What happened in Swanage this year? Review of the year 2022

A semblance of normality returned to Swanage and the Isle of Purbeck in 2022 after months of pandemic and lockdowns, and Swanage.News has aimed to keep you informed throughout the year.

Although it may seem like the year was dominated by weather extremes, a slow recovery from the devastation of Covid, the cost of living crisis and the death of the Queen, much happened that was exciting and positive for Swanage and the surrounding villages.

Tess daly and Vernon Kay on Studland Beach
Tess Daly / Instagram

Tess Daly and husband Vernon Kay had a wonderful January break in Swanage and Studland

Here’s a selection of the stories that made the headlines in 2022…


The year began with exciting news from Swanage Railway of a planned diesel service between Swanage and Wareham for the first time in 50 years – although the trial was later postponed because of challenging trading conditions.. It’s now expected to start in April 2023.

Celebrity spotters in Swanage were delighted by the visit of Strictly Come Dancing TV presenter Tess Daly and husband Vernon Kay and their Instagram coverage which showered the town with praise.

A new castle was built in Corfe in way less time than it took the followers of William the Conqueror to knock up the original between 1066 and 1087 – although this one was a much smaller adventure playground copy for children

Emergency services tackled their first major incident of the year when a climber broke her ankle as she tried to descend the vertical rock face at Anvil Point. She was later revealed to be the chief executive of Shelter who praised the work of the volunteers who came to her rescue..

Oly Rush with Doby washing up bottle
Oly Rush

Oly Rush with the 1950s washing up bottle found at Chapman’s Pool near Swanage


Ambitious £60 million plans to completely modernise the Knoll House Hotel at Studland, where Enid Blyton enjoyed family holidays, were rejected by planning councillors. A completely new plan B with environmentally friendly credentials was later unveiled in autumn 2022.

A plastic bottle believed to be 65 years old was washed up on the Jurassic Coast at Chapman’s Pool. Although there was no message in this bottle, the writing on the container of Moby washing-up liquid was still surprisingly legible after so long.

For three days, the headlines were dominated by Storm Eunice as the Met Office issued red ‘threat to life’ weather warnings for wind. Although Purbeck escaped largely unscathed, schools, markets and libraries were closed and the Sandbanks Ferry service was suspended – which was not to be the last time in 2022…

New access to Tilly Whim Caves from Durlston Country Park was announced as part of an ambitious restoration of the Pleasure Grounds there. Although it was still too dangerous to enter the caves, closed as a tourist attraction in 1976 following rock falls, it was once again possible to peek inside them.

Runners at First Durlston parkrun
Durlston parkrun

The first Parkrun at Durlston Country Park


A campaign was launched by Swanage resident Laura Roberts urging Swanage Railway to keep the historic Bird’s Nest buffet car cafe at the town station, and drop plans to move it to Corfe Castle. The cafe had been closed at the start of the pandemic, but rated a 4-star review on Trip Advisor and was much loved at the station.

The watery world underneath Swanage Pier was highlighted in March when underwater photographer Paul Pettit won a national award for his picture of a sea gooseberry, while his wife Alison won two awards for photographs of a tompot blenny living in a rusty pipe and of a crab and an anemone living together.

A £1 million makeover for the Isle of Purbeck golf course was revealed, to give the course more of a heathland feel over a five-year period and hopefully to drive it into a list of the top hundred golf courses in the UK.

Swanage’s brand new Parkrun at Durlston had its debut on a sunny Saturday in March, attracting more than 100 runners to tackle a five kilometre run – or walk – as part of a personal fitness training programme for people of all ages.

Beach huts in Shore Road

A surge in interest for seafront beach huts left very few summer slots open for tourists


A surprise £10,000 bequest in the will of a pub landlord best known – and loved – for his popular ‘lock-ins’ came as a complete surprise to Corfe Castle Museum, where it helped with plans to modernise the displays. Benefactor Graham White, who ran The Fox pub, was described as an eccentric village character.

As Easter approached, a surge in interest for seafront beach huts at Swanage left visitors struggling to find a hut to book for their summer holidays. Swanage Town Council was asked to consider adding to the 60 existing £2,000 a season shelters.

A long-lost BBC recording of a 1960s comedy show by Barry Took and Marty Feldman, The Walrus and the Carpenter, was discovered by Swanage resident and retired broadcast engineer Andrew Birt. It was given its first airing in nearly 60 years by Purbeck Coast FM presenter Thelma Deacon.

Over the Easter weekend, an illegal rave at East Lulworth went on for more than 12 hours despite the presence of the police. More than 1,000 party goers set up banks of speakers on Ministry of Defence land and pumped out techno rave music through the night.

Butcher - Vye, John 35 High Street (Gerry Hatchard 3rd from rt)(Kerley coll)
Swanage Museum

A Swanage Museum exhibition pictured the high street as it once was; John Vye Butchers, founded in the 1880s, is now the Curiosity shop.


A new street market along Shore Road called the Swanage FreeWheelin Feastival sparked a lot of interest in its vision of street food from Mexican to Japanese on offer alongside artisan grocery stalls and arts and crafts.

