Chesil Beach Spit walk
Remote walk along the length of an iconic shingle spit with views inland and out to see. Shingle! Sep-Mar only. Check firing times!
There is 9 miles of shingle walking.
|Length||10.4 miles (16.7 km) with 350 feet (100 m) of ascent (all at the end)|
|OS Maps||OS Explorer 15 (Purbek and South Dorset)|
|Toughness||10 out of 10 - not the ascent, the shingle!|
Chesil Beach is an iconic shingle tombolo (spit) of 180 billion pebbles that runs parallel to the Dorset coast, from the Isle of Portland causeway in the south east, to Abbotsbury in the north west. This walk is along its entire length, with uninterrupted views out to sea, and inland over the brackish Fleet Lagoon that separates it from the mainland.
The shingle spit, and lagoon behind it part of Fleet and Chesil National Nature Reserve (NNR).
The south/east end of the spit is public, the centre is part of an army firing range, and the north/west end is private land with a spring/summer close season.
This is a very interesting walk, but it has some serious drawbacks:
The South West Coast Path ("SWCP") does not go along Chesil Beach, but along the land side of Fleet Lagoon behind it. It has good views of Chesil Beach. It a lovely walk, but does not compare to the nearby Wessex Ridgeway or SWCP coastal walks.
Technically Chesil Beach is 18 miles and runs from Portland at Chesil Cove, past Abbotsbury (where the spit rejoins the mainland), to Westbay in Bridport, so this walk is only walking part of the beach.
A short out and back walk from either the NW / Abbotsbury (Sep-Mar only) or the SE / Isle of Portland (year round) access point car parks.
The north west and middle of the spit (about 3/4 of it) is private land.
The south eastern end of the spit (about 1/4 of the it) is public land, and always open apart from the firing range.
... it's not that bad a walk as is made out. I've done the walk along Chesil Beach in front of the Fleet myself and as long as you take plenty to drink and allow plenty of time, it's fine. It is of course not the most varied of walks, but it's very interesting nonetheless (photos from that walk - flickr)
Current thinking is that the beach isn't a 'spit' (caused by deposition of pebbles washed along the coast by tides), but a 'tombolo' (a barrier beach, sandbar, or in this case, shingle bank) instead.
The shingle is not moving (or hardly moving) along the beach, nor being replenished, so eventually (in a geological timeframe), the shingle 'wall' will be breached, unless man made repairs are made (as was done to Hurst Point Spit closer to Southampton).
The shingle extends beyond Abbotsbury as far north as West Bay, but has been covered by the crumbling cliffs.
If interested, Ian West's Chesil Beach Geology site, with current and historical photos for comparison, as well as storm photos, is highly recommended.
Trains go from London Waterloo to Weymouth, and take about 3 hours. Consider Advance Singles rather than a period return instead. There are (were?) occasional SWT Promotions, e.g. £15 day trips in summer 2014.
X53 Bus : Weymouth (station) - Abbotsbury. Jurassic Coast bus serves. Much more frequent in summer.  Week tickets, and Group day tickets good value. Adult day tickets expensive.
Out: Take a regular local bus from Weymouth station to the Isle of Portland Causeway.
Back: From Abbotsbury, take the X53 'Jurassic Coast' bus to Weymouth station.
Car drivers: Park in Abbotsbury. Change buses in Weymouth.
If you're in the area: Weymouth's 'Old Harbour', the viewpoint from 'The Heights' hotel on the Isle of Portland (and beyond it to The Verne hill), Portland Bill, Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens and St Catherine's Chapel.
Not en-route, but with a spectacular view over the spit (and a 1/4 of the SWCP)
Abbotsbury is a picturesque historic village with some special tourist attractions:
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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