Safety on the South West Coast Path

If you’re taking part in the Virtual Run Jurassic and looking at doing it on the South West Coast Path to give you the real Jurassic Coast experience, then this is a must-read! The Jurassic Coast Trust has put together this handy guide for you to make sure you stay safe, while enjoying your adventure on the coastline.

Safety for you

Coastal path

  • Stay away from the cliff edge. Keep dogs on leads for their own safety.
  • There are no aid stations and no emergency services waiting on standby; carry the appropriate equipment and be prepared for every eventuality!
  • Carry an emergency blanket. The coastal path is exposed and it can take time for emergency services to reach you, and if you have to stop in an emergency, you can get cold exceptionally quickly.
  • It is advised to download the What3words app to enable someone (including the emergency services) to locate you to a specific location – it is a long coastal path!
  • Always follow signs; paths may have to be diverted at short notice and this will be for your own safety. It is not safe to go ‘off piste’.

On the coast / beaches

  • On beaches, be aware of tide times and stay away from the cliff faces – landslides occur regularly and without warning.
  • Check the Tide Times.

For more information, please see: https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/about-coast-path/about-SWCP/safety-advice/

Safety and courtesy for other path users

The South West Coast Path is a public footpath used by a considerable number of tourists, and their dogs, on a daily basis. 

In places, the path is narrow, so please be respectful when passing people. Not everyone can get out of the way as easily; it is everyone’s path. Running does not take priority.

When visiting Dorset and Devon, please always follow the Countryside Code.

Please:

  • Take all of your litter home #leaveonlyfootprints
  • Keep dogs on a lead around farm animals (unless threatened) or near cliff edges
  • Dogs may also need to be on a lead in areas protected for ground nesting birds – follow guidance on any signs.
  • Leave gates as you find them – there are lots(!) – or use the stiles
  • Although government restrictions have lifted and it is now no longer obligatory to keep 2m distance, please respect others’ wishes should they wish to do so
Dogs

Dogs are allowed on all of the coastal paths throughout the year. However, restrictions are in place on some beaches for the summer months. Dogs should also be kept under close control (see bullet points above).

  • Keep dogs on a lead around farm animals (unless threatened) or near cliff edges
  • Dogs may also need to be on a lead in areas protected for ground nesting birds- follow guidance on any signs.

For more information, please see: https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/walk-coast-path/south-west-coast-path-national-trail/dogs-coastpath/

As this is now a virtual race, there are other routes that boast equally stunning scenery in the area but may be quieter.

The South West Coast Path Association ‘walk finder’ has many different routes to explore: https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/walk-coast-path/south-west-coast-path-national-trail/trail-running/

Things to See

Having said all that, the scenery and underlying geology of the South West Coast Path is incredible and well signposted. Take the time to stop and marvel at (and take photos of) the beauty of the area.

Key landmarks and places of interest include:

(See a map of key places here with associated descriptions below.)

Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door, Stair Hole and Mupe Bay Durdle Door is a natural coastal arch formed from Portland limestone.

Ringstead Bay – A pebble, shingle and sand beach. There are some offshore reefs, which can become visible at low tide. The imposing white chalk cliffs of White Nothe dominates the eyeline at Ringstead Bay and there is a narrow coastal path you can walk up from the beach.

Osmington Mills – A beautiful and more secluded section of the South West Coast Path boasting views to Devon and the Isle of Wight, with some fabulous pubs.

Smugglers Inn – Traditional English pub with stunning views across the Isle of Portland, situated on the coast at Osmington Mills, Weymouth DT3 6HF. Parking is available on site.  https://www.smugglersinnosmingtonmills.co.uk/

Lodmoor Country Park – A site of Special Scientific Interest that preserves a wetland habitat for rare UK resident and migratory birds. RSPB maintained. https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/lodmoor/accessibility

Weymouth – Situated on the mouth of the River Wey, the tourist town of Weymouth is a gateway town with a harbour and many tourist attractions. Sandsfoot castle in Wyke Regis and Portland Castle in Castletown were forts built by King Henry VIII in the 1530s. Part of Sandsfoot castle has been lost to the sea due to coastal erosion. Due to its location, Wyke Regis gained a reputation for smuggling and looting shipwrecks, with the Wyke Smugglers pub reflecting this.

Chesil Beach – 17-mile stretch of barrier beach, with the Fleet lagoon, an internationally important wetland that sits behind Chesil Beach. [This is a challenge to walk, let alone run – good luck!]. At Abbotsbury in the west, Chesil Beach splits to form a sheltered strip of water. The Fleet lagoon is a protected area, which runs up to the Isle of Portland further east. The village of Langton Herring is set on a ridge overlooking the Fleet lagoon.

Portland – Once a true island until the shingle spit attached it back to the mainland by coastal processes (via longshore drift). In a similar process, the pebble size from the shingle increased from pea-sized at West Bexington to baked-potato sized around the Isle of Portland.

Abbotsbury – In the main street, many of the stone houses are thatched, and lead to a Market square. You may see remnants of the earthworks of an Iron Age hillfort, Abbotsbury Castle. Bullet holes from the English Civil War (in 1664) can still be seen in the Jacobean pulpit in the Church of St. Nicholas. Views of Abbotsbury Abbey remains can be seen from Langdon Hill.

West Bexington – Provides access to Chesil Beach, with the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s West Bexington reserve showcasing the rare shingle habitats that survive here.

Cogden Beach – A shingle beach owned by the National Trust, located between Burton Bradstock and Abbotsbury. Access to the beach via a footpath; dog-friendly all year.

West Bay – Chesil Beach (shingle) starts here. East cliff at West Bay is now known locally as Broadchurch cliffs, thanks to the ITV drama that used this stunning backdrop of sandstone cliffs as its setting.

Down House Farm – An organic working farm just outside Eype, near Bridport with a café and small shop. There is a narrow road to get here (low cars be aware – danger of scraping). Downhouse Farm Café has excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. The views from here are incredible and easily accessible to/from the South West Coastal Path. Sheep graze the fields, so dog walkers please be aware. In addition, Down House Farm Cottage is a  National Trust owned property, situated on the Golden Cap estate. This lovely cottage is available to book as lodgings. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/downhouse-farm-cottage-dorset

Thorncombe Beacon – Thorncombe Beacon was one of a chain of beacons along the coast used to warn of invasions from the Spanish Armada in 1588. Around this area is East Ebb Cove, Doghouse Hill (West Dorset’s oldest known human settlement was on Doghouse Hill) and Eype. The beach at Eype Mouth is popular amongst fossil hunters.

Seatown – At low tide, there is the chance to spot the ‘Lisbon tsunami’ deposit at Seatown. The tsunami occurred following the Lisbon earthquake of November 1755. This historic natural disaster is evident in a horizontal line in the shingle bank. The horizontal line is made up of a narrow band of large pebbles. The area between Eype and Seatown has been particularly experiencing landslides recently.

Golden Cap – A fantastic viewpoint as the highest point on the English south coast, at 191m above sea level. The yellow sandstone of this area really stands out to create a dramatic landscape scene not to be missed. High in the grey clays of Golden Cap, a tsunami in the Jurassic Sea, 190 million years ago, buried brittle stars’ to form the starfish bed.

Find out more information on these locations and the Jurassic Coast Trust here: www.jurassiccoast.org

Happy Running!

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