Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Isle of Purbeck

The Isle of Purbeck has more ghosts than the local people know what to do with. Some of the oldest and most dramatic are to be encountered on this walk. The village of Corfe Castle is, of course, named after the magnificent ruin that dominates this area and guards the gap in the hills which leads into the Isle of Purbeck. This has been a strategic spot for generations of military commanders, so it is no surprise that the ghosts here have a distinctly martial air. Today the village is largely given over to catering to the needs of the tourists who visit the castle, so there is no shortage of places to eat, relax and recuperate after this strenuous walk.

The Walk

1) Park in the Council Car Park, signposted from the village centre – or walk there if arriving by public transport. Leave by the kissing gate near the pay machine beside the exit.

From this field you can look to your right to take in magnificent views of the towering castle ruins. The long, steep hill to the left of the castle is Knowle Hill along which the walk later passes.

Walk straight across the field in front of you to a second kissing gate, this one with stone walls. Pass through a patch of woodland and then cross a grassy area to cross over a stream by way of a small stone bridge (2).

Pass through the gate beyond. Ignore the path to your right, but strike straight across the field to exit via a gap in the hedge to the left of the clump of trees visible on the far side of the field. A broad track runs up the right hand side of this field to a farm, Bucknowle House.

3) Just before the farm the track turns right, you need to cross the stile straight in front of you to enter a field. Keep to the right side of the field as you skirt the farm grounds. When you reach the far side of this field, pass through a gap in the fence. Strike out diagonally left across this field towards the left side of a clump of trees. The field slopes down steeply here and the grass can be slippery when wet.

4) At the base of the slope ignore the path to your left which crosses the stream, but walk along the right bank of the stream. Climb over a stile to cross over a gravel track. Stay beside the stream to enter a path through a patch of woodland. A stile takes the path from the woodland into a field, stay beside the stream as you walk across this field, climb over another stile and cross another field. At the far side of this field a stile takes the path on to a wooden bridge.

5) Ignore this path and instead turn right to climb a steep and sometimes slippery hill. Over the crest of this rise the far side of the field comes into sight with a gate in the far left hand corner. This gate leads to a gravel track. Follow this track past various houses to the main street of the village of Church Knowle.

This village is one of the oldest on the Isle of Purbeck. For many years in the Saxon period this was the only place of Christian worship in the area, and it is this which gave the village its name. The church in question was replaced in 1225 by a new church, which still stands though it has been much altered.

6) At the main street, turn right and walk along this road for 100 yards to reach the Church of St Peter.

The church stands on the site of the earlier Saxon church, itself probably a replacement for a stone cross from which passing priests would preach the word of God to the local pagan farmers. As late as the time of the Domesday Book in 1087, Church Knowle was the only village in the Isle of Purbeck which had a permanent priest living in the village where he preached. It is worth paying a visit to the church as you pass. There is a small, but fine monument to the Clavell Family. Erected in 1572, this monument serves as a tomb for several members of this local family of gentry. The family came over with William the Conqueror in 1066 and was granted estates in this area by a grateful conqueror. Descendants of the family, through the female line, still own extensive acres around this village and inhabit the local manor.

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