I always find that the last full day of any holiday regardless of where I am or whom I am with can be melancholic. To defer that sense of melancholy until later in the day or even until the morning of departure I try, along with my wife, to plan and achieve as full a day out and about as possible.
For our last full day of what had been a welcome break for both of us in Swanage we laid plans over breakfast to leave the car where we were staying, walk into town, and catch the train from Swanage to Corfe.
The Railway Journey
There is a railway line that is run by The Swanage Railway Company that has services between Swanage and Corfe. The return fare for an adult is £15 which may sound a bit pricey when you think you could drive the same route in about 20 minutes, park the car for a couple of pounds, and explore Corfe. The £15 buys you an experience on a vintage train which may or may not be pulled by a steam locomotive depending on maintenance schedules. It buys you a journey through beautiful countryside that you can enjoy rolling past without having to worry about the car in front. It buys you a seat in a compartment for eight people where the upholstery is a bit tired and what was considered the height of luxury less than a generation ago by commuters into London, including myself.
The journey by train also takes about 20 minutes but if you are on holiday and have no time table then let the train take the strain.
Facing the same way as the train on the way out of Swanage, you will be able to see Nine Barrow Down on the right hand side. This ridge of high chalk-land hills gradually converges with the the railway line until it plunges into a natural gap where Corfe Castle is situated. On the left overlooking fields and woodlands and in the middle distance are The Purbeck Hills which like Nine Barrow Down gradually converge with the railway and drop down to the gap where Corfe Castle is.
Corfe Station looks like a setting for a 1930s detective thriller with its renovated station buildings, platform equipment, and barrows stacked with vintage luggage.
Some History of the Railway
Before leaving the station, make a visit to the small museum. The building is packed to the rafters with railway memorabilia including old railway signs, route maps, and equipment. Go up the stairs to the left of the entrance and on the wall will be a couple of huge boards explaining the history of the railway line from Wareham to Swanage.
This branch line managed to stave off closure until the early 70s unlike many other lines which were closed in the 60s through Dr, Beeching's revamping of the rail network. No sooner had this line been closed than within a few weeks all of the rails and sleepers had been ripped up and sold off for scrap. My reaction when I first read this was "vandalism" and a man standing next to me said, "what a complete waste." As one of the boards so rightly states. "Seven weeks to dismantle and 40 long years to rebuild" to reach its present condition. All of this has been achieved through running the railway as a charity.
I have been passing through Corfe and stopping off in Corfe for about 50 years now and I can honestly say that it really hasn't changed that much over that half century. The same street layout and the same buildings that have been there so long seem to be part of the land.
We walked from the station up to the village square which is dominated on the south side by the village church. Facing on to the square opposite the church is The Greyhound Inn. We went in there for a coffee and a look at the menu to see if we wanted to stay for lunch. We did have a lunch there once and it was really good but so often we have made a revisit in hope based on memory and left disappointed. We finished our coffee and left.
Next door to The Greyhound Inn is a small village bakery. They serve takeaway food both hot and cold. We had two pasties which we ate sitting on a bench overlooking the square. You see, I do take my wife out occasionally.
We have been around the castle several times so unless we have gusts we never bother now. Instead we walk around the base of it in a clockwise direction. The route follows the course of the original moat. You then cross the road that runs to Church Knowle and Kimmeridge and walk beside a small stream. This eventually gets you to the road that goes from Corfe up to Wareham. At the intersection is a National Trust facility where you can sit and have a coffee in a modern building with comfortable seating.
The castle is on what appears to be a symmetrical conical hill that would make you assume it was man made. It isn't. On all of the walk we did, you are walking next to streams and it is their erosion capabilities over thousands of millions of years that have made the hill where the castle is today.
Then the final leg of the walk is at the base of the mound the castle is on and back to the village square outside The Greyhound Inn. Then on to the station to catch the train back to Swanage.
We didn't do a lot on this last day but it was more than enough to make us feel that we had done a lot so when we returned to our Coastal Cabin we were quite happy and actually looking forward to going home the next morning.