Purbeck has always had an air of mysticism about it that has attracted visitors over the years. Even the name ‘The Isle of Purbeck’ lends an enticing, almost romantic air to the area, along the lines of the ‘White Isle’ of Ibiza, or the, er, Isle of Wight. Whilst Purbeck may not in fact be an island, its relatively isolated position as a spit of land encircled by the sea does mean it’s not the most accessible place. Taking the ferry from Sandbanks to Studland does seem to make it feel more like an island, particularly to children, whose excited chatter hints at the promise of adventure and possibly ice cream to come.
Perhaps due to this slight sense of isolation, Purbeck has always been reliant on tourism to boost the local economy, from Victorian times when visitors first began to flock to Swanage to take in its marvellous bay and enjoy some fresh sea air. In years past, Purbeck’s economy relied heavily on one of greatest natural resources; stone. The establishment of large cliff side quarries such as those at Tilly Whim and Winspit enabled ships to load their precious cargo more easily, allowing it to be shipped off for use in the construction of the likes of Winchester and Salisbury Cathedrals, as well as Westminster Abbey.
Whilst the demand for stone may have shrunk, Purbeck has become something of paradise for outdoor adventure lovers of all ages. Swanage continues to attract visitors with its more traditional seaside town virtues. Those whose idea of adventure might stretch to little more than a stroll along a lovely seafront and perhaps fish n chips or a cream tea are well catered for in our part of the world. Slightly further from the quaint charms of Swanage, perfect crescent moon bays such as Chapman’s Pool and Worbarrow remain relatively uncrowded, even on the most glorious of summer days.
Elsewhere, former quarries have now been repurposed as the favoured haunts of the adrenaline junkie. At Dancing Ledge, there’s climbing to be done and caves to be explored from the land or by sea. It’s easy to see why abandoned sites such as Winspit have inspired film makers and adventure-seekers with their otherworldly landscapes. Exploring readily accessible sites such as Winspit today remain a slightly eerie experience and great fun for families. Once thriving quarry sites such as Tilly Whim meanwhile, whilst not accessible to the public, have become a haven for wildlife such as bats and sea birds, which in turn attract ornithologists and wildlife enthusiasts. Pods of dolphins can often be spotted from the same point on the cliff top at Durlston Country Park.
The demand for Purbeck stone may not be what it once was, but the use of this unique building material is still very much in evidence, as new-build houses and extensions continue to provide a uniform appearance to the housing landscape. Whilst enterprising businesses attract visitors with the opportunity to try their hand at stone-carving and suchlike. To stroll along the South West Coast path is to discover any number of lovingly constructed stone benches, painstaking hand-carved and intricately engraved with memories of loved ones lost. Keeping this ancient art alive is also a wonderful way to create a lasting memory that will stand for time immemorial.
With its access to fresh produce from farming, the sea and the landscape, other successful local businesses such as Purbeck Ice cream have carved a niche for themselves based on the unique geography and location of Purbeck. Outdoor-focussed businesses such as ours continue to provide that crucial boost to the local economy. As well as offering people the chance to enjoy some wet and muddy mini-adventures, we provide job opportunities and vital, confidence-building experience, particularly for young people, in an area where the tourist season can be short and jobs can be hard to find.
One of the great things about Dorset Adventure Park, is that we’re so close to the likes of Corfe Castle and other sites of interest. If you’re only visiting for a day you can enjoy the thrills and spills of the park in the morning, before taking in the sites of the castle in the afternoon and finishing off with a cream tea or a locally brewed beer. Of course, with so much to do, it’s always better to visit for a few days and, alongside the delights of the adventure park, take in some of the many other activities open to you such as paddle-boarding, coasteering, mountain and road biking, kayaking, walking and fossil hunting to name a few.
If you’re only ever a summer visitor to our fair isle, don’t be a stranger during the winter months. The site of Corfe Castle shrouded in mist on a winter’s day, the roaring fire of the many welcoming country pubs after a walk, or even a bracing plunge in the winter sea are all experiences not to be missed, no matter the weather. Although at Dorset Adventure Park, our season only runs from April to November, one of the great things is that your fun isn’t weather-dependent. So, whether you’re already in the area looking for a fun way to while away a few hours, or you’re looking ahead to your next Purbeck adventure, why not pop in and pay us a visit?
Published July 15, 2019