The Purbeck Way is a spectacular walk within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It is signposted as a walking route from Wareham to near Swanage and is 28 miles long.
There are many highlights along the route. The delightful town of Wareham is the start or finish point and is surrounded by the Saxon Wareham Walls. The pretty wharf area is a reminder that in the medieval times, Wareham was a busy port. Then, Wareham was a much more important port than Poole.
By clicking on the link above, you can find out more about the different sections of this long-distance path and how to access this beautiful resource.
The first half mile (0.8km) from Wareham, of the Purbeck Way, has been improved for wheelchair access so that it is a level, well surfaced path with seating. At the start point in Wareham Quay (BH20 4LP) there is access into Priory Meadow which is also wheelchair/mobility scooter friendly with gravel paths. The rest of the route is on public rights of way with stiles and gates.
Landscape and wildlife on the Purbeck Way
The landscape and its wildlife completely changes after leaving Wareham. The signposted walk goes across Stoborough Heath and Creech Heath. Here you can see Sika dear and the rare Dartford warbler. If you are lucky, you can find all of the UK’s six reptiles: smooth snake, grass snake, adder, sand lizard, common lizard and slow worm.
The path then reaches the chalk ridge at Corfe Castle, with its magnificent castle. Corfe Castle was part of the Bankes estate and is now owned by the National Trust. Ballard Down is the next destination, with its magnificent views across Poole Harbour. And then the Purbeck Way takes you on to the limestone areas of Old Harry Rocks or Swanage on the coast.
Purbeck limestone is the raw material of the quarrying industry. It is used for building and landscaping. Many of the streets of London are paved with Purbeck stone and as a result Purbeck stone is still in demand. The stone has been quarried from the coastal cliffs for hundreds of years. Stone was loaded into boats from workings called whims.
The remains of Pike’s tramway are on Stoborough Heath. The tramway was used to transport the ball clay from the Pike brothers’ clay workings to the Ridge Wharf on the River Frome, just down river from Wareham. The tramway was operated by seven steam engines, numbered in Latin: Primus through to Septimus. The ball clay was shipped to Poole for Poole Pottery production and ball clay was also shipped to other locations via the Corkscrew Railway as a raw material of the potteries industry.
The Frome Valley Trail
The River Frome forms part of the Purback Way and links with the Frome Valley Trail. You might be lucky enough to see a kingfisher or beautiful demoiselle damselfly along the river bank.