Treasures of Dorset: Lulworth Cove
Jerome Murray captures one of Dorset's iconic places
Published in May ’13
Lulworth Cove is often described as horseshoe-shaped, but it is actually more circular than that, and the rocks on either side of the entrance encircle the beauty within like a pair of encircling arms. The sense of a magic place cut off from the rest of the world is enhanced by the chalk cliffs that rise steeply at the back of the cove.
The simple science behind the almost perfectly satisfying shape of the cove is that on the seaward side is a narrow strip of hard Portland and Purbeck stone. Behind is a wider band of much softer clays and greensands, so the waves erode the cove at the sides at a greater rate than at the back or at the entrance.
The cove has been popular with tourists for over 200 years, Victorian visitors arriving by paddle steamer from Swanage and Weymouth. Today it is actively managed by the Lulworth Estate to deal with the effects of its popularity: the 250,000 people who each year walk over the hill from the cove to Durdle Door make this the most used section of the South West Coast Path.
Perhaps the most notable visitor was Napoleon Bonaparte. Seeking a place to land invasion troops, he was seen by the French-speaking wife of a local farmer, who left an account of seeing him roll up a map, saying ‘C’est impossible.’