E.M. Forster, an English novelist and writer once wrote: “If one wanted to show a foreigner England, perhaps the wisest course would be to take him to the final section of the Purbeck Hills, and stand him on their summit, a few miles to the east of Corfe.“
The Purbeck Hills which are also sometimes referred to as the Purbeck Ridge is a set of hills and ridges made out of chalk found in Dorset, England. The ridge stretches from Lulworth Cove in the west all the way to Old Harry Rocks in the east where the ridge meets the sea. Purbeck Hills are part of a system of chalk downlands in the south of England which form the chalk group, other areas of this group include Salisbury Plain and the South Downs.
The majority of the hills and ridge have been protected from coastal erosion due to a stretch of resistant Portland limestone. The sections where this line of resistant rock forms, the ridge and hills have been worn away which has resulted in the formation of Poole Bay and the Solent. The ridge of chalk that forms the Purbeck Hills continues further east and can be found on the Isle of Wight.
Due to the location and height of the hills, they have been of strategic importance in the past, mainly due to their proximity to Poole Harbour. There have been Iron Age, Roman and Saxon archeology sites upon the hills such as Nine Barrow Down. At the site of Corfe Castle, the hills are broken twice which have left a steep round hill between the ridges where the medieval castle once stood until the 17th century when it was destroyed.
Parts of the ridge have been closed t othe public due to its ownership by the Ministry of Defence, these include areas around Tyneham which are regularly used for firing and shelling practice. Due to the protection from the public and agriculture, these areas are now a nature reserve. On the eastern side, Ballard Down is a National Trust nature reserve and the area is managed for its calcareous grassland habitat.
The Purbeck Hills can be explored in a number of ways, the most popular is by foot, a number of different footpaths take you around the hills, there are easy strolls and more demanding longer walks available, they can also be started and ended near Corfe Castle which sits within the hills. There are also several tours and safaris that can take you by jeep around the hills to get a look at the spectacular views and points of interest along the way.