Swanage:the south west coastal path,steam trains & beaches

Swanage is the first sizeable town you come to,if starting along the Jurassic Coast from Shell Bay,the start of the South West Coastal Path.

swanage

Getting there

You can reach the town by car,ferry,bus or steam train.By car the quickest way is via the Sandbanks Ferry if coming from Poole or via the A351 if coming from Wareham.If you get the timing right on the ferry the journey time from Poole is about 20 minutes.

Another ferry option is to come from Poole Quay to Swanage Pier though this service only operates at Easter and from June to September.Departure times from Poole are 1045 and 1520 and give you 4.5 hours in Swanage before the return journey.

Prices are £9.25 for adults and £5.75 for children.Go to the ferry operator website

Blueline Cruises for more information.

The No 50 runs from Bournemouth station 40 minutes past the hour,journey time is 1 hour and 5 mins.In the summer this is an open top bus and is a great ride.

The railway option is aboard steam trains which come down from Corfe Castle and terminates right in the town centre.From here it is a 5 minute walk to the beach.

The Town Tour

The best place to start would be The Square where the High Street and Institute Road Meet.Here you will find as well as the obligatory fish and chip shops,the Swanage Heritage Centre and Museum.

It is quite small but does give and good history of the town,both social and geological,given we are on the Jurassic Coast.Entry is free though a donation is requested.

From here walk towards the Pier passing the stone quay built by William Morton Pitt in 1825.The younger longer pier was built in 1897 to serve paddle steamers but now serves the Poole ferry,scuba divers and tourists.

A trust has been set up to preserver the pier and a donation is requested as you walk onto the Pier.

Continuing past the pier along Peveril Point Road you will see the Wellington Clock Tower.This was originally at the south end of London Bridge and was removed by George Burt of the John Mowlem Company and rebuilt in it's current location.

It is one of many artifacts that were brought to Swanage by the John Mowlem Company from building sites when they were now longer needed.

Saving lives

Past the clocktower you will come to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute station which houses Mersey Class and D Class lifeboats.The RNLI saves many lives each year and with the greater use of leisure boats this will only increase.

You can visit the station between April and September 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday and even watch crew training.Call them on 01929 427341 for more details.

Finally you reach Peveril Point and the Coast Guard lookout.The South West Coastal Path passes through this point.Here you have great views back towards the town and north to

Old Harry's Rocks

The Beach

Back at the Square,walk down Institute Street until you come to the Mowlem Theatre a truly hideous structure.On this site a library and lecture hall was built by John Mowlem a local boy who had made his fortune in London as a public works contractor.

The library was demolished in 1965 to be replaced by the theatre we see.I think John must be turning in his grave thinking what they have built.Even the new library just a few streets away is just as ugly.

Past the theatre you arrive at the beach which is what brings all the tourists in.It is a sandy beach unlike the others you find as you continue westwards along the Jurassic Coast.As a bonus the town Council hire out what they describe as " beach bungalows" which I have to say are bigger than the beach huts you find in Bournemouth.

Prices range from £22 per week at Easter up to £96 per week between July and September.Go

for the booking form.

The beach is also good for seas glass collecting.Sea glass?What is that I hear you say.Go to

Odessey Sea Glass for more information about this fascinating subject.

If you are into architecture then head westwards up the High Street for about 500 yards until you reach what is now the Puckbeck House Hotel .

This was built by George Burt as his retirement home in 1875 and is made from Devonshire,Aberdeen & Peterhead granite as well as Purbeck stone.What is most remarkable is the relics it contains from London contracts of his building firm.

There is an arch from Hyde Park Corner,busts from the Royal Exchange and stone from the Houses of Parliament.Good place for a wedding reception particularly if you tie the knot at the Parish Church .This is reached by walking further up the HIgh Street and turning left down Church Hill.

You will pass the beautiful Mill Pond where the original community started,needing as it did fresh water for both humans and animals.The church itself dates back to the thirteenth century though it has been rebuilt twice the last time in 1859 to accommodate a bigger congregation.

Steam

If you continue down Church Hill you will reach Kings Road West.Turn right here and it will bring you round to the railway station from where you cam enjoy a steam and sometimes diesel ride up to Corfe Castle.Be sure to visit the shop located in the station building.This offers a wide selection of railway memorabilia including lots of Thomas the Tank Engine goodies.

swanage station

From here a short walk down Station Road will bring you back to the beach past THAT building again I'm afraid.

A history of Swanage

The history of the town is tied up with one thing and two men:stone,John Mowlem & George Burt.

The town did not have a population to speak of until the communication from the surrounding quarries was opened up in the 1770s, so that stone could be brought to Swanage and then shipped to more distant destinations.The town was suddenly a port and the population increased to over 1000.

A big player in this stone trade was John Mowlem who was born in the town in 1788 and started a building company in London with his nephew George Burt.Together they won many public works contracts.This involved dismantling old buildings, parts of which were brought back to Swanage and can be seen today.

The stone trade reached it's zenith between 1800 and 1860 when some 50000 tons of the stuff was shifted each year.

With his wealth Mowlem retired to Swanage and set about rebuilding the town,including a new town hall, water works & library.Burt soon joined him and constructed Durlston Castle and Park to the south of Swanage.

Their biggest achievement was to bring the railway to Swanage and despite much opposition got a private bill through Parliament allowing construction of the railway to begin.Amid great celebration the line opened on May 20th 1885.

The stone trade then went into decline but the town was able to transform itself into the tourist town it is today, with paddle steamers bringing day trippers from Poole and Bournemouth.

Today the town is full of hotels,bed & breakfasts and holiday flats,with the population swelling to three times it's normal number during the summer.A great place to enjoy and here is what you can do....

Events in 2010

July: Jazz Festival 16th to 18th July 2010.

September:Swanage Folk Festival including Show of Hands and Vince Garbutt 10th to 12th September

October:Swanage Blues Festival 1st to 3rd October 2010

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