Tramway Tramp in Purbeck, Dorset
Hartland Moor, near Corfe Castle, Purbeck, DorsetRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
This walk takes in a wide range of habitats and landscapes affording excellent and lesser seen views of Corfe Castle and of Hartland Moor. There's also the chance to spot some rare and some not-so-rare wildlife. Keep an eye out for all six of our native British reptiles as well as birds such as nightjars, Dartford warblers and even a pair of ospreys. It is a quiet part of Purbeck and a good place to get away from the crowds.
- Bus stop
Start: Middlebere Farm track, grid ref: SY963853
Go through the wooden pedestrian gate onto a gravel track – you are now standing on the tramway. Continue along this track taking time to stop at the bird hide created from an old shepherd's hut. Continue along the tramway for around half a mile then bear left and cross the narrow cattle grid into the fields.
The hide was made from a former shepherd's hut - a shelter on wheels used by shepherds watching their flocks in the 19th century.
Follow the curved hedges marking the route of the tramway until you reach a gate.
The tramway was originally known as the Middlebere Plateway and was the first railway in Dorset when it opened in 1806. It was built by wealthy merchant Benjamin Fayle to transport ball clay from pits near Corfe Castle to Middlebere Quay on Poole Harbour. There the clay would be loaded onto boats and shipped onward. The plateway was in use up until the early 20th century with trams pulled by horses throughout its life.
Go through the gate and continue on the tramway - this bit can get a bit muddy. Pass through another gate.
Looking from Hartland it's easy to see why the Normans chose Corfe to build a castle, just as the Saxons had before them. The castle on its mound sits in a natural gap in the Purbeck Hills and dominates the surrounding landscape. In medieval times cattle grazed on Hartland Moor and Middlebere Heath would have fed the king's court during visits to Corfe. Heathland also supplied other resources such as firewood.
Turn left onto a gravel track and follow this until you reach the road.
Turn left at the road and continue to Scotland Farm on your right.
Go through the farmyard, pausing to admire the the collection of old carts restored in the barn on site. If the barn is open, you might like to knock on the door and ask to take a look inside.
Once through the farmyard, follow the way markers through the hay meadows - look out for short posts marked with discs. Go through the bridleway gate under the power lines.
The hay meadows are sensitively managed to maintain bio-diversity and are sprinkled with colour during the summer months.
Continue following the way markers to Sharford Bridge, a medieval twin arch pack horse bridge which is the lowest crossing point on the Corfe River.
Turn left at the bridge, cross another small wooden bridge and continue through a small area of woodland. Go through a gate onto Middlebere Heath.
Parts of Hartland Moor, once healthy heathland, were ploughed up to be used as farm land in the early 20th century and are now being managed by the National Trust to return them to heath. This may take up to 100 years as heathland can only survive on very poor soils and agricultural fertilisers will take many years to leach out of the soil. Look out for signs of heather starting to come back through, a sure sign that the heath is recovering.
Continue straight on until you reach the road. Turn right and follow the road to your starting point.
End: Middlebere Farm track, grid ref: SY963853
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 3.5 miles (5.6km)
- Time: 2 hours
- OS Map: Explorer OL 15
Mostly flat over gravel and sandy paths with some sections of quiet country lane. Dogs are welcome under close control. Please take care in areas where stock are grazing.
- How to get here:
By bus: Wilts and Dorset 40, Poole to Swanage. Nearest stops are Stoborough Green or Corfe Castle
By bike: Follow the Purbeck Cycleway via Hartland Moor from Wareham or Corfe Castle
By car: From the Norden roundabout on the A351 take the road signposted Norden Park and Ride then turn left onto a small road signposted for Slepe. Continue across a cattle grid across the heath. Just after a gravel track marked Middlebere Farm – Access Only there is space to park off the road
- Limited parking at Middlebere Farm track
- Food, accommodation and toilets at Corfe Castle
- Contact us