A 4.8km (3ml) walk along a stretch of coast that was once an important quarrying area.
Park in Worth Matravers village car park (can get very busy at times and, if itʼs full, there is no real alternative)
The walk takes you down the Seacombe valley, along the coast and then back up the Winspit valley. Interestingly, both have small streams which sink into the porous limestone
and dissappear before they reach the sea.
All along this coast, the cliffs are riddled with old stone quarries. Although some of the stone was carted away overland, most of it was loaded into small boats and taken to Swanage by sea.
From there it was transshipped to much larger boats for the trip to London and other great cities.
Once you get back to the pretty village of Worth Matravers, donʼt miss the splendid Square & Compasses (stone masonry museum, great range of real ales and ciders served through a hatch,
but only very limited food).
St Nicholas' Church, Worth Matravers
The church of St Nicholas of Myra in Worth Matravers is well worth a look if you are in the area as, apart from the chancel which was re-built in the 13th century,
it has survived largely as it was built in around 1100 AD.
The guide book quotes the Royal Commission on Historic Monumentsʼ claim that "the elaborate chancel arch and S. doorway of c. 1160 were brought from elsewhere, probably after the Dissolution".
Given the choice of building material available at that time, it was an act of extremely good taste to use Norman material contemporary with the original structure
rather than the more popular Gothic style.
Either that or the RCHM were so snobbish that they could not believe that such fine work could exist in such a rural backwater, even a rural backwater with a strong tradition of stone masonry such as Worth.
External Links and References
A extract from "An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 2, South east" that including the RCHM description of the church. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/dorset/vol2/pp410-416
St Nicholas Worth Matravers
More information on the church from the Dorset Historic Churches Trust. https://www.dhct.org.uk/m/church.php?ref=c804df88433c2dbf783764bc4b5d6fe1
Seacombe Quarry was opened sometime in the eighteenth century.
In 1923 the Dorset Quarry Co. Ltd invested in compressed air drills and at least four steam cranes, employing 36 men. All to no avail as by 1931 the firm had gone into liquidation.
The foundations of the engine, compressor and stone saws can be seen, but the caverns have been fenced off and are not accessible. There is, however, easy access to the foreshore here.
Winspit Quarry is one of the few along this coast where the underground galleries are still accessible to the general public.
If you decide to visit the site, you do so entirely at your own risk. You should take note of the ownerʼs disclaimer sign at the entrance,
and also my general disclaimer.
The quarries have been worked since at least 1719. During the Second World War thousands of tones of crushed stone were removed from here and used as roadstone and for airfields.
After the war the quarry continued to be worked, in a small way, up until about 1953.
Since then, they have served as the location for several classic Doctor Who episodes, and one episode of Blakeʼs 7
Several of the caves have been closed off as they are home to colonies of the rare Greater Horseshoe Bat and it is, of course, important to avoid disturbing them.
Alastair Ian Campbell Johnstone Memorial
By the entrance to Winspit Quarry is a memorial to Alastair Ian Campbell Johnstone. These days it is almost illegible, but reads:
In memory of Alastair Ian Campbell Johnstone drowned at Winspit August 19th 1935.
He loved birds and green places and the wind on the heath & saw the brightness of the skirts of God.
Born 1917 Died 1935.
Who he was and how he died, history (or at least Google) does not relate; but he was only eighteen years old, and it was a summerʼs day. Heartbreaking.