The children in The Famous Five by Enid Blyton spent their summers tromping all over the English countryside, so a trip in the footsteps of the author wouldn’t be complete without doing some tromping ourselves. Tromping Dorset’s Jurassic Coast seemed better accomplished, however, by doing it with locals who knew where to go. So, having discovered the Swanage Walking Group through their webpage, we joined their Wednesday hike which was scheduled to walk around the grounds of Lulworth Castle. As we were not traveling with a car, we hitched a ride with one of the hikers out to Lulworth where the walk started, because the bus didn’t run there.
Lulworth Castle Grounds
Similar to our own local Wednesday/Saturday hike group at home, this group was made up of retirees. It was quite a group of characters, very friendly and welcoming people. We weren’t sure what sort of reception Americans would get in Britain. (Britain’s portrayal of Americans in TV shows is always very bad-and that’s pretty much all I had to go on.) This group was very interested in learning about us and comparing British culture/politics/economics with us. I was very happy to discover that the ladies I was chatting with completely understood my visiting the area because I was a fan of Enid Blyton! In the United States when I mention The Famous Five and Enid Blyton I’m too often met with blank stares. If you haven’t read her books, go to the library, now.
All the while we tramped through cow pastures, because British trails just run through cow pastures like it’s no big deal. I never realized how big cows really are until this hike! And yet, I have no qualms about hiking through woods where bears roam free.
Having done some research before the trip, I’d discovered that nearby Lulworth Castle was a cove where a short hike would take us to the famous Jurassic Coast naturally formed rock archway, known as Durdle Door. I had hoped to visit it and luckily a couple members of the walking group were more than happy to drop us off at Lulworth Cove after the group hike. This coast is well known for having ammonites fossils from the Jurassic age and I was hoping to see fossils and chalk cliffs at Durdle Door as well.
The trail to Durdle Door starts at Lulworth Cove, which surprised us in its small size.
There is a large car park, a gift shop and cafe, a couple small inns, and that was about it. The place was PACKED with tourists. The trail to Durdle Door goes straight up and over a steep hill, and some out of shape tourists we passed really weren’t looking so good. While the path was only about a mile long, it was pretty tiring, but totally worth it when we reached the cliff top above the beach.
Interestingly, the beach is not sandy, but instead completely made of polished rocks. And I finally got to see chalk cliffs up close! And yes, the rock writes like chalk.
Because the area around Swanage is most easily accessible by taxi, and the area is so small that there is one reasonably priced, well known taxi service, our Airbnb host always told us, “Just call Martin.” (of Swanage & Purbeck Taxi Ltd.) So, now finding ourselves back at the gift shop in Lulworth Cove, we did just that, we just called Martin. However, it was Dave that drove us back to Swanage. Apparently Dave drives when Martin wants a day off.
What’s your favorite way of meeting locals while you travel? Tell me about it in the comments below!