Good protection may be found from all but southerly winds by tucking into the appropriate corner. Daylight access is straight forward as, apart from a few inshore dangers and some foul ground surrounding its points, the bay is wide open and free from outlying dangers.
Keyfacts for Worbarrow Bay
SummaryA good location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position50° 37.113' N, 002° 13.322' W
This is the anchoring area in Mupe Bay, the better protected of the bay's two anchorages.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
Not what you need?
- Lulworth Cove - 0.9 nautical miles W
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- Shipstal Point - 8.8 nautical miles ENE
- Weymouth Marina - 9 nautical miles W
How to get in?
Worbarrow Bay is located 6 miles north-westward of Saint Alban’s Head, 8½ miles east of Weymouth and 1½ miles to the east of Lulworth Cove. It is an open bight about 1½ miles wide, and a ½ mile deep, encompassed by high cliffs that have a cleft, called the Arish Mell Gap, at its centre.
The bay is in the middle of the Lulworth Gunnery Range situated between Saint Alban’s Head and Lulworth Cove, extending 12 miles to seaward. As such, Worbarrow Bay may only be visited when the Lulworth Gunnery Ranges are not in use. Fortunately, the range is closed most weekends and during the main school summer holiday periods.
The Lulworth Gunnery Range schedule may be obtained in advance from the 'Lulworth Range Walks and Tyneham Village' opening times website or by phone from the range safety officer P: +44 1929 404701 or +44 1929 404712. A recording of range operating times is given out on P: +44 1929 404819.
When the range is in use three range safety boats, VHF Ch. 08 and 16, patrol the edges of the danger area. Red flags and red flashing lights are displayed above the coast guard station on St. Alban’s Head and on Bindon Hill, with its distinctive white chalk scar, in the west side of Worbarrow Bay. Other inland range boundary red flags may be seen from time to time but these can be ignored by those at sea.
Technically yachts may pass through the firing area and some do so enduring considerable pressure from the safety boats. But this is not recommended as it is inconsiderate and disrupts the firing schedule. In the event of any uncertainty Portland Coastguard, VHF Channel 8, will be delighted to advise. The range safety boats may also be contacted by VHF and the range safety officer by phone as above.
Landing is permanently prohibited at Arish Mell Gap. No anchoring should take place off the bay as an outfall pipeline extends out from the bay to a lit buoy two miles south by south-east. The bay has no lights, save for that of the offshore outfall pipe buoy, Fl.Y.5s, making it inadvisable for newcomers to make a night entry.
Worbarrow Bay makes itself know from seaward by its line of white cliffs with their distinctive ‘V’ divide, of Arish Mell Gap, at the centre.
The distinctive central gap, immediately east of Bindon Hill and accentuated by its white sandy beach, held open west of Worbarrow Tout, a promontory at the eastern end of Worbarrow Bay, on 302° T, has served for centuries as a seamark to keep ships clear of the Kimmeridge Ledges.
A tower standing near the shore on the east side of Kimmeridge Bay, 2.2 miles eastward of the east entrance point to Worbarrow Bay, also helps to identify its location.
The bay is entered between the Mupe Rocks, a jagged group of rocks on the west side, and Worbarrow Tout Point, surmounted by a conical hill situated on its east side.
Vessels cutting in from the west need to pass around the Mupe Rock stacks and the Mupe Ledge that lies 150 metres behind them. The most eastward of the Mupe Rocks is the last visible rock called End Rock. It is situated about 50 metres in from the eastern extremity of the foul ground extending from the point.
Standing out 150 metres south and eastward from End Rock clears all dangers. There is a single 2.8 metre patch located 200 metres to the east of End Rock which should present no problem to leisure craft entering the bay.
Once End Rock is abeam to the west, steer northward for about 300 metres to clear the submerged Mupe Ledge that extends from Mupe Bay’s southern point. When the bay opens wide and the southern end of the beach is abeam, it is safe to turn in.
Vessels approaching from the east should use the above mentioned traditional clearing line, of Arish Mell Gap, held open west of Worbarrow Tout on 302° T, to avoid the Kimmeridge Ledges.
Worbarrow Tout, the eastern promontory of Worbarrow Bay, is an unmistakable conical limestone hill that protrudes into the sea and is joined to the mainland by a thin neck of land. Vessels should stand well off Worbarrow Tout as its rocky shelf, along with some isolated outliers, extends 130 metres from its foot. Maintaining a distance of 300 metres from the headland’s shoreline will clear all its dangers.
Vessels approaching from the south will find the middle of the bay free of all obstacles.
The initial fix is set south of Arish Mell Gap midway between Worbarrow Bay’s entry points.
