A Jurassic Coast walk before lockdown

After weeks and weeks of rain it was wonderful to wake up on the morning scheduled for an organised walk to sunshine and blue skies!

We joined the Jurassic Coast Trust for a guided walk on the hills surrounding the historic village of Abbotsbury. It is one of our favourite locations which is situated along the Jurassic Coast between Weymouth (where we used to live) and West Bay, our current home. Regular readers will recognise some of the area as it has been featured in over 20 posts over the years! With an experienced guide, it is always good to find out new information or discover features you have just walked straight past.

High on the hill overlooking Chesil Beach on one side and the village on the other is Saint Catherine's Chapel, which was built by the monks in the 14th Century for pilgrims visiting Abbotsbury Abbey. We have often walked up to this landmark to admire the views and gone inside,

St Catherine was the patron saint of unmarried women and until the end of the 19th century, it was the custom of women to climb up the hill to the chapel on St Catherine's Day and ask Catherine for a husband with this prayer. The building inside is amazing and along the walls are 'wishing holes' which is where the women prayed.

A Husband, St Catherine,
A handsome one, St Catherine,
A rich one, St Catherine,
A nice one, St Catherine,
And soon, St Catherine
Anyone is better than none.

 I didn't realise that the word 'spinster' derives from 'spinner'.  The connection being that many young unmarried women were also in low status, low-income jobs involved with spinning or combing. In France, even at the beginning of the twentieth century, St Catherine's Day was still remembered with a particular reference to those over 25 who were still unmarried.

The inland water is the Fleet and this lagoon is the home of the Abbotsbury Swannery.
Abbotsbury lies on a bed of Jurassic Oolite limestone, this layer of rock runs from the Dorset coast all across England to the  North Sea in Yorkshire see here. It is not therefore surprising that some Dorset villages remind me of villages in the Cotswolds with the buildings being built on the same stone.

Looking across the Chesil Beach to the sea.

The Chesil Beach is young in comparison to the neighbouring Jurassic Rock having only formed around 4,000-5,000 years ago compared with the Jurassic Rock that is millions of years old! Looking across at the view I just had to capture the contrast of colours in a photograph, how I wish I was an artist and could capture that with paint too!

There isn't much left of the Abbey, which was destroyed in 1539 during the dissolution apart from these remanents of the abbey's gatehouse and the tithe barn. Most of the stones used to build the Abbey were reused to build the cottages in this attractive village.

We nearly bought a house in Abbotsbury that had a similar view to this from the upstairs windows.

A final view of the Chapel before we head home. We now wonder how long it will be before we are allowed to come this way again, at least we have the images to admire and remember past walks and memories.

Stay safe.

Sarah x


  1. This is a really nice description of your trip. The pictures are great. It looks very nice and peaceful. Reading a prayer to St Catherine makes me smile.

  2. The greens are so green and the blues so blue. Thank you for sharing such beautiful pictures. I wish I was there.

  3. Oh such a spectacular view. The history and geology made this a great place for a guided tour. Thank you for sharing.

  4. A lovely walk and very interesting too :)

  5. Thank you for the tour along the coast. Exceptional photos!

  6. What a lovely tour. I'm so glad that you shared it. Who knows how much travel will be restricted over the the next years. It's made me think of those places I'd really like to see and your coast is high on the list.

  7. One of my favourite walks and I love the views from the Chapel

  8. I loved reading this post Sarah. We visited the chapel while we were staying in Dorset. A somewhat murky day. Your photos are beautiful. I love Abbotsbury. Such a pretty , fascinating place. B x

  9. Yearning to see the sea again, even just a glimpse!

  10. So beautiful pictures and a lovely history!
    Best wishes for a happy week, take care...
    Love, Titti

  11. What a wonderful day out that was! I haven't been to Chesil Beach (or Portland where my Dad was stationed) for many years but remember being fascinated by the stark difference between opposite sides of the road - crashing waves one side and calm water the other. Do they still windsurf on the Fleet?

    1. They windsurf on the Portland harbour side of the beach road between Wyke Regis and Portland. There have been reports of this happening in lockdown too!

  12. A lovely (and interesting) walk...beautiful pictures too!
    Love from Titti

  13. You live in such a picturesque area and give very good information. It is hard to believe there is a pandemic while looking at your coastline – it’s so peaceful and away from the pollution of large cities. I enjoyed your remark on the St. Catherine. Well, in France, they still celebrate St. Catherine on November 25. It is called La Fete des Catherinettes. They have to be over 25, wear an elaborate hat and celebrate within themselves (big women only parties.) But I read that this year they are wondering whether they should stop this celebration because 25 in France is no longer considered “une vieille fille”/an old maid since woman are marrying later.

    1. Thank you for the additional information about St Catherine. The average of women getting married is over 30 in the UK so maybe France just needs to increase the age for old maids!

  14. Thank you for this lovely post. We are missing the sea so much in our landlocked Lockdown and the beautiful Jurassic Coast is a favourite place to walk. Your photographs are a breath of fresh sea air!


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