An autumn nature walk at West Bexington in Dorset
West Bexington, DorsetRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Enjoy a gentle autumnal walk in the heart of the stunning Jurassic Coast and discover an area rich in wildlife. Along the way, you’ll pass a beautiful stretch of Chesil beach and walk through farmland, with hedgerows bursting with wild berries.
- Bus stop
Start: West Bexington Beach car park, grid ref: SY532865
From the car park take the South West Coast Path to the left (east) and follow it onto Chesil beach. Along the beach keep an eye out for wild carrot and wild parsnips. Sea kale also grows here but is only edible in spring. Made up of pebbles and shingle, Chesil beach stretches for 18 miles (29km) between West Bay and Portland. It's one of the finest barrier beaches in the world, sheltering Weymouth from the prevailing wind and waves and preventing the area being eroded by wave action. The pebbles vary in size from fist-sized, near Portland, to pea-sized at Bridport. For much of its length Chesil beach is separated from the mainland by an area of salt water called the Fleet Lagoon. The Fleet is home to a variety of fish, sea anemones and sea grasses, as well as the famous Abbotsbury Swannery.
Continue along the beach on the coast path and, after the field with the large house in it, turn left and through a gate into the next field. The concrete structure to the left is a Second World War machine gun emplacement. Carry on straight up the field and through a couple of field gates. The hedgerows here are very good for foraging for wild berries. Look for red clover in the surrounding fields, planted to add nitrogen to the soil for next year's planting.
There are plenty of blackberries, elderberries (pictured), sloes and hawthorn berries to forage for in the hedgerows. They're a great source of vitamin C and can be used to make all sorts of things, from jams and crumbles to sloe gin and wine.
Pass Labour in Vain farm, which has a building dating from the 1860s. Hedge laying, grazing and pond restoration all help wildlife here. The large pond on the left is good for dragonflies in the summer. Continue straight on past the farm (on your right) and through the next field gate. Walk across the field, heading for the isolated stone barn you can see at the top of the field.
The hedgerows are very wide and offer excellent habitats for birds. They are home to yellowhammers and linnets (pictured) all year round and, in summer, warblers, such as chiffchaffs and whitethroats, and lots of stonechats.
Turn left after the barn and follow the track across the field to the top of Tulks Hill. Look for the Bronze Age burial mounds at the top of the hill, before you walk west along the ridge. Keep an eye out for brown hares and roe deer too, which are becoming more common in the fields. During winter the stubble is left in the fields so birds can forage on fallen grain. The surrounding scrub is a temporary home to lots of migrating birds, like finches, warblers and swallows, who are taking on their last bit of energy before the long migration flight south from here to Africa.
Continue west along the path to the site of a limekiln on your left. Carry on past the limekiln and follow the path along the top of the hill and to a field gate in the corner of the field. From here you can see the magnificent sweeping view of Lyme Bay. Turn left down an old trackway and follow Donkey Lane down into West Bexington.
The limekiln was used to turn limestone into lime by burning it with coal. It was then spread onto the fields to reduce acidity in the soil.
Return to the car park on the track through West Bexington.
End: West Bexington Beach car park, grid ref: SY532865
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 2.5 miles (4km)
- Time: 50 minutes
- OS Map: Explorer OL15; Landranger 194
A circular walk with generally easy walking conditions and one long uphill section. Height gain of 500ft (150m) over the walk. Walking boots advised. If on the beach, beware of strong currents. Dogs welcome on leads and under control, so as not to disturb the grazing animals.
- How to get here:
By foot: South West Coast Path runs length of coast and passes through car park at start of walk
By bike: National Cycle Network route 2 passes a few miles away. See www.sustrans.org.uk
By bus: Number X53, Bridport-Dorchester-Weymouth. Alight at the Bull Inn at Swyre and walk about 1 mile (1.5km), or request a stop along B3157 at Tulks Hill and join the walk from there
By car: take B3157, Bridport to Abbotsbury, and follow to West Bexington
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