Swanage is located near the eastern edge of an amazing stretch of coastline called The Jurassic Coast; England’s only natural world heritage site.  In under 100 miles, the cliffs along the coast contain a fossil record dating from 65 million years to over 250 million years ago.  The time periods enveloped in this extraordinary fossil record include the Triassic Period, Jurassic Period, and Cretaceous Period.  One place we learned all about The Jurassic Coast was Durlston Castle.

With Durlston Castle only about a mile and a half from our house sit, we actually got to visit it several times for different volunteer-run events.  The castle is a part of Durlston Country Park & Nature Reserve; 320 acres of countryside and coastline with a boundless variety of flora, fauna, fungi, and even fossils throughout.

Over our weeks in Swanage, we trekked across the numerous trails around the coastal hills of Durlston Country Park, visited the local lighthouse, hiked several miles along the cliffs, and of course visited the castle.  On our first visit to the castle itself, we simply ducked in for some lunch at the on-site restaurant called Seventhwave Café, after a grueling two hour hike through the hills.  While we were there, we picked up a schedule of events for the castle, and found a couple we were interested in coming back for. Read More

Sitting atop a hill overlooking the village of Corfe Castle, is the castle of Corfe Castle.  Now a crumbled ruin of its former self, Corfe Castle was built way back in the 11th century, and survived through centuries of harsh weather and military sieges, until it finally fell during a siege in 1645; when it was deliberately destroyed so that it could no longer be used as a stronghold.  That being said, it is quite remarkable to walk through the towering ruins today, and see how the structure has held up for over 350 years!

Only about a fifteen minute drive from our house sit in Swanage, we were able to visit Corfe Castle a couple of times during our trip.  First, we visited it for a day trip of a couple of hours, so that we could see the castle up close and personal.  Though there is a main cobbled path which leads through the grounds and up into the castle proper, it is possible to walk over most of the hillside, which used to be various rooms of the castle.  If not for the brass nameplates on various walls, one would think that they were simply standing in a courtyard surrounded by a stone wall.  Instead, the plates read “Old Hall”, and “Gloriette”.  Even with a carpet of muddy lawn, I could imagine the “Old Hall” filled with people, maybe with a long table down the middle, where the inhabitants of the castle would gather for meals or important meetings.

Once we climbed to the top of a set of stone steps leading up into the tallest remaining part of the castle, we began to see the incredible size of some of the structure.  Walls that were at least four feet thick leaned precariously (almost 45 degrees from their original vertical position), but were still miraculously standing.  After climbing another set of stairs (these ones more modern) up into the towers, we were met with a hallway which acted as a kind of wind tunnel.  As the 15 mile per hour wind crested the hill, it met a gaping hole in the side of one of the towers, and shot through to the courtyard at the rear of the castle, leaving the hall at nearly twice the speed at which it entered. Read More

While in Swanage, there have been several significant locations we decided we simply had to see, one of which was the sunrise at Durdle Door.  A magnificent natural arch of solid limestone, created by the erosion of the pounding tides on the Jurassic Coast of England.  The extra bonus of our visit being in the winter is that this is the only time of the year during which the sun rises through the archway, creating something called the “keyhole” effect.  With Ian’s interest in the photographic aspect, and my interest in the geology and natural majesty of it, we planned our trips down to visit the early morning spectacle ahead of time.

Though we have been blessed with a remarkable amount of sunshine and lack of the pouring rains which are traditional for this time of year in this area, we had to find a morning which was not overcast.  With the sky full of clouds or fog most mornings, we checked the weather forecast constantly, making sure the weather was still prime for a sunrise shot.  On the morning of our trip, we crossed our fingers and pulled open the curtains to see stars in the sky, with only a few scattered clouds blowing across it.  At 6:30 am, we hopped in the car, and drove the 30 to 45 minutes down to Lulworth.

When we pulled up to the entry to the parking area, we found the gates closed, but there was a large number of cars parked nearby, and we joined them, parking ourselves along the edge of a road.  As it was a Sunday, there were quite a few people itching to get their shot of Durdle Door at sunrise, so we followed their lead.  After about a quarter of a mile, we finally reached the steep clifftop trail which wound down to shore. Read More