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The SMP Review has been undertaken by consultants

on behalf of

Durlston Bay / Studland Bay / Poole Harbour / Poole Bay / Christchurch Harbour / Christchurch Bay / Hurst Spit / Swanage Bay

Swanage Bay (SWA)

Swanage beach (pre-replenishment)Peveril Point to Handfast Point

The southern half of this frontage includes Swanage Bay and the town of Swanage.  This is a popular recreational area for beach users, diving, fishing and sailing.   

The town has been developed on soft eroding cliffs and annual falls & slips have left some properties, such as The Pines Hotel, very close to the cliff top. 

Timber groynes were first constructed in 1925; eighteen of them were reconstructed in 2005/06 at the same time as the beach was replenished - an operation that made beneficial use of sediment dredged during essential works to Poole Harbour's port and approach channels (see www.poolebay.net for further information). 

The extreme southern part of this frontage includes Swanage Pier, a sewage treatment works and coastguard station.  Moving north beyond the groynes the coast is undeveloped and undefended.  From Ballard Point through to Handfast Point the coastline is characterised by actively eroding vegetated chalk sea cliffs.  This area is best known for the stacks, caves and chalk arches with "Old Harry Rocks" at the northern most point.

The coastline of the bay is of national and international ecological and geological importance (the occasional dinosaur remains have been found in the alluvial chalk strata) and the landscape is of high intrinsic value.  A bowl barrow and two round barrows (Scheduled Monuments) lie east of Ballard Down, close to the cliff edge.

The frontage is highly designated:

Dorset & East Devon World Heritage Site

Isle of Portland to Studland Cliffs SAC

Studland Cliffs SSSI

Purbeck Ridge SSSI

West Dorset Heritage Coast

Dorset AONB


AONB - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  SAC - Special Area of Conservation.  SSSI - Site of Special Scientific Interest

Swanage Bay faces east and is protected by Peveril Point from major southwesterly storms.  The Isle of Wight provides a degree of shelter from easterly storms. 

Construction of the outfall jetty in 1993, at the southern end of the bay, obstructed sediment transport and resulted in falling beach levels immediately to the north.  Although this was offset by considerable accumulation of beach material to the south, the 2005/06 groyne replacement and beach recharge project has since addressed the problem. 

Beach modelling has shown that the effect of the outfall structure as a groyne precludes the need to replace the two groynes to the south of the outfall jetty which were removed during the recharge scheme.

Coastal management issues here include:

  • The potential impact of any coastal defence works on Swanage's tourism, inshore fisheries, offshore wrecks, archaeological value and the aesthetic and landscape quality of the coastline.

In SMP1 the shoreline of Swanage Bay is divided into 5 Management Units:

Process Unit






Peveril Point to Swanage Pier



Swanage Pier to Outfall Jetty



Outfall Jetty to Sheps Hollow



Sheps Hollow to Ballard Point



Ballard Point to Handfast Point

Administrative Responsibility

Purbeck District Council

Swanage Bay old rock groyne c.1850

Purbeck District Council

The same stretch of beach in 2011

The historic photo above shows a rock groyne created using locally sourced material with the stones standing vertically; its construction is very different to what we now think of as a rock groyne.  This groyne is no longer visible but there are other examples around the southern section of Swanage Bay. 

By comparison the recent photograph shows the bay with the road and sea wall and the timber groynes which were replaced in 2006. The old building on the far left appears on both photos.


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2007-2011 Poole & Christchurch Bays Coastal Group; last updated 05 August 2011

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