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A complete lapse in navigational skills resulted in an impromtpu trip to Purbeck. One minute we're heading for Christchurch and the next the GPS has decided the quickest way there is via the very picturesque ruins of Corfe Castle and the long winding road to Studland where we entered an enormous National Trust owned nature area complete with nudist beach. The views from the car windows were simply stunning with an enormous variety of trees in all theri autumnal glory, an abundance of wildlife and birds everywhere you looked. Armed with their wildlife spotters guide our daughters were ecstatic. Clearly visible were Old Harrys Rocks, two chalk stacks jutting magestically from the sea much like those of the more famous Isle of Wight Needles. Several miles further down the very windy road we encountered a National Trust car park and a ferry toll booth. By this point my other half was leaping up and downin his seat like a small boy on Christmas Day. It turned out we'd arrived at a chain ferry or should I say the chain ferry. Rumour has it that this was the testing ground for an abandoned WW2 plan to descend on the beaches on France en masse on D-day. The reality is a more mundane 1923 project to build a floating bridge which just happens to look like a ferry. I don't do ferrys or water crossings of any nature, I get ridiculously sea sick and despite being close enough to swim to the other side I did indeed turn green. Its the shortest ferry crossing I've ever been on but with its characteristic clunks and lurches as the sea bed chain is tensioned and the ferry crabs its way along the chain much like a bicycle gear train it was quite possibly the roughest too despite lasting less than 5 minutes and costing only £3. As an experience its certainly unforgetable. If you have the time its well worth a stroll around the myriad of nature trails which criss cross the area. The sheer variety of flora and fauna in such a small area is amazing as are the views of the sea over Studland Bay.
Purbeck is not really an island, it is a peninsular on the South Coast of England near Bournemouth, Dorset. It is a place of natural beauty which is wonderful for family holidays or a quiet break away. Not far from London (2 1/2 hours by train), Purbeck is an area with many places of natural beauty. Swanage and Wareham are the main towns. Swanage is on the coast and there you will find guest houses or campsites. Purbeck is great for walking especially along the coast with beautiful views and unspoilt countryside. The famous Old Harry rocks are just off the coast and the white cliffs are a dramatic backdrop for birdwatching. The walks are quite gentle though fairly hilly but the towns are quite far apart so be prepared and bring a hat, good walking shoes and lots of water. Purbeck is popular with families especially as it is so near Bournemouth with all the usual seaside resort activities. Around the area there are pleasant places to have tea and lunches. The water is very clean and cold. It is possible to take part in lots of different water sports including windsurfing, diving, snorkelling, skiing and jetskiing. Between Bournemouth and Swanage there is a nudist beach if that is your thing! Half of it seems to be for families and the other half for gay men so choose wisely where you go. There are signs to indicate where the nudist beach ends and starts. Other sites of interest are Corfe Castle (medieval ruins), Lulworth Cove, Poole Harbour, Studland Bay and Durlsworth Country Park. There is also a steam railway and an inland lake. With all that to do and see I would hugely recommend Purbeck for a relaxing, peaceful break for couples or families. The best way to get there is by train and then bus from Bournemouth or if you are driving you can go over the neck of the peninsula down to Swanage or catch the car ferry from Poole. It is possible to walk from Bournemouth or Poole but it will take you most of the day.