Lulworth Cove - Chapman's Pool

Geology, landslips, military ranges & oil country

This page outlines the coastal walk between Lulworth Cove and Chapman's Pool - stage of the South West Coast Path. It is also part of the eastern section of England's only natural World Heritage Site - the Jurassic Coast.

30 May 2014 Lulworth Cove - the starting point - also for a selection of images from the walk.

Description of the stage

This is a spectacular stage and was well worth the wait until the military ranges were open and the section east of Kimmeridge was reopened due to a landslip in 2013. Bus services to Lulworth Cove were reduced in early 2014. The only difficulty on the day was the time required to take in the scenery.

The path follows the Dorset Purbeck coast with the western within the military ranges - which are open most weekends and school holiday. Walking the diversion is not an option- although there is currently a short diversion at Lulworth Cove itself - either into West Lulworth village or the beach at the back of the cove (at low water).

The walk is also a geological walk through history with a white chalk ridge to climb twice and then the black lands of Kimmeridge and beyond. Here oil wells are visible and relics from ancient oil extraction methods at Clavell's hard and Rope Lake Head. If this is of interest there is much more on Ian West's web pages (see references below).

On Rings Hill the path crosses the iron Age hillfort of Flower's Hill with concentric banks several metres high. The south side of the fort is slipping into the sea as are several sections of this coast. Houns Tout is the last hill - but on a good day it has some rewarding views of Chapman's Pool and St Aldhelm's Head.

The walk is hilly with four ascents of 120-150m to make with 40%+ gradients on each. This tops out at 850m of climbing, which is a similar height gain as Snowdon from Pen y pass.

Stage Stats

Places along the stage

Stage Title Comment
Stage terminus: Lulworth Cove 12m turning circle/bus stop
Passage point: Bindon Hill 140m
Passage point: Arish Mell 5m
Passage point: Rings Hill Flower's Barrow 166m
Passage point: Golden Down 150m
Passage point: Kimmeridge Bay Oil field
Passage point: Clavell's Hard 19thC oil mining area
Passage point: Rope Lake Head
Passage point: Houns Tout 149m
Stage terminus: Chapman's Pool path junction 59m

Stage figures

Stage Title Comment
Distance: 19.4 km
Terrain type: coastal hilly
Total ascent: 850 [m amsl]
Total descent: 804 [m amsl]
Lowest point: 2 sea level [m amsl]
Highest point: 166 Rings Hill [m amsl]

Walk Log

Date walked Who Walking time hr Av. speed kmh Stoppage hr Direction
30 May 2014 KJM, HMM 5.0 hours 3.9 1.3hr west to east

Points of Interest

Bindon Hill and Worbarrow Bay Bindon Hill: the massive chalk cliffs are slowly being washed away by the sea, beyond the ridge line the land drops sharply down the other side.
Rings Hill & Arish Mell Rings Hill & Arish Mell: The banks and ditches on the top of the Iron Age hillfort on Rings Hill are easily seen here. Natural erosion (by the sea) is taking more of the hill fort each year.
Clavell's Hard Clavell's Hard: This set of tracks give away the 19thC oil shale mining history on the cliffs below. Given that there must have been several more metres of rail on this section it is easy to appreciate how fast the land is eroding.

Getting there & back

For this stage we caught the 104 Dorset Community bus to Lulworth Cove from the "Red Lion" stop in Wareham (a short walk from Wareham railway station - you can also get on the 104 at Wool railway station). There are only two buses a day and you need to be on the first - which should get into Lulworth Cove just before 11:00.

For the return journey we caught the 40 Purbeck Breezer bus into Swanage for an evening meal in The Ship. From here the 50 took us to Bournemouth railway station via the Studland peninsula and the chain ferry across to Sandbanks


Start: 30 May 2014
End: 30 May 2014

References & Links:

Date Title
20140601 Jurassic Coast - leaflet
20140601 Ian West's Geology: Lulworth Cove introduction page
20140601 Ian West's Geology: Kimmeridge oil shale page
20140601 Isle of Purbeck [Wikipedia]

Updated KJM 21 June 2014