Swanage is a coastal town and civil parish in the south east of Dorset, England- United Kingdom.
It is situated at the eastern end of the Isle of Purbeck, approximately 6 miles (10 km) south of Poole and 25 miles (40 km) east of Dorchester. In the 2011 census the civil parish had a population of 9,601. Nearby are Ballard Down and Old Harry Rocks, with Studland Bay and Poole Harbour to the north. Within the parish are Durlston Bay and Durlston Country Park to the south of the town. The parish also includes the areas of Herston, just to the west of the town, and Durlston, just to the south.
The town, originally a small port and fishing village, flourished in the Victorian era, when it first became a significant quarrying port and later a seaside resort for the rich of the day. Today the town remains a popular tourist resort, this being the town’s primary industry, with many thousands of visitors coming to the town during the peak summer season, drawn by the bay’s sandy beaches and other attractions. During its history the bay was listed variously as Swanawic, Swanwich and Sandwich, and only in more recent history as Swanage. The town is located at the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site. The town contains many listed buildings and two conservation areas – Swanage Conservation Area and Herston Conservation Area.
Culture : As a small town there are no large cultural institutions based in the town, though there are a number of small clubs and groups, including the Swanage Town Band formed in the late 19th century. The largest facility in the town is the Mowlem Theatre, on the site of the former Mowlem Institute, opened in 1967. Performing a dual role as a 400-seat theatre and cinema, the complex also hosts a bar and restaurant and a small collection of shops. Typically there are around 200 film showings and 60–100 nights of live theatre.
Festivals and events : The town hosts a number of annual festivals and events. In the summer months there is a carnival week which includes a procession of floats and dancers and several firework displays, and many other attractions and small events including live music from various bands from all over Southern England, races and a regatta. The railway used to have special Thomas the Tank Engine themed events, until the cost of running these became prohibitive, and other special services. The town also hosts successful festivals, which attract more than a purely local audience. These include a jazz festival, a folk festival, a blues festival, and there are plans for a food festival in the future.
New Year’s Eve has traditionally been a big event for Swanage, with the town drawing more people from surrounding areas, and people travelling considerable distances to attend. In part this has been due to attendance by employees of the nearby Wytch Farm oil processing facility. While the popularity of the event has waned somewhat from its peak in the early 1990s, with fewer oil employees in the area, there is still a large gathering each year, spilling out into the square and High Street at midnight. It is a long-standing tradition in Swanage for people to dress up for New Year’s Eve to add to the atmosphere. There is no specific fancy dress “theme”, but costumes tend to be humorous.
Churches : There are several church congregations in Swanage, many of which meet at sites of historic interest. St Mary’s Anglican Church was built from 1860 and Swanage Methodist Church was built in 1886. There are also three more Anglican churches, Emmanuel Baptist Church, a Quakers’ meeting house, Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and United Reformed Church. All the churches are part of the ecumenical group known as “Churches Together in Swanage and District” which also extends to churches within Langton Matravers, Kingston and Worth Matravers. The town also has the “Old Stable”, a Christian-led community centre in the town centre.
Access : Coordinates: 50.6083, -1.9599 / Swanage is accessible by main road either through Wareham and its bypass or via the Sandbanks Ferry which provides a shorter route to Bournemouth. There is a minor road connecting Swanage to East Lulworth via Corfe Castle but this passes through a military firing range and is closed during firing exercises.
The main bus services are provided by Wilts & Dorset. Number 40 runs between Swanage and Poole, number 44 between Swanage and the nearby village of Worth Matravers (via Harmans Cross), and the number 50 runs between Swanage and Bournemouth via the Sandbanks Ferry. Double-deck open top buses are used on the Poole and Bournemouth to Swanage routes in the summer months. The buses on these routes are branded as Purbeck Breezers. Swanage has seen serious cuts to its bus services in recent years, reducing the frequency of services to Poole and Wareham and much reducing links to Harmans Cross and Worth Matravers.
Swanage has a restored heritage steam railway which operates for most of the year. At present services only go as far as Norden. The physical connection between the Swanage Railway and the main line has been restored but is currently used only by occasional charter trains: the first of these took place on 1 April 2009 and there will be approximately 6 during 2014. In February 2013 the Swanage Railway obtained a government grant of £1.47 million to re-introduce regular services to the main line at Wareham. Limited ferry services also run between Poole Quay and Swanage Pier. These are used by Swanage residents for shopping trips to Poole’s large shopping centre, and also by tourists in Poole for day trips into Swanage.
The nearest mainline railway station to Swanage is Wareham, with South West Trains services westward to Dorchester South and Weymouth and eastwards towards Poole, Bournemouth, Southampton Central and London Waterloo. National Express Coaches operate a daily coach service from Swanage to London (One journey each way, to London in the morning, back in the evening).
- Swanage Steam Railway, Swanage (Park at Norden Park and Ride station). daily April to October. Ride in authentic heritage carriages for 6 miles from Corfe Castle to the seaside resort of Swanage behind an original steam locomotive £9. Swanage Railway
- Studland Beach, Studland, near Swanage. A popular beach and beauty spot.
- Old Harry Rocks, Isle of Purbeck. Chalk stack formations just of the coast
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