We’ve recently returned from exploring Swanage and the surrounding Isle of Purbeck – a remarkably lovely area about which I’d been almost entirely ignorant before. We were staying in a holiday cottage owned by Sarah, the sister of Jen’s godmother Hannah.
A short walk from the front door took us to the south side of Swanage Bay, with views across to the spectacular chalk cliffs on the north side, with Old Harry Rock being a sea stack at the eastern end of it.
We only used the car once during the week (to visit the nature reserve at Arne). On one of the days we walked along the suitably-named Priests’ Way west towards Worth Matravers, before heading back along the coast.
Just as we turned south from the Priests’ Way, we saw a sign marked ‘Dinosaur footprints‘. Intrigued, we found the site a short distance away, which had been exposed by recent quarrying. The footprints, instead of looking like a trackway, has more the look of an area of trampling by a herd of dinosaurs trampling around a watering hole, rather as elephants do today.
We stopped for a snack on the way back along the coast, during which a beetle I’d never seen before took up residence on the back of Jen’s hand for a while. I was lucky to identify it quite quickly as Cantharis rustica, a soldier beetle: it’s a predatory beetle which lurks on flowers, eating whatever little insects land to feed on the flowers. (There’s a nice description of soldier beetles here.) Why it took such a liking to Jen’s hand is a little mysterious.
The walk would have been a good one for a detailed birdwatch – the valley connecting the Priests’ Way to the coast seemed to be Goldfinch Paradise, given how many there were. There were also a good number of stonechats along the coast, including this rather fine individual.
The next day, we decided to do the Purbeck Way, a route along the Purbeck hills, which forms a well-defined east-west ridge along the middle of the Isle. Instead of driving, we went on the steam train from Swanage to Corfe Castle, from where we walked back.
This wasn’t as straightforward as we’d have liked: there were high winds that day so we decided to walk along the path near the foot of the hills. The unexpected bonus from this was seeing some remarkably showy roe deer. This pair were willing to stand and stare while I photographed them. However it was the other two (in the third photo) which I saw first, lurking in the dry gorse, and which were much more timid – nevertheless even they came out in full view eventually.
Towards the end of the walk, there were lovely views over Swanage Bay.
Our only car trip was to the RSPB’s Arne reserve, where I had an excellent, very close sighting of a Dartford Warbler. Arne is one a small number of breeding sites for it along the south coast. Unfortunately it flitted off as soon as I realised what it was, so wasn’t able to show it to Jen or photograph it. We walked along a couple of the paths around the reserve, so we eventually came across a rather lovely view across Poole Harbour, and in particular of Long Island.
Later in the week we went on a short walk south from Swanage to the Durlston lighthouse – part of which we did with Hannah on the Tuesday. It’s a very attractive walk – with the added bonus of having some very watchable sea birds, including fulmars, many guillemots and a few razorbills.
It was a lovely week and we’re keen to go there again fairly soon.