Title: The Magic of Purbeck 
Author: David Leadbetter
RRP: £9.99
Publication date: 22 Jun 2015
Format: 234 x 156 mm
Number of pages: 136
ISBN: 9781906651-251
Illustrations:  172
Maps: 11

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Ten fully illustrated and guided Purbeck walks.

The Isle of Purbeck is one of the best places in Britain for walking, with its own microclimate, special fauna and flora, stunning scenery, world-renowned geology and ancient history. In a series of circular walks, this book combines all the elements that make Purbeck unique. Thoroughly researched by local author David Leadbetter (the author of Paranormal Purbeck) who has a passion for natural history, prehistory and mysteries, the book highlights Purbeck’s:

-   birds, plants and butterflies, where to spot them and how;
-   historical aspects, especially barrows, unusual burials, standing stones, strip lynchets, churches and graves, and local industries;
-   archaeological excavations, findings and markers in the landscape;
-   place names, their derivations and history;
-   man-made and natural features, mysterious folklore and legends.

 Whether you want to see the Adonis Blue butterfly or Dartford Warbler, admire orchids, learn about man’s ancient and more modern presence in the landscape, or simply soak up awesome views from the Jurassic Coast and chalk hills, this book will inspire you.

Introductory chapters on the unique geology, natural history and local history set the scene for the carefully researched walks – which are so revealing that visitors and even locals can’t fail to be mesmerised by the magic of Purbeck.


The Isle of Purbeck has stunning, varied scenery within a small geographical area, as well as a wide range of fauna and flora and rich local history. The aim of this book is to introduce some of the features that make the area such a special place, hopefully inspiring the walker to experience some of the ‘magic’ of Purbeck. The walks vary in length and cover a variety of terrain. Maps are provided for each walk, though an Ordnance Survey map is also recommended. Many of the walks can be adapted to suit the individual, who may wish to do a section of the route or even go further. All can be accessed by public transport, though Walk 7 is best done from the car park north-east of Kimmeridge.
     Of interest to local people as well as visitors, while some walks may be familiar, the unique combination of features described is likely to introduce the reader/walker to new aspects and raise awareness of how special Purbeck is. As well as geological features there are details of where to find some of Purbeck’s notable birds, plants and butterflies – the author has focused on these groups as they tend to be the most obvious, though other taxa are also described, and there are identification guides listed in the References.
     Descriptions of historical and archaeological features are given, with special reference to barrows, unusual burials, standing stones, strip lynchets and churches. Mention is made of archaeological excavations and findings and also the derivation of place names. A special feature of the book is the introductory chapters on local geology, natural history and local history; with regard to the latter, the author has concentrated on the prehistoric era and Roman Conquest as these are less well known than later periods.
     Whatever your interests, the author’s message is: enjoy walking in Purbeck and discover the magic for yourself.


Map of the area
Geology and Natural History
Purbeck Through History

Walk 1 - Ulwell Gap, Ballard Down, Old Harry and Studland
Walk 2 - Studland Village to Agglestone Rock, Studland Heath and Beach
Walk 3
- Ulwell to Ailwood Down, King’s Wood and Rempstone Stone Circle
Walk 4 - Langton Matravers to Dancing Ledge, St Aldhelm’s Head and Worth Matravers
Walk 5 - Kingston to Corfe Common, Hill Bottom and Chapman’s Pool
Walk 6 - Kingston to Kimmeridge and Houns-tout
Walk 7 - Kimmeridge to Tyneham and Grange Arch
Walk 8 - Corfe Castle to Creech Barrow Hill and Stonehill Down, then Knowle Hill and West Hill
Walk 9 - Corfe Castle to Challow Hill, Sharford Bridge and Corfe Charity Meadows
Walk 10 - Wareham to Stoborough, Creech Bottom, Soldiers Road and Ridge


‘echoes the achievements of Paul Hyland and Ilay Cooper in bringing a rich mixture of local folklore, science, history and culture to the table, but in a format that more directly utilises the physicality of Purbeck’s tracks and byways. A topographical feast. At large than A5 dimensions, it is not one to slip easily in the pocket, but rewards the effort of stowing in the backpack before sallying forth on any of the ten routes.’
Purbeck! Journal


From the village square walk towards Corfe Castle Tea Rooms near the castle entrance and take
Ollie Vyes Lane to the left round the south side of the castle. There is a good view of the crumbling walls built of Purbeck Stone; the castle was deliberately blown up in the Civil War on the orders of Parliament following siege when it was defended by Lady Bankes. Excavations in the West Bailey showed traces of an early building, which may have been the royal house at the time of King Edward the Martyr’s murder in 978; pottery sherds from the 2nd century have also been found here.

