Swanage was built around the local stone quarrying industry. Its popularity as a seaside resort owes much to its sandy beach and sheltered bay. The Victorians called Swanage “Little London by the Sea” and the town is serviced by the Swanage Steam Railway. The shallow water beneath the Pier is a popular place for training divers.
The Peveril Ledge is series of rocky fingers of Limestone rock that reaches far out into Swanage Bay. Beneath the water the ledges offer a saw tooth profile throwing up a turbulent area of sea. The waves are at their roughest on a spring ebb with a following south easterly wind. It’s not a good idea to cut the corner to avoid the worst of the race as there is little depth of water here. To be safe, one should always go around the red can buoy marking its end. The old Coastguard lookout station at Peveril Point overlooks the race and is manned by volunteers from the National Coastwatch Institute.
Coastal Visitor Centre
Swanage Heritage Centre
Town/Village or Area:
Tourist Info Centres
in this Area: Ross Worm Reef
Ross Worm Reef
Reefs made from millions of tiny tube worms lie in the waters off Swanage. The Ross Worm colonies build a hard tube with a tiny feathering feeding head at the end to catch their tiny planktonic food. The worms are known scientifically as Sabellaria spinulosa, and although the reefs stand no higher than 30cm (12”), they can cover large areas of seabed, stabilizing the shifting sub-sea sand dunes and provide a home for a host of other marine creatures. But the worms are under threat; their tubes are fragile and can easily be broken by anchors, dredgers and trawlers. With vital monitoring work being carried out by a team of scientists and Seasearch volunteers, it is hoped the reefs can gain official status and be protected.
Interest: Little London by the Sea, Swanage Pier, Modern Purbeck Stone Quarrying, Swanage and Quarrying
Modern Purbeck Stone Quarrying
The Purbeck stone only forms thin bands and is easily dug out of the ground by diggers. The stone is then graded, sorted and worked into end products. The fine shell in the stone really can be highly polished, making it ideal for decorative items such as fire hearths and table tops. Purbeck Stone is used for many applications and has traditionally been used for many years as paving slabs and dry stone walling.
Swanage and Quarrying
Swanage marks the change from Cretaceous chalk to Jurassic Limestone. The town has its history and wealth built upon the quarrying of the local rock which has given its name to the area, Purbeck Stone. The stone was brought down to the bay by horse and cart where it would have been stacked in an area known then as the “Bankers”. From here it was loaded onto carts with extra large wheels that could take the stone into the sea to be loaded onto small boats. These then took the stone out to larger barges waiting further out in the bay.
The pier at Swanage is undergoing ongoing repair work. Many people like to stroll to the end, fish or even take a boat trip from here, but others prefer to explore beneath it. Swanage Pier is the site of Britain’s first diving school “Divers Down”. The 4 meter deep water is ideal for trainees, while the abundance of life the pier attracts offers a wealth of interest for underwater photographers.
Little London by the Sea
Swanage and Durlston Country Park are full of relics from London. These were loaded onto barges as ballast for the return journey back to Swanage. Items brought back ranged from bollards (many of which have “London” stamped clearly on them), a clock tower and even the decorative front of buildings. So many items and were brought back that Swanage became known as “Little London by the Sea.”