If your idea of a dream day at the beach involves a wild and secluded bay where you can wile away the hours watching the odd passing boat and reading a good book, Chapman’s Pool is hard to beat.
Worth Matravers is the cove’s closest village, where you can warm up at the Square and Compass pub with a pasty and pint by the log fire after a blustery day, or cool off with a cider in the beer garden in the summer.
Chapman’s Pool is a bit of a walk to get to, so children and some dogs might struggle. A good pair of walking boots is also advisable as the steep path down to Chapman’s Pool can be slippery when wet. (There is an alternative, longer route, which is more gentle, that takes you through the valley.)
Chapman’s Pool is a good place to see examples of the Jurassic Coast’s Kimmeridge Clay rock formation – named after nearby Kimmeridge Bay, where the clay with its abundant fossils is most famously displayed.
Spend some time rock-pooling and fossil-spotting on the shale ledges at Chapman’s Pool, and soak up the wild, untouched nature in this little-known, rugged spot.
As with all coastal areas, keep away from cliff edges as loose rock can fall and landslips occasionally occur.
Rocky ledges may be slippery underfoot.
The nearest facilities are in Worth Matravers village.
Nearby points of interest
Royal Marines Commando Memorial
Along one route down to the cove, along the South West Coast Path on Emmet’s Hill, is the Royal Marines Commando Memorial.
This unusually located memorial commemorates Royal Marines who have lost their lives since WW2.
An inscription reads: “Rest awhile and reflect that we who are living can enjoy the beauty of the sea and countryside.”
The original memorial remembers those who were killed between 1945 – 1990, but a further stone has been added to recognise more recent sacrifices.
St Aldhelm’s Chapel
From Chapman’s Pool you can walk to the curious Norman Century St Aldhelm’s (also St Alban’s) Chapel on the headland of the same name.
Possibly originally built as a lookout tower for Corfe Castle, an interesting fact about this building is that its four corners point to the cardinal points of the compass.
There are various legends surrounding this unique little chapel, including its use as a ‘wishing chapel’, where local girls would drop a pin down the central column and make a wish for their true loves; and that of a grieving father who built it in memory of his daughter and her groom who drowned after their boat capsized below the headland. It’s said a light was kept burning in the chapel to warn other sailors of the danger.
Purbeck Radar Memorial
Also located at St Aldhelm’s Head is the Purbeck Radar Memorial, which commemorates the role played at Worth Matravers in the birth of modern telecommunications during World War II.
Designed by a local sculptor and installed by local volunteers, the stainless steel structure sits on Purbeck stone and represents two radar dishes.
The full background to Purbeck’s involvement in the development of early radar can be found on the Purbeck Radar website: www.purbeckradar.org.uk/index.html
Old Lifeboat hut
Following various sea tragedies, a lifeboat station was built at Chapman’s Pool in the 1860s.
However, the lifeboat station was short-lived due its remote position making it difficult to recruit volunteers. This, added to the cost of its upkeep and regular landslides, mean that the station was closed.
Today the lighthouse building is used by fishermen as a storage facility.
How to get there and parking
The nearest place to park is Renscombe Car Park in Worth Matravers (BH19 3LL).
The walk down to Chapman’s Pool is about half an hour from the car park.
The below map shows two walking routes from the car park, one of which encompasses the Royal Marines Commando Memorial.