the drive to Scotland Farm.
5. Here turn right, keeping to the left-hand hedge. Cross a plank walkway and enter open heathland, but the path is well-defined as it winds through the gorse, roughly following power lines on wooden poles. At a fork bear left, away from the power lines, to a stile. Go straight across the field beyond, with a grove of silver birch trees to the left. Enter woodland again, but again the path is easy to follow as it crosses a sleeper bridge and reaches a gate. On the other side of the gate turn left over a plank bridge to reach a stile. Here bear right across the field, heading for the highest point at the left end of the ridge on the skyline, which is West Hill. Enter woodland yet again, and yet again the path is easy to follow as it leads to another open field. Cross the field with Corfe Castle dead ahead.
6. Cross a stile and go down some steps, then straight across the access road to BP’s gathering station at Wytch Farm. Cross a stile and a plank bridge on the other side and follow the woodland path ahead between a flooded clay pit on the left and the Norden station park-and-ride on the right. Eventually emerge into a clearing with the railway straight ahead. Turn left and follow the path down into an open field, parallel with the railway. Almost at the end of this field, turn right through a kissing gate to cross the railway and, after the kissing gate on the other side, turn left and walk along the railway fence to steps leading into the information centre car park.
7. Leave the car park next to the information centre and either turn left to explore Corfe Castle or walk straight ahead across the road, onto a gravel path. Follow the path until it forks, where take the right fork to a space with three gates opening from it. Take the one next to the road (but not onto the road), signed as a bridleway to Cocknowle. Follow this path until it forks in a little over ½ mile; resist the temptation to take any of the paths up the hill to the right before then. At the fork is a marker stone, and take the right-hand option, signed ‘Ridge Path Knowle Hill’. At the top of the hill turn left, following the fence on the left initially but then striking out to a gate visible on the skyline. Continue along the ridge with lovely views of the Purbeck valley to the left; only at the end of Knowle Hill does the view to the right open up, looking north deep into central Dorset.
8. At the end of the ridge, descend to a gate onto a road. Turn right and walk up the road for about 100 yards until it swings to the right. Go through the gate straight ahead and continue up the track beyond. At the top of the track, ignore the gates to the left and straight ahead, turning right onto a track which swoops down into the head of the valley and over the shoulder of the hill before leading to the road where your car is parked.