Tuesday 10 July 2012

Portland, Dorset - day 2

Chesil Beach

We couldn't leave it there, we had to go back – lured by the South West Coast Path around the edge of Portland.

Chesil Beach

Never has a pile of stones looked so good. From the viewpoint at Verne Yeates, the 18 miles of Chesil Beach stretched out beneath us, all the way to Bridport, Dorset.

Verne Prison

Also visible was an old army garrison (Verne Citadel), which is now home to Verne Prison.

The prison, looking like a South American ruin, is surrounded by a deep moat on its south side filled with creeping vegetation. If only the walkway was retractable.

Verne High Angle Battery, Portland

Nearby is the Admiralty Battery, dating from the 1890s. Although it still retains many historical features it works just as well as a giant abstract sculpture that you can wander about in. Like something from an apocalyptic Chelsea Flower Show, perfect circles of wild flowers push up through the concrete, against a backdrop of rust.

Portland Harbour breakwaters

Eventually, after many photo stops, we picked up the path we were on yesterday...

HM Young Offenders Institute, Portland, Dorset

... and skirted around the Young Offenders Institute, heading south along the east coast.

Portland Museum

Portland Museum was our first, new port of call. It's £3 to enter, and you'll find heaps of artefacts explaining the island's history.

Mummified cat and rat

Including the old Portland custom of trapping a live cat in the sealed roof space of newly built houses. It was supposed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. This mummified specimen was found in an 18th Century cottage in the village of Easton.

Church Ope Cove, Portland, Dorset

For all of Portland's amazing coastline there's only two beaches: Chesil Beach and Church Ope Cove.

Church Ope Cove, Portland, Dorset

Church Ope Cove shares very few similarities with Chesil Beach, except for its pebble shore. Modest in size, the cove is almost hidden by the sharply rising slopes that surround it. Beach huts, each with its own stone-stacked garden walls, tumble down the hillside to the beach. High above, on a rocky promontory, are the ruins of Rufus Castle.

The path south from Church Ope Cove quickly rises to a cliff top position and undulates over boulders while tacking through low scrub. After joining the road briefly, it dips back to the sea edge, winding its way through disused quarries.

Here, cubes of rock abound, strewn all over the place or sometimes, stacked into makeshift walls where there doesn't seem to be any need for one.

Cave Hole, Portland

Further on is Cave Hole. These gouged-out recesses are popular with climbers who enjoy scrabbling about upside down, hanging from the cave's roof.

Cream tea at The Lobster Pot, Portland

It was 5:30pm and we had only reached halfway! Luckily, we were just in time, by a matter of minutes, to order the cream tea from The Lobster Pot before they closed. The scone recipe has been handed down through generations and they were superb. The texture was more cakey than I would normally expect but nonetheless light and delicious. The generous amounts of jam and clotted cream ensured I left with an added spring in my step for the return half of our walk.

Portland Bill

Clouds gathered as we left Portland Bill.

Approaching Southwell

Practically the whole of the west coast is high cliffs, and it made for a blustery stroll northwards.

Weston housing

The housing on Portland is perhaps not one of its greatest assets. However, these unedifying blocks do happen to stare directly out to sea and to the distant Dorset coast.

Mutton Cove

With the sun breaking through at Mutton Cove, T had just enough time to capture a few shots of the cliffs.

West Cliff, Portland, Dorset

The path hugs the cliff edge, providing some dramatic walking.

West Cliff, Portland, Dorset

St George's Church, Portland

A quick detour in land brought us to St George's Church, completed in 1766. Now redundant, the church is maintained by The Churches Preservation Trust. Outside – the large churchyard is absolutely stuffed full of gravestones. Inside – the lecterns, pews and light fittings are brilliantly preserved, giving a powerful sense of the church as the focal point of a community.

Chesil Beach from West Cliff

Chesil Beach returned to view as we reached the end of West Cliff, and cut back to Verne Yeates and the car.

Sunset over Chesil Beach

What an amazing island Portland is. I can't imagine that there's anywhere else quite like it. It's a place of prisons, cliffs and quarries, all visible from the coast path and it's home to the strange quirk that is Chesil Beach.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A very nice Description of my Home Isle. Your commentary is quite accurate, and your pictures excellent. Thank you for visiting Portland, I hope you return again one day. You both will be very welcome! Andy (Portland Volunteer Coast Ranger)