Lulworth Range Walks...
The Lulworth Range Walks do exactly what they say on the tin. They are a series of walks on the Lulworth Ranges.
That, however, is a triumph of prosaic Military efficiency of language over a much more beautiful and poetic reality.
The Lulworth Ranges are a comparatively huge chunk of land acquired by the Army mainly for tank gunnery training. They spread from near Wareham at their most northerly to the sea in the South. And from Lulworth Cove in the West to Kimmeridge in the East. They encompass heathland, downland and a significant chunk of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast.
Still used for "live firing" exercises and training, the ranges have been in use since 1917, when they were used for testing the new armoured machines of war invented at Bovington and for training their crews how to use them.
Some parts of the ranges were acquired by lease from the Weld Estate at Lulworth Castle in peace time, but in 1943 this was added to by swallowing up Tyneham and surrounding farmland to provide a bigger area to train troops for the D-day landings, with villagers and farmers being evacuated, whether they liked it or not.
All of which, you would think would leave little room for things of beauty. But you'd be wrong.
Although they are still used as firing ranges and for other military activities, the ranges are now open to the public on many weekends and most of the main school holidays. But, you might quite reasonably ask, who the hell wants to go into an area used for gunnery training that could be littered with unexploded shells? The answer is anyone who loves walking, wilderness, wildlife and wonderful scenery.
Beneath the tag of Range Walks lies a host of magnificent rambles and ambles to, from and around places with mysterious and wonderful names like Arish Mell, Mupe Bay and Brandy Bay. You can also take in the now derelict but still lovely, if violated, village of Tyneham.
Those able to walk these routes are rewarded with some of the finest and wildest scenery Dorset has to offer. Because the flip side of all those years of military occupation is that this land and this coastline has been pretty much unchanged for the last 70 to 100 years. The ranges on the seaward side particularly, have escaped much of the agricultural revolution that happened in the rest of Dorset and most of the rest of Britain since WWII. They have also avoided the heavier military traffic that has scarred some of the heath on the landward side of the high ridge that runs the length of the ranges from East to West. As a result, fields and the few buildings that there are must largely be as they would have been when the army swallowed them into the Ranges.
There are huge expanses of unimproved grassland and scrub, which are ideal for a whole range of wild fauna and flora, and despite the fact that when the ranges are working the air and ground shake for miles around, when they are not, you’d be hard pressed to find a more peaceful and tranquil part of Dorset simply because it is closed to the public for most of the time. And when it is open, many of the public would prefer to stick to the better known sights and places with all the facilities that permanent usage brings. That they do, is their loss and others’ gain!
Of course because this is a military training area, use of the walks comes with rules - and its worth sticking to them.
You can only follow prescribed and marked routes and you must stay within the yellow way markers.
Why you ask?
Because these are the only parts of the ranges that are definitely clear of unexploded ordnance. As signs on the tracks put it, with military precision and brevity: “Do not touch any military debris. It may explode and kill you.”
No ambiguity there!
Other simple to follow rules are that these are walks not cycle ways, so bikes aren’t allowed and you need to make sure you’re off the ranges by the appointed hour. Check what time they close before you set out. You can’t stay overnight and you can’t light fires. Range Wardens patrol to make sure that the rules are followed, so best not to test them!
For those who aren’t looking to walk the whole of the South West Coast Path, there are several useful launching points onto the Range Walks, these include,Lulworth Cove, Lulworth Castle, Tyneham, Steeple and Kimmeridge. All of which are interesting and beautiful places to visit in their own right. So if some of your party want to walk and others don’t. They can do their thing, whilst you do yours!
So there you have it. The Lulworth Range Walks. Possibly the most undersold outdoor activity in Dorset. Great value at no cost of entry. And all you have to do in return is make sure you know when they’re open and promise not to blow yourself up whilst your there! Simples!
Oh, and don’t forget the Fossil Forest! That’s here too!
Beneath the tag of Range Walks lies a host of magnificent rambles and ambles to, from and around places with mysterious and wonderful names like Arish Mell, Mupe Bay and Brandy Bay. You can also take in the now derelict but still lovely, if violated, village of Tyneham....."