Rural Areas Case Study - Isle Of Purbeck

By Alex Jackson

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The content on this page is extremely old. Much has changed in the world since this article was written. While many of the concepts will still be relevant, figures and case studies are likely to be outdated at this point.


The Isle of Purbeck is located in the south of England in Dorset. Its area is approximately 200km2 and the south and east of the area are surrounded by sea (the English Channel). The north is divided by the River Frome and Poole Harbour. There is one town, Swanage, several villages and a seaside resort. Access to the Isle of Purbeck is provided via the A351 road which is linked to the Poole-Bournemouth conurbation (population 500,000).


In the past 40 years, the population has grown and, in 2001, the population was 44,400. This population is substantially older than the rest of England, with 21.77% of the population over 65 in the Isle of Purbeck versus 15.89% in the rest of England. The reason for this is likely due to the attractiveness of the area for retirement. In addition, a large number of young people are migrating out of the area, in search of employment.

The death rate in the area (in general) was 11.9 per thousand and the birth rate was 10.1 per thousand in 2001. Looking at more specific areas, in Studland the death rate was 19.6 per 1000, again, largely due to the high proportion of elderly people.

Ethnic diversity in the Isle of Purbeck is minimal. 98.8% of the population is white, versus 90.9% in the rest of England. According to the 2001 census, the ethnic groups where distributed as follows in the Isle of Purbeck:

Asian/Asian British0.1%
Black/Black British0.1%

Housing Problems

The cost of housing in the area has risen exponentially in the past few years, thanks largely to migrants, second home owners & retirees. As there’s a lot of people trying to purchase a small number of homes, the cost of the homes has risen, forcing locals out of the area. This problem is further worsened due to the low pay, or lack of, jobs.


The quantity and quality of services in the Isle of Purbeck has seen a sharp decline in recent years. General stores have become rare, with three out of four villages having no general store. Post offices have been closing as have petrol stations and public houses. Conversely, the number of general practices has been rising in the area. Since 1991, nine surgeries have opened and no schools have been closed.

Comparing the services of villages within the Isle of Purbeck, there appears to be some variety in their availability. The village of Corfe Castle, a prominent tourist destination, has significantly more services than less important villages, such as Langton Matravers, despite their similar populations (980 & 910 respectively). Langton Matravers lacks a post office, petrol station, general store, GP surgery or any food shops. Comparatively, Corfe Castle has 16 shops, a petrol station, post office and 4 public houses.

Public Transport

Due to the lack of services in villages such as Langton Matravers, public transport is essential in order to allow people to go about their day to day activities so that they can access distant services. Unfortunately, public transport in the whole area of the Isle of Purbeck is incredibly poor. There are a total of four bus routes covering the area and a ferry. The village of Wareham is on the Waterloo to Weymouth line though.