The Coastal Path at Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve in Swanage, Dorset, England - June 2010
One of the most beautiful and serene places I have ever visited even though it is so busy. Durlston is large and there are many places where you can get away from the crowds. I took a walk along the coastal path to the Dancing Ledges 3 miles away and was rewarded with astounding views. As you walk along the top of the cliffs you get stunning views across a blue sea and see many different types of birds. I saw Guillemots, Razorbills, Shag, Fulmar, Gannet, Kittiwake, and Gulls along the cliffs. Other birds present included Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Whitethroat, Kestrel, Raven and Stonechat. I was lucky enough to see a Barking Deer or Muntjac as they are also known.
I also had a little pot of locally made Honeycombe Hash flavoured Purbeck ice cream.
Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve, situated 1 mile from Swanage in Dorset, is a fabulous 280 acre countryside paradise, consisting of sea-cliffs, coastal limestone downland, haymeadows, hedgerows and woodland. With stunning views, walking trails, the historic Great Globe, superb geology and fascinating wildlife there is always something different to see.
About Durlston Country Park
Situated in the south-east corner of the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset (grid ref SZ 03 77), a mile south of Swanage, lies Durlston Country Park – 280 acres of very special countryside.
The Country Park was established in the 1970s by Dorset County Council, and 30 years of careful management by the Ranger team have resulted in a superb site that everyone can enjoy.
Wildlife and Landscape
Few places in Britain equal Durlston: The bare statistics merely hint at the amazing diversity of wildlife: 33 species of breeding butterfly, over 250 species of bird recorded, 500 wildflowers, 500 moths and thousands of other invertebrates.
Durlston's special qualities stem from a combination of geography, geology, history and careful management which has created a mosaic of nationally important wildlife habitats: sea-cliffs, downs, ancient meadows, hedgerows, woodland, and dry-stone walls – each with their characteristic plants and animals.
Wildlife apart, there are plenty of other things to see: The history of Durlston can be detected in the now dry, glacial river valley, the ancient Saxon field systems, two types of quarry – the inland Purbeck Stone Quarr, and the Portland limestone cliff quarry known as Tilly Whim Caves.
High on the ridge remain the footings of a Napoleonic telegraph station, and Anvil Point Lighthouse adds further interest to a visit.
The eminent Victorian, George Burt, left a legacy of fascinating artefacts. These include the 'Great Globe' – 40 tons of Portland limestone, cast-iron bollards from the City, St Martin's and other parts of London, and Durlston Castle itself – all linked by scenic cliff-top paths with Victorian panels quoting poetry and facts of interest.
The Visitor Centre
The Visitor Centre is a must for all - recent wildlife sightings, daily and monthly displays all ensure the latest information for visitors.
There are also live pictures from the seabird colony on the cliffs and sound from an underwater hydrophone.
A Ranger is always available to help you make the most of your visit.
Guided Walks and Events
A full programme of events – guided walks, boat trips, talks, children's events and other activities run throughout the year.
Paths and Trails
Four clearly waymarked Trails, each with its own information leaflet provide an ideal introduction to Durlston.
All Trails begin at the Visitor Centre.
A network of Public Footpaths criss-cross the site, with good access to the South-west Coast Path.
Each year, thousands of school children and students use Durlston as an educational resource. A wide range of sessions and other educational facilities are provided by the Rangers to help them get the most from their visit.
Friends of Durlston
The Park has always had close ties with the local community, and the Friends of Durlston organisation provides a focus for goodwill and support.
Over 700 Friends provide an enormous amount of practical help – from running the Visitor Centre counter and updating our wildlife records, to monitoring butterflies and building dry stone walls.
There is also a thriving social side to the 'Friends', with illustrated talks held monthly and other events throughout the year.
The County Council's policy of 'Conservation for Public Enjoyment' has formed the basis of the Park's management for 30 years.
This, combined with the support of the Friends, has led to both organisations being jointly awarded the prestigious English Nature SSSI Award.
In 2006 Durlston recieved both the Royal Horticultural Society's 'Conservation and Environment Award' for outstanding conservation work
In 2008, for the third time, we were awarded the 'Green Flag', recognising the quality of amenities for visitors.
In 2010, Durlston was voted 2nd in a competition to find Britain's Favourite Park, organised by the Keep Briatin Tidy Group.
As an internationally important site for wildlife and geology, Durlston is protected by a host of designations. Durlston forms part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Purbeck Heritage Coast (which holds a Council of Europe Diploma for it's management).
Most of the Park is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and since 1997, a Special Area of Conservation. Most of the Park is also designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance, while in 1997, the Dorset and East Devon Coast was awarded World Heritage Site status for its geological importance.
In June 2008, Durlston was awarded National Nature Reserve Status by Natural England in recognition of the national importance of Durlston for wildlife.
This long list of accolades and designations that highlight the site's importance and provide a reminder of the great care that must be taken to conserve this wonderful facility for future generations.
At any time of year, a visit to Durlston is a memorable experience. Despite its popularity, there is still the peace and quiet to enjoy the natural splendours of the area, and no matter how many times you visit there is always something new to see and enjoy.