Studland’s winter solstice magic made more accessible to everyone

Thick cloud prevented a clear sight of the sunrise at Studland Bay on the morning of the winter solstice 2022 – but thanks to a new countryside mobility scheme, more people than ever before have the chance to share that magic moment.

The National Trust organised an early morning walk from Studland to Old Harry Rocks on 21st December 2022 to witness the start of the shortest day, although cloud banks on the horizon gave a limited view of the sun itself.

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The wait was worthwhile as dawn lights up the Old Harry Rocks

All terrain walks are now open to all

This year Lucinda Mallace-Lu was able to join the hike out to the Jurassic cliffs to uphold an emotional tradition with her family, thanks to an extension of the Tramper hire scheme – all terrain mobility scooters – which aim to make even the most testing walks available to everyone.

At seven months pregnant, and after more than a week of icy and rainy conditions, Lucinda didn’t think she would be able to join her family on the Christmas tradition they have kept up since she was a child.

But after the recent death of her father, the family custom meant more than ever to her – and when she called the National Trust to ask if they would take her out to the Old Harry headland by Land Rover, they offered an even better solution.

Lucinda was able to join the family on their traditional walk

“It meant so much for me to carry on”

Lucinda said:

“I told them I wouldn’t be able to do the walk in the dark because it’s been so icy and muddy in the past few days and at seven months pregnant I get quite tired and don’t want to slip.

“But Jamie Lamb-Shine from the National Trust was such a hero and said that while they would be happy to drive me out, there was an even better solution which meant that I could share the full experience of the walk with my family.

“He arranged some quick training for me to use the Tramper, which turned out to be really easy to operate and then got everything ready for me at Studland’s south beach before dawn so that I could go on the walk with everyone else.

“We have been doing the winter solstice walk as a Christmas tradition with my dad for years and years, but he passed away last year and it meant so much for me to carry on with it.

“It really made all the difference to be able to use the Tramper. Everyone at the National Trust has been so helpful and it was so simple to learn to use it.”

Trampers are now available at Studland as well as Durlston, Arne and Lulworth

Tramper’s two speeds – tortoise or hare!

The Tramper hire scheme is the brainchild of Countryside Mobility South West, to enable access for the disabled to some of the more remote or testing beauty spots in Dorset and Devon.

The all terrain mobility scooters are designed to be stable enough to tackle tough countryside at a choice of two speeds – tortoise or hare! – while allowing people with limited mobility to access the countryside on equal terms and in comfort.

New Trampers at Studland to access the walk to Old Harry Rocks now join others at existing locations in Purbeck including Durlston Country Park at Swanage, the RSPB centre at Arne and Lulworth Cove.

The dawn views at Studland made the early morning start worthwhile

Transforming the experience for all

Neil Warren, Countryside Mobility project manager, said:

“The Jurassic Coast is one of the most spectacular and popular coastlines in the country and we are really grateful to our National Trust partners in making these new opportunities available.

“We know from our existing hire location at Swanage, Arne and Lulworth how a Tramper can transform the experience for visitors and locals, enabling friends and families to be able to access and enjoy these locations rather than having to be separated.”

More than 60 people attended the winter solstice walk, setting out at 7.15 am as the longest night of the year was drawing to a close.

Although the morning was heavily overcast, the rain kept off until walkers were back at the National Trust’s Knoll Beach cafe enjoying a hot breakfast and coffee to warm up again, and the moment that dawn broke over Studland Bay was still magical.

National Trust employees briefed walkers on clifftop safety before setting out

The night sky began to brighten during a 20-minute walk out to Old Harry Rocks

Finally first light dawned over Studland Bay – even if it was behind heavy clouds

Walks have become part of Christmas tradition

A National Trust spokesperson said:

“We have been running winter solstice walks for years and it has become part of the pre Christmas tradition for many families, as well as being an opportunity to get away from the endless whirl of getting ready for Christmas.

“We were pleasantly surprised that quite so many people were able to join us this year with the ferry being out of operation, especially as we know that some of our guests came from as far away as Fordingbridge in Hampshire to be with us.

“We were also a little worried that the ice and heavy rain may have made the walk and terrain a little difficult for some people, but it has turned out to be a lovely morning, even though the view of daybreak wasn’t quite as spectacular as it can be.”

Although some seagulls were staying well away from the water at dawn…

Early morning bathers were brave enough to take the plunge…

With the promise of thawing out again in Studland’s beach sauna

Swimmers braved a dip in the bay

After the walk, families went back to the National Trust’s Knoll Beach cafe for a hot English breakfast and the chance to meet others who marked the solstice with a chance to get out into the fresh air on Studland Beach.

They included joggers, dog walkers and even those braving a dip in the bay, although the latter did get the chance to warm up again afterwards thanks to the Studland beach sauna which had its fire blazing from dawn.

Journey’s end: breakfast by the beach with Old Harry Rocks in the background

Further information:

  • Find out how and where to hire a Tramper at the Countryside Mobility website:

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