Distance: 3 miles
Time: 1 hour
Total climb: 350ft
Max height: 400ft
Min height: 175ft
Terrain: Track, path, road and field.
Exertion: Climbs can be hard.
Start: Kimmeridge Quarry – free parking (Postcode: BH20 5NZ, Grid reference: SY918800)
Map: OS Explorer OL15 Purbeck and South Dorset
How to get there: From Wareham, take the first right out of Stoborough. Follow the road for about 4 miles, ignoring the turning to the Army ranges. Travel through Steeple and take the next right hand turn to Kimmeridge. The small quarry will be on your left hand side in a mile, just at the small junction.
Dogs: On leads where livestock is present and in accordance with any notices on the walk and The Countryside Code.
Refreshments: None on route, but a diversion to Kimmeridge village can provide some sustenance.
This walk also connects to the Swyre walk
From the quarry turn right up the road. Ignore the first left hand footpath taking you down the hill and take the second with the gate covered in MOD training warnings. Before even arriving at the car park you would have noticed the views and these continue as you walk along the high chalk ridge.
Below you, on the left, is the village of Kimmeridge. Tight to the left sit the chimneys of Kimmeridge farmhouse, which is a 14th century 5 star B&B, a classic country house. It has later additions from the Georgian/early Victorian times, but with accompanying village thatched roofs and walls made from classic Purbeck stone, it does still appear like a little piece of history. It was actually one of the last few villages in England to receive electricity and running water.
Nearby, highlighted by the slightly newer roofline, is The Etches collection of Jurassic Marine Life museum. This is a unique and modern museum containing amazing fossils – the marine life of the Jurassic Dorset.
It is an incredibly unspoilt area and its importance has been recognised by its designation as a nature reserve – the first of its type (underwater) in the country. It is run by the Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Fine Foundation Wild Seas Centre, based in the bay. It really is a special area of untouched beauty, well, relatively untouched, the reminder of civilisation only ignited by the flicker of a car in the sunshine and the ancient Purbeck stone structures scattered amongst the trees.
Once known as Haunted Bay as it was a popular smugglers cove. The tricky coastline meant only experienced and local sailors could navigate the rocks leading to the downfall of foreigners and the free for all for smugglers and villages alike.
Continue along the ridge for approximately half a mile. The views are immense, stretching west along the Jurassic coastline to Portland, Weymouth bay protected from the westerly elements by this rocky outcrop. To your left, Kimmeridge bay becomes more clear, the carpark noticeable on the coastline. Sitting high on the hill, framed by the sea is Clavell Tower. It is a welcome landmark for those at sea and a picture postcard for those on land. Not long ago it was at risk of having its foundations eroded away, teetering on the cliff top, the whole building nearly washed out to sea, but was moved slightly northwards out of dangers way. It has been renovated and is now available to let as a self-catering holiday home.
When you meet the first hedgerow, cross over the stile and turn right to start to head down the hill, leaving the sea views behind you. Climb the following stile that takes you into shrub land and later into wood. It can be quite steep in places so watch your footing. As you reach the bottom you enter into Steeple Leaze Farm. This farm has developed a small campsite nestled in the hills of the river valley. Off the country road and down a small track, isolated but cocooned in the countryside.
Continue straight through the farm buildings and onto a small road. Make your way up the small hill to meet the road and turn right.
Mind out for traffic, as it is narrow and can get busy during peak season. However, you are not on it for long taking the next right hand turn guiding you towards Steeple Church, St Michael and All Angels. Steeple is the smallest village on the isle of Purbeck. Concentrated down a dead end road, it consists of only a small number of farm buildings, the church, a rectory and a 17th century manor house. All of which are constructed from the local creamy grey Purbeck stone. Earthworks suggest a very different layout in the middle ages. Outlines of foundations and platforms of homes and buildings bulge out the ground in forms of lumps and bumps littering the land beside the churchyard. There is also evidence of settlement either side of the Corfe River. Agricultural activity has unearthed a number of large purposely worked stone, suggesting buildings of some importance.
Steeple Manor dates from before 1600 but was rebuilt in 1698 and contains a crest with the initials ‘R-C-R’ for Roger and Ruth Clavell from the nearby Smedmore House at Kimmeridge. It is their family name given to the famous landmark on the Kimmeridge cliff.
Follow the road between the church and the earthworks. Opposite the entrance to the church, take the stile on you left and walk diagonally across the field to head towards the far left hand corner. Climb a stile and take the small wooded bridge across the River Corfe.
At just under 9 Kilometres long, the Corfe River is the smallest of the four main rivers flowing into Poole Harbour, the others being the River Frome, the River Piddle and Sherford River. Its source rises near North Egliston about 1.5 km (1 mi) west of the hamlet of Steeple, between the Purbeck Hills and the coastal ridge. The river initially flows eastwards towards Corfe Castle, swinging north, skirting the castle itself and onward to the oil fields of Wytch Heath.
Cut straight across the next field to exit out on the road you can see in the short distance. Once in the road, turn right and head on up the hill, being once again mindful for traffic. After you pass the reservoir on your right, there views you are familiar from on the start of the walk reappear. Continue to follow the road, passing your first gate on the right. The quarry car park is then on your left.
Another random landmark to mention and nearby, although not on this walk, can easily be visited is Grange Arch. Located near to the second highest point on the Purbeck hills, it stands alone, isolated with what seems no purpose. It was built by a former owner of Creech Grange, just to the north, Denis Bond, in 1746. It is built in the form of a triple arch of ashlar stone. The central archway is surmounted by battlements and flanked by stone walls with smaller doorway arches and pinnacles.
To reach the arch, travel from Steeple back up the hill towards Wareham. On reaching its peak, park in the car park on the right hand side and take the bridleway leading to the east. The arch cannot be missed!
Great Wood, to the north of the monument, has been managed and split, maintaining its visual link to the south side of Creech Grange. Looking from the house the arch would have framed the sky. Its reason for its existence was to impress, the fashion of the time. Today it is in the ownership of the National Trust, and was the first property in the isle of Purbeck to be owned by them, now they are in possession of hundreds of acres of coast and heath in the Purbecks, along with the MOD.
Returning to the car park from the Arch you can glimpse Lulworth old castle ahead on your right and the Isle of Portland out to sea on your left. It is a short easy walk, only a mile long, which is brilliant for children with added promise of the treasure to discover in form of the arch! The views are also spectacular, the sea wrapping around you on your southern side, the north spreading out into the depths of the Dorset countryside and Poole Harbour glimmering in the east.