Good protection can be had in winds from south round through west to northwest, but it is completely exposed from north round to east. It can be subject to a scend, that wraps around Handfast Point, after a prolonged southerly blow. Safe access is available in all reasonable conditions, night or day, and at any stage of the tide.
Keyfacts for Studland Bay
SummaryA good location with safe access.
Position and approaches
Haven position50° 38.784' N, 001° 56.101' W
This is about 2 metres ¼ off the shore.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
Not what you need?
- Swanage - 1.4 miles SSW
- Goathorn Point - 1.7 miles NW
- Brownsea Island - 2.2 miles NW
- Salterns Marina - 2.2 miles N
- Parkstone Yacht Club - 2.4 miles NNW
- Port of Poole Marina - 2.6 miles NNW
- Poole Quay Boat Haven - 2.7 miles NNW
- Poole Yacht Club - 2.7 miles NNW
- Poole Town Quay - 2.7 miles NNW
- Shipstal Point - 2.7 miles NW
How to get in?Embed text:
Studland Bay is a large shallow east facing bay situated in the southwest part of Poole Bay. It lies between Handfast Point and the entrance to Poole Harbour, approximately two miles northwards. The north end of the bay is shallow and its best depths and shelter are to be found in its southern half. Protected from the prevailing south westerly winds by Ballard Down and Handfast Point, a conspicuous chalk headland that separates Studland from Swanage Bay to the south, it provides an excellent anchorage, with easy and convenient access, that has plenty of room and few hazards.
Vessels approaching from the south will find the steep chalk cliffs between Ballard and Handfast Points conspicuous for many miles from seaward. In rounding them it is best not to approach the shore nearer than ¼ of a mile.
Studland Bay will be found to the north side of Handfast Point that provides a clear seamark. It has a remarkable 18 metre high pinnacle chalk rock called Old Harry Rocks comprising three chalk formations, including a stack and a stump.
Vessels approaching from the east will also find that Handfast Point and Old Harry Rocks provide clear seamarks. The bay may be approached by passing south of the unlit South Hook south cardinal buoy. At least 2.5 metres of water can be expected to the south of the cardinal marker. However strong easterly gales shift the sands here and depths can change so a watchful eye of the sounder is advisable. Cross the southern end of the Swash Channel that leads into Poole Harbour at right angles when it is safe to do so, and continue into Studland Bay.
Alternatively, in favourable conditions, vessels approaching along the north shore may cut in via the East Looe Channel, covered in the Poole Town Quay entry, and follow the Boat Channel, running parallel to the west of the Swash Channel and close east of the Training Bank, southward to Studland Bay.
The initial fix is set about 800 metres north of Handfast Point on the 5 metre contour. Sound in southwestwardly across the bays sands towards Redend Point where high cliffs give way to a flatter landscape of sandy beaches and dunes, backed by woodland and heathland to the west.
The bay is shallow and the 2.0 metre contour will be found up to a ⅓ of a mile or more from the shoreline. Yachts carrying any draft should expect to anchor out a ¼ of a mile or more from the beach.
Anchor according to draft and conditions. The bay offers good holding in sand. Avoid its large weedy patches, which should be made visible by the bright surrounding sand, that tends to foul anchors. Do not anchor in the area south of the six small yellow buoys in the south end of the bay. This marks a Marine Conservation Zone for the area’s unique and protected seahorses.
Shallow draft vessels choosing to come in close to the shore should avoid a small unmarked clump of the Redend Rocks reported to dry to 0.5 metres in the southwest corner of the bay. These are located about 250 metres east by southeast of Redend Point, a small sandstone cliff which splits the beach in two at high tide with Fort Henry pillbox atop. Vessels operating close inshore should keep a sharp eye out for swimmers.
Land on either the north or south end of the south beach by tender avoiding the marked swimming area off the centre.
Why visit here?Studland was first recorded in Domesday, 1086, as Stollant. The name is derived from stód & land meaning ‘land where heard of horses are kept’.
