By Gill Stewart at
As we count down towards the Nordic Walking event of the year, we thought we would give you some bitesize snippets of the walks we have planned for you at the PURBECK NORDIC WALKING FESTIVAL. Join the HQ team over the next few months as we pre walk the selected routes in order to make sure we can provide accurate details on the event website (coming soon we promise!)
Last weekend we ventured to the heart of the Purbeck stone quarrying village Worth Matravers – famous for its iconic pub the Square and Compass and of course being the home of our NWUK HQ!
We were checking out one of the easy shorter routes today to make sure the terrain has dried out after the winter rains and none of the coastal path has disappeared into the sea since we were last there! Like many others in the area, this walk joins the South West coastal path and our team are building loops in a range of distances so we can ensure everybody gets to see our stunning coastline.
Following a sharp frost (the first for a long time in these parts) we set off in sparkling sunshine from the Parish Council car park in Worth Matravers and put our heads down to avoid temptation as we passed the Pub where early mountain bikers were already enjoying well earned coffee breaks as they took in the view. We watched the arrival of Swallows (or maybe Swifts) as they circled above in celebration at returning to the UK after their winter in the sun. We wondered wistfully if we might be waving goodbye to the same group during the early morning ‘bird migration walk’ on the same cliff tops during the Festival in September.
Setting off across the disused open cast quarries towards the glistening sea, we overtook a group of adventurers who were setting off to ‘enjoy???’ some Coasteering and a few families’ out for their Sunday strolls complete with dogs and all terrain buggies. As we traversed the first two fields where livestock grazed lazily, we encountered our first mud in a dip where their hooves have carved deep holes during the wetter months. There was a clean route through although yours truly failed to find it (as usual) as you can see from the shoe! Rest assured, this will be dry as a bone in September!
We followed the track towards the sea and came out above the stunning rocky cove at Winspit where the waves were lapping over the huge rock platform that looks almost like a stone floor in an old Manor House. The adventurers dropped down the steep path towards the cove eager to jump into the sea, explore caves and scramble over ledges but we sat and watched a couple of South West coast path walkers climb the ridge on the other side of the cove before we turned left to walk towards Swanage ( the festival hub). Before taking our designated path back on the circular route to Worth Matravers we took a detour along the cliffs to watch climbers clinging to the old quarry faces set in caves where stone ‘roofs’ are held in place by stacks of stones!
With views out towards the lighthouse at Durlston Country Park (one of our hosts for the Festival) and the lighthouse, we got distracted by the abundance of sea kale and rock samphire and made a note to tip off our friendly forager who will be leading a free food fest walk for us in September.
Two young sea fisherman were casting huge lines into the sea several feet below and they told us that the calm spring weather was a welcome change from days when the sea pounds the cliffs and the spray makes them to retreat into the caves.
Back on the path, we headed up some stone steps (thanks National Trust!) to what is known as East Man and followed the Coast Path towards Seacombe where we dropped down into a glorious sheltered gully beautifully named Seacombe bottom! Here we followed the track back inland and started the climb back up towards the Village. The climb is gentle to start with but gets steeper towards the top where once again, the national Trust have put in some stone steps to make it easier. At the top a gate leads into a field where chubby lambs skipped around whilst their Mothers gathered for a drink at a trough as the heat of the sunshine began to take its toll. The short climb and midday sun led us to peel off a layer and we sympathised with our woolly friends who were clearly looking forward to a visit from the shearer!
A short walk and climb over a stone stile and we were back in Worth Matravers and heading for the pub which is now frequented by walkers, cyclists and lovers of STRONG local Ciders but has a history that includes smuggling and providing respite for the local quarrymen. The Pub has a garden where huge stone slab serve as benches and tables whilst the tiny serving hatch remains the same it it has for nearly 100 years. Completely unspoilt it now also includes a fossil museum and outdoor cider cart and as we approached we soon realised that we were in for a treat as the sound of sea shanties drifted towards us. Live music is also a regular feature and our stunning spring walk ended with a cool cider, the obligatory pasty and music from the Wareham Whalers a local sea shanty group.
Waylaid by some local Nordic walkers out with their poles, we were ‘forced’ to stay for another ‘half’ and were so glad we did when a group of French musicians from Normandy struck up their mix of shanty style songs that bizarrely included Breton bagpipes, tin whistles and bongo drums!!!! Trust us, it was amazing and as we reluctantly set off to write the risk assessment of the walk we agreed that there is nowhere quite like the Square and Compass and it has to be included in the Festival! Watch out for loops that include the Priests way, Winspit, St Aldhems and Dancing Ledge and you will be near enough to pop in for a Cider and a sing song – See you there!
For more information about the festival in September click HERE and be sure to register your interest today!