UK’s longest rope bridge unfurled in Purbeck

Visitors to a nature reserve near Wareham are now able to view the beauty spot from a new vantage point, after the UK’s longest rope bridge was opened to the public.

The impressive 50 metre long bridge at the visitor attraction The Blue Pool, is suspended through the trees 10 metres above a gully and gives outstanding views over the pool.

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A tree top view of The Blue Pool from the new rope bridge attraction

Ready to be opened – more than 50 metres of rope walkway

Making the walk more memorable

Since its official opening by Wareham town mayor Marian Cotton on Friday 24th May, 2024, hundreds of visitors have made the crossing over a very busy bank holiday weekend.

New owners of The Blue Pool, Matt and Julie Jones took over the popular Purbeck visitor attraction in 2021 and one of the earliest ideas they had was to install a rope bridge to make the walk around the pool more memorable.

With the help of outdoor company Treehouse Life the vision was brought to life during May 2024 as three trees in a gully leading down to the pool were felled and a rope bridge built totally from sustainable materials was put up in four days.

The attraction also had the added bonus of becoming the UK’s longest rope bridge, beating a 33 metre walkway at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, a 40 metre bridge across the River Trent at Catton Hall, Notts, and a 42 metre rope bridge in a private garden in Staffordshire.

Assistant estate manager Dan Rushton saw the bridge being built over a period of four days

THE BLUE POOL

Work gets under way on the new attraction

“We had to fell three trees before work began”

Assistant estate manager Dan Rushton said:

“We didn’t set out with the intention of breaking a record, we just wanted a rope bridge for a shorter walk around the pool because we have so many gorges around the estate thanks to its industrial past, so we found a likely spot and it just worked out that way.

“The best route across the gorge meant that we had to fell three trees before work could begin – and it was quite a feat to get them back up from the bottom of the gorge and needed all of our machinery, including a tractor, a digger and a winch.

“After that, it was relatively straightforward to build. Treehouse Life came in on Monday 13th May, dropped all their equipment off, started building on Tuesday and were off again by Friday lunchtime.

“It’s nice that we’re finished and people can start using and enjoying the bridge in time for the half term holidays.”

Julie and Matt Jones (left) at the official opening with Wareham town mayor Marian Cotton (right)

Champions of eco tourism

Matt Jones, owner of The Furzebrook Estate, added:

“We are thrilled to present this impressive, hand crafted bridge to our members and visitors alike.

“This exciting new addition to the estate offers a fresh tree top perspective of The Blue Pool, championing eco-tourism and sustainable outdoor recreation in the region.

“Our tourist attraction is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest with some rare species including 20 percent of all of the UK’s green sand lizards, so it has to be looked after carefully – but we always intended to manage it like that.

“Nature is one of those things you want to encourage people to come and explore, but at the same time we want to leave nature alone. It’s a balance and generally people are very respectful. We aim for sustainable tourism.”

The bridge leads to another new addition for the walk around the pool, a spectacular sculpture of a dragonfly created by Corfe Castle artist and TV personality Ted Edley, who features on the TV show Salvage Hunters.

The Blue Pool’s new dragonfly sculpture in a glorious setting

Steampunk sculptor Ted Edley, of TV’s Salvage Hunters, with his latest piece of work

Emblem of the Furzebrook estate

Ted Edley, who runs Dorset Copperfish, said:

“The Blue Pool wanted a sculpture here that could be visible from the other the pool and then it became a case of what to make.

“Matt pointed out that the emblem of the Furzebrook estate is a dragonfly, and that lent itself to the art deco theme here – I have been able to incorporate those geometric designs within the wings.

“The project evolved from there – I made the stand as an unfurling fern which gives the sculpture a natural feel, and my general style is steampunk, so it all came together really well in the end.”

Wareham Town Mayor Marian Cotton tries out the new bridge at Blue Pool

The ribbon was cut by Wareham Town Mayor Marian Cotton, watched by Wareham Town Crier Jacquie Hall

“A new and exciting addition”

Opening the rope bridge, Wareham town mayor Marian Cotton said:

“I was very excited when I received the invitation to come to The Blue Pool – it was my holiday job when I was at school and college. I used to cycle out here every day and have lunch in the grounds. I felt very privileged to be here and I still do today.

“This is the UK’s longest rope bridge, a new and exciting addition to the attractions here at The Blue Pool and I’m sure it will be very popular with visitors. My congratulations go to Matt and Julie and I wish their venture all the success it deserves.”

Wareham town crier Jacquie Hall accompanied the mayor and Matt and Julie Jones on the first crossing of the rope bridge, an adventure which is now included as part of the general admission ticket to The Blue Pool nature reserve and tearooms.

Rhododenrons are out in full bloom in May and June at the Blue Pool reserve

The Blue Pool living up to its name in the sunlight, with the new bridge at the far end

30 acres of nature filled paths

The Blue Pool itself dates back to the 17th century when Purbeck ball clay was quarried by hand to help produce fine ceramic products like plates, teapots, cups and pipes for Wedgwood and other pottery companies.

It was abandoned almost 200 years later and filled with rainwater, but the tiny clay particles which became suspended in the water diffracted sunlight to give the pool its deep colours which can change from vivid blue to turquoise depending on the light conditions.

It was opened to the public as a tourist attraction in 1935 and was run as a family business until owner Jennifer Barnard died at the age of 91 in 2020.

The Blue Pool reserve, designated an SSSI in 1985, now offers more than 30 acres of nature filled paths and walkways as well as a tearoom reflecting the art deco heritage of the original attraction.

Blue Pool’s general manage Carolyn Snook at the opening ceremony

A view from the bridge, already shared by hundreds in its first few days

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