Crumbling Corfe Castle.

Ravens and birds of prey frequently fly over the castle and in summer you may see the small Lulworth Skipper butterfly on southern slopes close to the path, as its food plant, Tor-grass, can be abundant when grazing has not taken place. This butterfly is mainly confined to south Dorset and can occur in large numbers in some years. Common Rockrose is frequent here in late spring/early summer, while later flowers of Burnet Saxifrage and Marjoram adorn the slopes, with some Common Calamint.

Wicken Stream (part of Corfe River) is on the left. Saxon ‘Wicunstreames’ means ‘stream of the wicks’, with ‘wics’ probably meaning ‘dairy farm’. At the end of the path, cross the road just right of the stone bridge and walk over the wooden bridge. To the right is the former site of West Mill, a water mill built in the 18th century, though an earlier mill is shown on Ralph Tresswell’s map of 1586.

          From the bridge follow the track on the left close to the hedge for about 100 m, then go through a gap in the fence, cross the road and continue on. The earthworks of ‘The Rings’ (a Scheduled Ancient Monument) are what remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle. The smaller ring (the motte) was the strongest part of the castle, with the larger bailey being the area where soldiers were billeted; defence was provided by a ditch, bank and fence system. The Rings are believed to have been built by King Stephen in 1139 when besieging Corfe Castle during the civil war between himself and rival Empress Matilda. In the 17th-century Civil War, Parliamentary forces used the Rings as a base to attack Corfe Castle and it became known as ‘Cromwell’s Battery’.

Geophysical survey has shown that ‘The Rings’ were probably built on top of a Saxon field system

Leave The Rings at a stile in the corner by the hedge, heading west. Cross the road again and follow the sign to Knowle Hill across a field. Exit the field onto a bridleway, turning left along the bottom of West Hill. Part of the track is festooned with Old Man’s Beard and blackberries in autumn and migrant birds may often be feeding in the bushes. Stonechats are resident for much of the year. Look out too for butterflies, including Marbled Whites, Skippers and Blues in open clearings.

Lime kiln near Church Knowle

The Gorse is controlled by burning and grazing by Longhorn and Ruby Red Devon cattle to prevent it swamping other species. The traditional name for the plant is ‘furze’. In the Bronze Age it was used in smelting furnaces, as it produces high temperatures when burnt but leaves little ash, and later as a fuel in lime kilns, bakers’ ovens and brick-firing; also as fodder for horses and cattle; the flowers in flavouring, scent and medicine; bark in dyeing; stems for walking sticks; and seeds as flea repellent. Even the ash has been put to good use in soap-making and fertiliser.

Further along the track is a restored lime kiln. Marl, a mixture of clay and calcium carbonate, was burned in kilns to produce lime for mortar and soil improvement.


Retired teacher David Leadbetter has lived in Purbeck most of his life and spent many years exploring the area on foot, researching and recording different aspects of natural history. Since the late 1980s he has been leading guided walks, through different organisations, including a series of his own walks in Purbeck. He has been a regular guide on Brownsea Island and also a volunteer for the Christchurch Countryside Service. He currently volunteers at the Langton Matravers and Purbeck Stone Museum.
          With his experience and passion for mysteries and local history (in particular the prehistoric period), this is his second book, afterParanormal Purbeck – A Study of the Unexplained.


Langton Matravers Local History and Preservation Society, and Purbeck Stone Museum –

Priest’s Way –

Swanage Railway –

Corfe Castle Town Trust –

Tyneham –

Clavell Tower –

Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and Fine Foundation Marine Centre –

Studland –

Dorset County Museum –


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