A newly formed Swanage branch of the Swift Conservation group looked to get support for a high flying scheme to make the town as friendly as possible for the summer visitors. There has been a huge decline in numbers of the birds over recent years attributed to home owners installing plastic boards along eaves where they traditionally nest.

A new exhibition at Swanage Museum highlighted the way the town’s high street used to look – and the glimpse into yesteryear turned out to be hugely popular. It had been intended to display the previously unseen photographs during the summer of 2020, but Covid restrictions put an end to that.

Swanage Bay View holiday home park, once owned by the town council, was sold by Bournemouth based Aria to Away Resorts, who planned to give the site more of a holiday resort feel. Away Resorts planned to hire out many of the privately owned homes on the site to holidaymakers and introduce a programme of activities and entertainment.

Swanage Queen's Platinum Jubilee tea party
J M Alcock

A 600-guest tea party in Swanage was one of the largest in the UK for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee


Summer arrived in Swanage with the marking of the Platinum Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth II. Beacons were lit up across Purbeck to mark her 70 years on the throne, followed by a huge tea party, which sold out its 600 tickets in Lower High Street and spilled over into Prince Albert Gardens.

A Parisian chef, Connor Brooks, brought his partner Caitlin McDonald and their young son Ruari to Swanage, and launched the Sprout & Bean catering business out of a mobile trailer. They ran it from the Boilerhouse Gallery in Corfe Castle, where their first business clients were Microsoft employees, working on ways to deal with potential Russian hackers.

The first cables were laid in Swanage to deliver ultrafast broadband to parts of the town by summer 2023. The rollout is part of the government’s £5 billion Project Gigabit to help parts of the country which struggle with poor internet connectivity, and will first benefit schools in Swanage as well as Durlston Country Park.

Midsummer evening saw a unique performance of words, dance and swimming. It was the brainchild of Swanage sea swimmers Claire Hodgson and Deborah Paige, and involved 50 women dancing and swimming in the sea to music after a performance at The Mowlem.

SW!M show performance on Swanage Beach

A unique and memorable performance of SW!M on Swanage Beach


Swanage Hospital’s Minor Injuries Unit was closed for a full weekend due to ‘Covid related staff absence’ and sparked an angry reaction from the Friends of Swanage Hospital. They were concerned that as the summer population of Swanage rises from 10,000 to 50,000, it could potentially lead to serious problems for anyone needing urgent medical help.

Badgers who tunnelled under the entrance to Swanage Football club left the town council with an unexpected bill for £30,000. The tunnels had caused the road to collapse, but by law councils have to take extra care under the watchful eye of a badger ecologist to make sure that no creatures are harmed during road repairs.

There was a near miss for paddle boarders at Studland who were blown into the path of a Condor ferry. The four holiday makers were less than a minute from disaster when the last of them was plucked from the sea by the Dorset Marine police force support group in an operation which also involved Swanage Coastguard.

As drought conditions continued through July, fire and rescue officers had to ask campsite owners to consider banning barbecues and campfires on their sites. A spike in the number of fires affecting fields, heathland and open space had already been experienced, with a heath fire at Stoborough caused by a portable barbecue – and there was worse to come.

The warm weather attracted record crowds to Swanage Carnival and the parade – the first time the event had been able to take place since 2019. The eight days felt like a long overdue party for the town after months of pandemic restrictions.

Studland Fire
Mike Cheesman

Acres of protected heathland at Studland went up in flames over three days in August


A beach at Studland had to be closed at the height of the school summer holidays when a watersports instructor spotted a wartime shell exposed at low tide. A controlled explosion had to be carried out by the Royal Navy’s bomb disposal team on Middle Beach.

The Studland peninsula was closed off as a massive heath fire raged out of control. Some 90 firefighters were called in to tackle the blaze and thick smoke was visible for miles. It continued to affect the area for days, with three cars being towed away at one point as thoughtless tourists drove over hose pipes to park.

The Wind Hive, a giant sculpture which can be seen from miles around, was conceived by local artist Eilidh Middleton and installed at Swyre’s Head near Kingston in August. The temporary art installation had to be carried in pieces by tractor to its destination and was made out of recycled plastic and reused wood.

Charlie Newman, landlord of the Square and Compass pub at Worth Matravers, extended the pub kitchen and outdoor serving hatch to take full advantage of a growing trend to eat outside. However, the biggest draw of his pub continued to be the fossil collection started by Charlie’s father Raymond and which now may also be extended outdoors.

Book of condolence for the Queen

Books of condolences were set up across Purbeck including this one at Swanage Library as residents paid tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II


The death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday 8th September 2022 at the age of 96 marked the end of an era in almost everyone’s life. Flags were lowered to half-mast and books of condolences opened, while organised events were cancelled, including the Tour of Britain cycle race that was to pass through Purbeck on Saturday 10th September. Events took place to mark the accession of King Charles III, while mourning for the Queen continued until the State Funeral at Westminster Abbey on Monday 19th September.

