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Rural Settlement in the Isle of Purbeck

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small globe iconThe decline of public transport

Public transport in the Isle of Purbeck is limited. It exists in the form of the 150 bus from Poole to Swanage via the Sandbanks/Studland ferry and the 142/143/144 via Holton Heath, Sandford, Wareham, Corfe and, variously, Kingston, Langton Matravers, Worth Matravers and Harman’s Cross to Swanage. There is extra minibus coverage through volunteer schemes but this is also limited in extent. The decline in public transport in rural areas usually becomes a vicious cycle (Figure 18).

In terms of rail transport, Wareham Station is on the London Waterloo to Weymouth line. The line between Wareham and Swanage was cut in 1972, along with many other rural railway lines around the country. A connection from Wareham to Furzebrook was, however, maintained to serve the railhead for the oil well at Wytch Farm. Swanage does boast a steam railway but this is basically a tourist facility. The Swanage Railway currently operates on the six miles of track between Swanage and Norden, passing the ruins of Corfe Castle. However, a prime objective of the Swanage Railway Trust is to restore the rail link between Swanage and Wareham, re-establishing a daily service to connect with mainline trains.

small globe iconRural deprivation

Although rural deprivation is often less obvious than urban deprivation, it affects a considerable number of people including communities in the Isle of Purbeck. The following types of rural deprivation can be recognised:

  • Household deprivation – where low-income households have very limited access to housing, goods and services. Deprivation in terms of housing is particularly acute in high-priced housing counties such as Dorset.
  • Opportunity deprivation – lack of opportunity in health and social services, and education and retail facilities affects disadvantaged people, particularly those living in the most isolated rural areas.
  • Mobility deprivation – public transport is very limited on the Isle of Purbeck. As a result, many low-income households have no choice but to spend a high proportion of their income on running a car, which means that even less money is left available for other needs. The proportion of low-income people owning a car is less in urban areas due to the better provision of public transport. In the Isle of Purbeck, hospital access is often dependent on voluntary organisations.
  • Multiple deprivation – the cumulative effect of other types of deprivation.

Deprivation is concentrated in the long-established population. Those who have migrated into the area generally have a significantly higher level of income.

small globe iconThe village of Corfe Castle

Located in the centre of the Isle of Purbeck, the village has a population of 1,040 people, about two-thirds of the population of the parish of Corfe Castle. Because of its position and size, the village acts as a local service centre for the parish and surrounding areas. The A351 passes through the village, linking it to the towns of Wareham to the northwest and Swanage to the southeast, both of which are approximately five miles away. The nearest town, Poole, is fourteen miles away.

Corfe is linear in shape, having developed along two streets, East Street and West Street. West Street is the older, having been important in the medieval stone industry. East Street, which forms part of the A351, has taken most of the recent residential development, mainly in the form of a large number of cul-de-sacs on its eastern side.

In terms of retail provision, the village contains a post office, a general store, a newsagent, a butcher and a baker. This is a higher level of provision than all other rural settlements on the Isle of Purbeck and better than most villages in the entire county of Dorset. Corfe Castle has an important tourist function, reflected in its National Trust gift shop, three cafés, a confectioner, a rock and gem shop, a specialist photo gallery, two specialist toy shops and a designer jeweller. A hotel and four pubs provide services for both tourists and residents. A small garage provides service and repairs but does not offer petrol sales. At the time of writing, a reliable local source said that the village butcher was close to retirement and there was concern that the shop might close down for good.

The primary school (Figure 19), a vital aspect of village life, serves the whole of Purbeck. Corfe also boasts a library with limited opening hours, and a doctor’s surgery. The village hall is another important aspect of the social life of the community.

Most housing in Corfe is owner-occupied but there is also some private and public rented housing. The National Trust has been a major landlord in Corfe, although in recent years the Trust has sold a number of properties to private individuals. The number of Local Authority houses has declined due to the right-to-buy facility that was introduced nationally by the Conservative government in the early-1980s. As in so many other similar settlements, there is a pressing need for low-cost rented accommodation for young people. In recent years, two small Housing Association developments have been completed, but this has not been enough to satisfy demand. New housing in Corfe Castle has been largely restricted to infill within the village boundary, but there is now little land of this nature left.

The village is, to a certain extent, a retirement centre (Figure 20), but it is also a commuter settlement for Swanage and Wareham and also offers reasonably easy access to the Bournemouth-Poole conurbation via both Wareham and the ferry from Studland to Sandbanks. The relatively high level of service provision (Figure 21) within the village provides a reasonable number of employment opportunities, but employment in agriculture now provides very few jobs.

Figure 22 provides socio-economic data for the parish of Corfe Castle and for Purbeck District.

Figure 22. Socio-economic data for the parish of Corfe Castle and for Purbeck District.

small globe iconConclusion

The desire to live in or to move to a rural area of noted scenic beauty is strong in the UK. However, many people are largely unaware of the significant problems that affect most rural regions. Although government at both national and county levels have signalled their intent to improve a number of aspects of rural life, success may well be difficult to achieve.

Figure 18. Model of the decline in public transport in rural areas.
Figure 18.
Model of the decline in public transport in rural areas.
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Figure 19. Primary school in Corfe.
Figure 19.
Primary school in Corfe.
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Figure 20. Sheltered housing for the elderly in Corfe.
Figure 20.
Sheltered housing for the elderly in Corfe.
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Figure 21. Map of Corfe.
Figure 21.
Map of Corfe.
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