Anchor in appropriate end of the bay to make best the prevailing conditions and any anticipated wind shifts.
Best westerly quadrant shelter can be obtained in Mupe Bay, locally known as Mupes Bay, on the west side and close north of Mupe Rocks. Deep-water will be found close to the western beach where the 2-metre contour is as little as 30 metres from the shoreline. Anchor according to conditions.
The bay is subject to sudden katabatic downdraughts on clear nights. So it is advisable to select deeper water where more scope can be deployed to reduce any sudden harsh snatching.
Mupe Bay is considered the better of Worbarrow Bay’s anchoring areas as Mupe Rocks, and its backing ledge, form an excellent protective breakwater. The bay is considered to be a comfortable anchorage in westerly conditions of up to force seven.
Easterly quadrant protection will be found by tucking in as far as possible around the hook of the Worbarrow Tout headland. Anchor according to draft about 200 metres north of its summit. It provides shelter from north round to south-east, with a measure of southerly protection. Any prolonged southerly quadrant conditions will however soon send in swell.
Ground holding in either location is a mixture of sand, shingle, pebbles, boulders and some weed. The holding is good but should be tested. Do not neglect to deploy a riding light at night as fishing boats often come in to take shelter during the night in Worbarrow Bay.
Land by tender anywhere along the beaches.
Vessels crossing the bay along the northern shore should prepare to stand out on the western side of the bay. From Worbarrow Tout to Cow Corner the shore is free of dangers. But from Cow Corner to Cover Hole, the eastern headland of Arish Mell, it is foul out to 100 metres. From Arish Mell’s western headland to Mupe Bay the shoreline is then foul out to 250 metres with Barber's Rock, situated about midway, drying to 2.1 metres 100 metres out from the cliffs. Keeping outside a line between Cover Hole and Mupe Rocks clears this latter foul area.
Why visit here?First recorded as Wyrebarowe in 1462, and Worthbarrow Baye in 1575, Worbarrow Bay derives its name from the conjunction of the old English beorg, meaning mountain, mound, or barrow and wierde meaning ‘watch’, therefore ‘hill or mountain were the watch is kept’.
It is most likely that the name refers to the ancient Flower’s Barrow Hillfort that overlooks Worbarrow Bay from the south face of Rings Hill. Built more than 2,500 years ago the fort was continually manned up to Roman times after they took if from the local Durotriges tribe. The hillfort covers an area of approximately 6 hectares and is cut in half today by the cliff’s coastal erosion. Occupation debris from both Iron Age and Roman settlements have been found here and a Bronze Age pin was uncovered in one of two large mounds nearby. The grassy remnants of the historic hillfort’s double and triple ramparts can still be clearly seen to this day.
But history runs deeper than the Iron Age in this UNESCO-protected stretch of Jurassic Coast. The outbursts of brilliant white limestone, seen at the rear of the bay today, are 85 to 145 million years’ old sediment that was pushed up when the African and European continents collided 30 million years ago. The bay was then formed after a wall of older Jurassic Limestone, comprising 150-million-year-old Portland Limestone and 147-million-year-old Purbeck Beds, gave way to the sea so as to create the bay.
Mupe Ledges, the Mupe Rocks and Worbarrow Tout are the remains of this original breached wall. Indentations in the cliffs of the ‘Tout’ contain dinosaur footprints from the Jurassic period and fossils of brackish water bivalves, gastropods and ostracods are abundant. The remaining fossilised stumps of prehistoric trees, belonging to an ancient submerged Jurassic forest, can be seen at the foot of Bindon Hill a short walk from Mupe Bay.
The area is preserved today almost entirely in its natural state thanks to it being part of the 2,830-hectare (7,000-acre) Lulworth Gunnery Ranges belonging to the Ministry of Defence. The ranges were established at the end of the First World War in 1917 in order to trail the first tanks. The testing was so secret at the time that local farmers were made to stand behind wicker screens whenever the tanks were moved. An eastward extension of the army grounds during the Second World War resulted in the creation of another unique and frozen piece of modern English history that the area contains, the ghost village Tyneham.
Located about a mile inshore from Worbarrow Tout is the deserted village of Tyneham. Tyneham, that took its name from Old English ‘goat’s enclosure’, was a fishing and farming community that dated back to the Iron Age. Noted as Tigeham in the Domesday Book, it was held by Robert of Mortain, William the Conqueror's half-brother, after the Norman Conquest. Its limestone church of St. Mary was built in the 13th Century when the village was known as Tiham and only in later times did it become known as Tyneham. By the turn of the 20th Century, it had developed to be a perfect English village, with farms, cottages, schoolhouse, post office, church and an Elizabethan country manor.