The coastline was formed during the Mesolithic period, from 10,000-8,000 BC, during the post-glacial rise in sea-level. After this a series of storms broke through the chalk ridge that joined the isle of Purbeck with the Isle of Wight to eventually leaving only the corresponding Needles and Studland’s Old Harry Rocks. The area above Bollard Down that curves away to the north, with the sand dunes becoming increasingly extensive, was formed as late as the last 500 years which is very recently in geological terms. It has developed from a narrow peninsula as seen in a 1586 map. It was over this time period that the huge deposits of sand built up to create the dune system we see on the peninsula today.
William the Conqueror gave Studland to his half-brother Robert de Mortain. In the late 11th century the Normans built the Parish Church of Saint Nicholas on the foundations of the earlier Saxon building. The church, seen in the village today, has none of the elaborate look of later buildings. It is functional and sturdy with the only real effort at external decoration provided by the corbel table carvings. Its porch was added in the 17 Century and restored in the 1880s. Yet it is a good example of a small Norman Church which largely remains unaltered.
In 1576 Queen Elizabeth awarded the castle at Brownsea to her favourite, Christopher Hatton. The demands of Hatton’s daily attendance on the Queen, meant that he left his duties in Purbeck in the hands of a deputy, Francis Hawley who was based at Corfe Castle. Hawley enriched himself by doing deals with the pirates who haunted the Purbeck coast in the 15th and 16th Centuries. Their favourite location was at the time Studland Bay which was then a notorious haunt for pirates and rovers. The bay made the perfect base as it was a sheltered anchorage with a sandy bottom and wide open so ships could make an easy escape should they need to. The pirates could hid behind Handfast Point ready to capture and plunder passing French and Spanish trading ships. Likewise Studland itself was very isolated and with Hawley having his cut, or the pick of the choicest goods, the crown was held at bay.
Between 1581 and 1583 forty vessels were seized and brought into Studland Bay. The spoils that the pirates hauled in included jewels, spices such as saffron, dyes and oil. Richly attired pirate captains would come ashore at Studland to sell their stolen goods on the beach without fear. This was as long as Hawley pocketed sweeteners or had his pick of the choicest goods. When a gang tried to get away without paying, they were quickly imprisoned in Corfe Castle. Then they were taken to Studland Beach where Rachel Lloyd described the scene... ‘There in full view of the crowd, at the turn of the tide, Piers and his companions were strung up; one by one they were jerked off the gallows, and hung with lolling heads, peering at their toes. When the tide came in, a row of corpses gyrated gawkishly upon the waves.’
The remains of a merchant trader from Spain, dated to approximately 1520 based on the assessment of the ceramic assemblage, and the style of ship construction, was found in Studland Bay in 1983. The armed vessel that was carrying Iberian pottery was once described as being ‘as historically significant as the Mary Rose’, and an excellent display of artefacts can be found at the local museum. Some artefacts also remain in an area known as ‘The Yards’, off the northern side of Handfast Point, where several damaged vessels were known to be beached and broken up.
The same qualities that attracted piracy brought smuggling to Studland Bay during the 18th and early part of the 19th Century. Determined to avoid taxes and duties contraband was landed from large fishing boats, and from luggers of 20-40 tons, that had false floors and, hollow beams. The goods were mainly French spirits and tobacco but tea also became more popular in the later part of the century. Smuggled goods were concealed in seaweed or bracken, then taken inland, and shipped across the harbour in ones and twos, using the Poole dragger boats. Smugglers often moored at the foot of the cliffs near Old Harry rock, and hauled their contraband up the cliff.
