- Length – 8 1/2 miles.
- Duration – 2 3/4 hours.
- Exertion – Easy
- Terrain – Beach, path, road
- Dogs – Allowed on beach all year round. Be aware of livestock and keep to the countryside code.
- Map – OS Explorer OL15 – Purbeck and South Dorset
- Start – National Trust Carpark
- Refreshments – There is a National Trust visitor centre and cafe at Knoll Beach, just before Studland village.
The walk takes place along the beach, nearly to the oil field and back to the chain ferry that connects Sandbanks to Studland. Starting at the National Trust car park, head to the beach and over the wooden bridge. The sea opens out in front of you and, occasionally, you’ll time it with a vessel entering Poole Harbour. This can be a surprising site as they seem so close to the beach! Turn right and follow the beach for as far as you can see
The beach is gorgeous. But be prepared in the summer as not only can it become dangerously busy, but part of it is also a dedicated naturist section. If you were unaware, you could experience a little shock. The beach is also a perfect example of a natural dune system. Huge, wind designed, banks of sand scattered with Marram grass clumps border teh beach. By the natural process of succession, these areas eventually grow into heath land. Heather (latin name Calluna vulgaris) is a noticeable plant alongside gorse (Ulex europaeus) a sharp, yellow flowered plant. GCSE and A-level students, maybe familiar with a song to help with their learning. To the tune of Hakuna Matata from the lion king…
Calluna vulgaris, what a wonderful shrub.
Calluna vulgaris it’s a heathland hub.
It means no Marram for the rest of your dune.
It’s a rhizome free shrubbery,
Continue as far as you can go along the beach to the village of Studland, passing the National Trust base at Knoll Beach. When the beach starts to thin, climb on up to the car park and then follow the footpath on your left, taking you back towards the waters edge. The footpath follows the coast path to the old WW2 defenses at Redend Point. This is known as Fort Henry. A slightly creepy sight but well worth a wonder into.
Continue to follow the coastal path and when it allows you to, turn left to head into the village of Studland. Studland is said to be one of the most beautiful, untouched villages of England. It contains some beautiful architecture, a specific one being The Pig. A stunning building, originally owed by the Bankes family who also owned Corfe Castle and Kingston Lacy. It is now a rather posh hotel. The village church is of Norman origin and dedicated to St Nicolas of Myra- the patron saint of sailors. Very relevant to its position. The parish Church of Arne, not to far away, is also dedicated to the same saint.
When you meet the village road, turn right and follow it past The Pig Hotel, ignoring the left hand turn. At the next corner, when the road curves to the left, continue onto the footpath straight ahead. It then brings you out onto the main road. Turn right and then left, over the road, to join a track. Pass a number of large properties, ignore any diversions and descend into the thicker woodland. Climb on up out of the small river valley and the trees disappear and the flat stretch of heath comes into view. Divert slightly left to visit the Agglestone rock, it is signposted to help you head in the right direction, however, its pretty clear as you start to approach.
The Agglestone is a 17ft high, est. 400 tonne rock, sat on a little hillock surrounded by boggy marsh. Legend has it that the devil, who was on The Isle of Wight, was cross with the Cerne Abbas giant so threw it at him. Unfortunately it fell short (by about 25 miles), landing in the heath where it still remains.
One hundred years ago this heathland stretched all the way to Dorchester and is often depicted in Thomas Hardy novels as a hard, dark, miserable place. At at times it can be, but just as often, its is a beautiful place to be. Turn back on yourself to follow your footsteps back to your footpath and then turn left. Continue straight ahead for as far as you can go and then turn right. This low lying landscape surrounds you and it seems like it can go on for ever, only bordered by Poole Harbour to the north and the Purbeck hills rising in the south. Continue straight ahead until you are guided to the left and then turn right to join a track, turning right again. Follow the track all the way to the road and then cross straight over. Once on the heather, turn left and follow the path that runs parallel to the road until, nearly a mile later, you are diverted left and over the road again. Here, head to the sea, the footpath is a little awkward to follow in the gorse! Keep your eyes peeled and you will discover the lovely little beach at Bramble Bush Bay.
Once again, it’s a bit of a scramble through the gorse back to Ferry road, but then an easy stroll back to the car.