Down the mile long road from the village, which follows the little Gwyle stream, the beach at Worbarrow Tout was overlooked by a row of eight coastguard cottages at that time. The promontory of Worbarrow Tout, its name derived from the old English word tóte meaning ‘lookout’, aptly played host to the coastguard lookout station with flagstaff and signal canon. Beneath the cottages and immediately up from the shore the coastguard had a boathouse with a stone slipway. A small group of fishermen, who caught crabs, lobsters and mackerel, also used the slip as did paddle steamers who landed tourists here during summertime. When the coastguard left in 1912 the ‘Tout’s’ unbroken views of the bay were quickly adopted by the fishermen to watch for mackerel shoals approaching the shore. Tyneham, where ancient farmland met the sea, had the best of both worlds and set in one of the most beautiful places in the land it was peaceful idyllic England at its best.
But this was to all come to an abrupt end in 1943 when Winston Churchill's War Office needed to find a location to train troops for what would be the Normandy landings. In November of that year the occupants of 102 properties in this area, including all the houses in the village of Tyneham, received notice that they had one month to leave their homes. The 252 inhabitants were told, or thought they were told, that this was a temporary arrangement for the duration of World War II and they could return when it was all over. The last person leaving in the days before Christmas 1943 placed a notice on the door of St. Mary's Church. It read Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.
But in 1948 the army subsequently reneged on any suggestion that the village would be returned. The villagers could never come back and the houses, unattended to and damaged by live fire, slowly fell into ruin. In 1967 the then Ministry of Works pulled down large sections of the Elizabethan manor house.
Time has continued to stand still in and around the footprint of the village that earned the title 'The Village that Died for England'. It remains exactly as it was in 1943. The church and schoolhouse, built in 1856, have however remained intact until this day and have been preserved as museums. Both these buildings are given over to displays of life as it was before it was taken over by the army. Each of the ruined dwellings contains a board with its description and photographs of the family who lived there. One cannot but feel sad for those families but their loss has turned out to be our gift to enjoy today.
Remaining, as it has, as part of the Armoured Fighting Vehicles Gunnery School, has meant that these seven thousand acres of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty have remained an uninhabited coastal wilderness. The entire military area is virgin and unspoilt save for the occasional destroyed tank, targets, and sections of blasted earth or rocks. Thanks to Army occupation Worbarrow Bay and the Tyneham Valley remain an idyllic beauty that has not been blighted by a holiday development.
Today the murderously steep hike to the Iron Age Flowers Barrow hillfort provides an awesome experience. Its heights provide a coastal vista that stretches from Portland to Poole, on one side, and across to Kimmeridge and St. Alban’s head on the other. The continuing hike, over both of Worbarrow Bay’s chalky ridges that stand between Mupe Bay and Worbarrow Tout, is a truly unforgettable experience. Not only has it spectacular views of cliffs and sea, but there are plenty of blown up tanks dotting the range and views of Lulworth Castle further inshore. Those who stride out should keep to the grassy path that is amply marked by yellow posts. It goes without saying that it is inadvisable to tamper with anything metal discovered on the live firing ranges.
A visit to the remains of the village of Tyneham is less taxing but is nevertheless a fascinating and moving experience. The cluster of ruins and the derelict old schoolhouse and church, are situated about 1.5 km (one mile) inland from Worbarrow Tout. Beyond the hamlet, the shattered remains of its old Elizabethan manor house will be found.
Worbarrow Bay offers the coastal cruiser an anchorage in a bay that has to be a strong contender for England's prettiest scenery. With one of the loveliest views along the Dorset coast, and with the unusual and iconic Worbarrow Tout protruding into a secluded bay, the coastal views here are simply spectacular. On a hot sunny summer’s day when the remarkably blue waters calmly trickle against the beach, and which are sharply offset against the crisp white of the cliffs, one could be forgiven for thinking they are in a part of the Mediterranean.
Better still, as the bay can only be accessed on foot via a mile-long walk from the Tyneham village car park, or a four-mile hilly hike from Lulworth Cove, it tends to be quieter than other beaches in the area. A particularly good time to visit is during the weekdays when the Lulworth Range is not active. During these periods a visitor may expect to have Worbarrow Bay all to themselves.
What facilities are available?There are no facilities at this remote isolated location.
With thanks to:John Binder CMM Poole Quay Boat Haven & Port of Poole Marina manager. Photography with thanks to LordHarris, Peter Trimming, Hideyuki KAMON and Michael Harpur.
Worbarrow Bay Aerial views
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