During World War II the bay was considered a possible target for a German invasion and was heavily fortified. Six weeks before D-Day, Studland Bay was the scene of ‘Operation Smash’ the largest live ammunition practice of the entire war. Thousands of troops took part in a full-scale rehearsal of the impending invasion of occupied Europe, and Studland Beach, along with Shell Bay, were chosen because they physically resembled the beaches of northern France. The use of live ammunition in rehearsal was not regular practice, but conscious of the seriousness of their undertaking, the military leaders wanted to make this as realistic as possible for the soldiers. King George VI, Churchill, General Eisenhower along with General Bernard Montgomery and Acting Admiral Louis Mountbatten watched the exercise from the specially built Fort Henry Bunker on top of Redend Point, now listed, and within the grounds of the Manor House Hotel. From the bunker, that had a metre thick walls, the British Command watched the demonstration of carpet bombing followed by an assault landing by troops.
Duplex Drive (DD) Valentine tanks, known as swimming tanks, were used in the trial but bad sea conditions showed their shortcomings. The conventional wisdom was for the landing ships to stand out as far as possible to keep them safe from enemy attack. This resulted in the tanks being released too far from the shore. Waves began breaking over the canvas screens and the bilge pumps of six tanks couldn’t cope with the continuous flow. These tanks quickly sank with a loss of six crew members in the ensuing chaos. The lesson learned from this trial was vital for D-Day. Soon after the disaster, the regiment was re-equipped with US-built Sherman DD amphibious tanks, far superior to the outdated Valentines, and on D-Day itself the tanks were released in shallow water closer to the shore. But the swimming tanks were to deliver mixed results during D-Day too. One hundred tanks were lost in this way at 'Omaha' beach contributing to the high casualty rate suffered by the Allied Forces there.
There are seven known tanks in the bay in depths between 10 and 15 metres and today they are teeming with marine life. The Fort Henry Bunker, now listed, and a circular pill box on a square base at the north end of the beach, are amongst many WWII defences that can be seen today as part of marked trail.
Today the long sandy beaches, cliffs and dunes of Studland Bay are now owned by the National Trust alongside their local holdings of Ballard Down and Brownsea Island. The Studland Peninsula represents the second largest area of dune heathland vegetation of any dune system in the country.
From a sailing perspective the extensive Studland Bay provides a well sheltered anchorage for up to 300 boats and it has the channel accessibility that attracted the pirates and smugglers here of old. It’s golden sandy beaches are among the most beautiful on the south coast and are completely protected from the prevailing south westerlies, and fronted by gently shelving bathing waters they are ideal for families.
Likewise for those who just want to sit back and take it all in, there are extensive views of Old Harry Rocks and the Isle of Wight, with beach facilities including cafés and deck chairs close at hand. For the more active there are designated trails through the sand dunes heathlands and woodlands, ranging from 1 – 9 miles, all of which dogs are welcome to provided they are on a short lead during the summer. Apart from a sunny summer's weekend, when Studland is Poole’s playground and full of beach goers and anchored boats, there is little not to like about Studland Bay. Save that is, for an unexpected easterly wind, where Poole Harbour will provide a convenient bolt hole.
What facilities are available?The small coastal village of Studland is situated ¼ mile inshore near Handfast Point at the southern end of Studland Bay and set back behind the long sandy beaches, cliffs and dunes. It consists of a small community of houses a large hotel, a grocer's shop and a well-stocked post office. There are no marine facilities.
The National Trust provides a car park and various tourist facilities including beach huts, a café, shop and interpretation centre. There is a cafe on the beach that serves drinks and hot food as does the Bankes Arms above, the garden of which overlooks the anchorage.
With thanks to:Michael Harpur SY Whistler. Photography with thanks to Jim Champion, Josh Dobson Cmcqueen and Michael Harpur
Add your review or comment:
Nick O'Rourkr wrote this review on Jul 10th 2018:
To note, I don't want to exaggerate any negative issues, but there are some that may not be apparent. Despite buoyed anchorage with dead slow speed limit marked on the buoys you will still experience the inconvenience of excessive wake from certain rib-like tenders and those operating from the beach (including commercial operators, who ought to know better). Swimmers also need to be aware of lack of seamanship frequently displayed in the anchorage. There have been significant collisions in the past.
Also, this anchorage area is not overseen by Poole Harbour Authority. That just leaves issues for the land and marine police, who are simply not present.
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