The doors of the final bank branch in Swanage, Lloyds, closed for the last time, leaving the Post Office and the Nationwide Building Society as the only places left in town to conduct face-to-face financial transactions. The building it was situated in was built in 1896 from Portland Stone and had been granted Grade II listed building status.

An alfresco pop up restaurant overlooking the Jurassic Coast at Kimmeridge was given two years to prove itself by councillors who overruled a planning officers’ recommendation to refuse permission. They were persuaded after hearing how the restaurant would support local food producers and create new local jobs over five months every summer.

A decision was taken to keep the south end of Shore Road in Swanage, which is closed during summer for pedestrian safety, shut during winter as well in an experiment which will last 18 months. The decision was taken following a survey of residents, but has left a third of locals opposed to the idea.

Flying Scotsman at Swanage Railway

Flying Scotsman drew thousands of fans to Swanage and Purbeck during a three-week visit


October opened with work to create a long term vision for the future of Swanage seafront. Driven by the need to stabilise cliffs below Sandpit Field and to address flooding issues, the master plan will help the town council to improve the seafront, enhance and protect its heritage and the coastal environment and also meet visitor and resident needs.

Campaigners in Langton Matravers near Swanage welcomed a new Dorset Council policy to favour 20 mph limits through villages in the county. Langton, which had campaigned for years to slow cars down through its high street, intended to be the first in the county to implement the new restrictions.

The world’s most famous steam locomotive, the Flying Scotsman, arrived at Swanage Station after a six-hour journey from London on a three-week visit to Purbeck, drawing thousands of visitors to see her. The locomotive, the first ever to haul a train at 100mph, was completed in 1923 and her visit to Swanage was the start of her centenary tour.

The BBC was threatened with a ban from filming at Lulworth Cove after it was accused of acting irresponsibly by showing Doctor Who regenerating on top of Durdle Door. Lulworth Estate called the BBC ‘deceitful’ in not revealing that the scifi series would feature Jodie Whittaker, David Tennant and the Tardis perched on top of the iconic landmark.

Middle Beach Cafe at Studland

The Middle Beach cafe is in danger of tumbling into the sea, according to the National Trust


Seven huge sections of the Berlin Wall were installed as a permanent art exhibition at Carey’s Secret Garden, Wareham, in tribute to the power of people who have overcome oppression. The moving art installation is the work of Simon Constantine, whose parents co-founded Lush, and who has run a high profile campaign helping Syrian refugees to escape war zones.

The chainlink ferry that operates between Sandbanks and Studland was badly damaged while being towed to Cornwall for maintenance on a planned five-week closure through November. Sandbanks Ferry Company admitted that during the tow from Poole to Falmouth, the ferry suffered severe damage and was unlikely to return to service before Christmas, a date which has since been extended until March 2023.

The National Trust blamed climate change for its decision to permanently close the family run Middle Beach cafe, which has been a much loved feature of Studland for the past century. The cafe, a repurposed boat house with glorious views over Studland Bay and a four star rating on Tripadvisor, will be demolished in January 2023.

Swanage gave a hero’s welcome to a former paratrooper who is walking 8,500 miles around the entire UK coastline to raise money for an Armed Forces charity – £300,000 so far. Chris Lewis, who served with the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment, was left homeless and depressed after leaving the military, but his trek around the UK has given him new purpose and a family of his own.

The Anchor Inn Swanage

The Anchor Inn, Swanage, was forced to close as fuel bills rose from £12,000 to £80,000


Swanage Pier was lit up by more than a thousand lights as it reopened following the last stage in its £2.8 million renovation programme by Santa, who was dropped off at the pier by Swanage RNLI. The Lighting Up Lives event marked the end of a project to preserve and restore the Victorian pier, funded to the tune of £1.6 million by the National Lottery Heritage Fund – and the start of an era in which the pier must now be self sufficient.

A man from Swanage and a woman from Corfe Castle were jailed for their part in an organised crime gang which trafficked cocaine and cannabis from Dorset into Wales. Operation Rookley saw a total of six people jailed following a covert investigation by Dyfed-Powys Police, which dismantled the gang that was transporting drugs between Dorset, Merseyside and Pembrokeshire over almost a year.

Winter arrived early as black ice on roads and pavements in Swanage and across Purbeck caused a number of incidents as vehicles skidded round corners and down hills. Swanage Railway cancelled its Christmas dining car service as water pipes froze and the road through Harmans Cross was closed following a car accident as snow, ice and fog descended.

Grade II-listed pub, the Anchor in Swanage town centre, was forced to close indefinitely due to the cost of living crisis. The pub, which is believed to date back to the 17th Century, was taken over by new management at the end of 2019 but spent most of 2020 and much of 2021 closed or restricted by the Covid pandemic, then saw its electricity bill rise from £12,000 a year to £80,000.

Swanage Railway ended the year with its popular magical Steam and Lights service but admitted that it was facing ‘dire’ times as passenger numbers were down, visitors were spending less and the cost of coal had doubled.

Swanage railway Christmas steam and lights service
Andrew PM Wright

The Swanage Railway Christmas Steam and Lights service lights up the Purbeck countryside

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