EXPLORING COAST & COUNTRYSIDE
A combination of sandy beaches, soaring clifftops, rock pools and chalk sea stacks make the coastline at Studland one of the most rich and varied in such a relatively short distance and the Bankes Arms is bank in the heart of it all. From sandcastle-building to watersports and blow-away-the-cobwebs walks, Studland is a place for all seasons and much of it is protected by the National Trust.
The coastline stretches northwards from the beginning of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site at the iconic sea stacks of Old Harry Rocks for almost four miles to Shell Bay, where the chain ferry provides a link across Poole Harbour to Sandbanks, Poole and Bournemouth. The waters are shallow and relatively calm and the white, sandy beaches are popular with everyone; there’s even a naturist beach along a short, private stretch.
The rolling sand dunes lining the beaches shelter the Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve beyond, home to all six of Britain’s native reptile species as well as deer, badgers, egrets, nightjars and the Dartford Warbler. The heather covered reserve also contains the mysterious standing stone known as the Agglestone Rock, a sandstone block of about 400 tonnes weight. Legend has it that the devil threw the rock from The Needles on the Isle of Wight with the intention of hitting Corfe Castle.
The beaches were used for practicing the D-Day Landings during the Second World War and there are plenty of structures remaining including pill boxes, ‘Dragon’s Teeth’ anti-tank spikes and Fort Henry from where Winston Churchill observed the manoeuvres.
The Bankes Arms is perfectly placed to explore the rest of the ‘Isle of Purbeck’, a unique and romantic combination of rolling countryside, rustic farmland, ancient woodlands, stone quarries, towering cliffs, sheltered bays, sandy beaches and fascinating rock pools. Popular locations are all within easy reach (by car or, for those on an adventure, by foot) such as Durdle Door’s famous sea arch, the fascinating geology of Lulworth Cove and Stair Hole, Kimmeridge Bay with it’s wealth of fossils and the old cliff quarried caves of Dancing Ledge.
Another favourite stop, and not just for historians, is usually the iconic ruins of Corfe Castle, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and slighted by Cromwell’s Parliamentarians in 1645. The castle ruins conjure up visions of days gone by, as does the ‘ghost village’ of Tyneham near Worbarrow Bay, recquisitioned by the Ministry of Defence in 1943 and uninhabited ever since.
The seaside town of Swanage, with its cobbled pavements, old stone quay and Victorian pier is only 10 minutes by car or an hour and a half across the cliff tops from the pub. Slightly further afield is Wareham, an historic town lying peacefully on the River Frome.
Travelling north to the Sandbanks/Shell Bay chain ferry, visitors can cross to Sandbanks (famous for having the fourth highest land value in the world) and visit Poole, with it’s busy quay and marinas, Bournemouth’s nightlife and shopping and Christchurch.
Take a boat trip from Sandbanks or Poole Quay around Poole Harbour (you can land at Brownsea Island or take a tour of the islands) or even around to Old Harry Rocks where you can see Studland from the sea.
Further inland you can visit the market town of Wimborne, the county town of Dorchester or the Cerne Abbas Giant. Following the line of the Jurassic Coast westwards are the coastal towns of Weymouth, Portland, Bridport and Lyme Regis.