I am sitting in my office this afternoon looking out of my window at the most amazing sunset……and I am frustrated! You see, this week I have been unwell so have not been able to get out walking and one of Yarrow’s Laws states that, ‘When not walking, there shall be a blazing sunset, and when walking, there shall be grey skies only’ ! Ah well, tomorrow is another day.
Since I am at home, I thought I would catch up with another blog, and this one was sparked by a television programme that I watched earlier. But more of that later!
The subject of this blog is White Nothe which is a fabulous headland on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset. Also known as White Nose because of its distinctive shape, it is an area that I love to walk as it seems to be filled with interest and intrigue, not to mention wild, windy weather at times.
The chalk headland with its flat top juts out to sea and has amazing views all along the coast to the east and the west. To the east, the views take in Bat’s Head, Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove.
To the west, the views spread out across the beautiful Ringstead Bay and through to Weymouth.
And looking directly South, the view takes in The Isle of Portland, which in reality is not an island as it is connected to the mainland by a causeway.
With the Dorset Coast Path running along this whole area, I am sure you can appreciate why I love walking it so much – well, who wouldn’t. I mentioned that this area is intriguing, well it is to me, and one of the quirky things is the famous Smuggler’s Path which zig zags steeply down the end of the headland to the shore. This path was made famous by J Meade Falkner in his book, ‘Moonfleet’ which is a tale of smuggling in Dorset. In part of the book he wrote:
‘Forgive me, lad,’ he said, ‘if I have spoke too roughly. There is yet another way that we may try; and if thou hadst but two whole legs, I would have tried it, but now ’tis little short of madness. And yet, if thou fear’st not, I will still try it. Just at the end of this flat ledge, farthest from where the bridle-path leads down, but not a hundred yards from where we stand, there is a sheep-track leading up the cliff. It starts where the under-cliff dies back again into the chalk face, and climbs by slants and elbow-turns up to the top. The shepherds call it the Zigzag, and even sheep lose their footing on it; and of men I never heard but one had climbed it, and that was lander Jordan, when the Excise was on his heels, half a century back. But he that tries it stakes all on head and foot, and a wounded bird like thee may not dare that flight. Yet, if thou art content to hang thy life upon a hair, I will carry thee some way; and where there is no room to carry, thou must down on hands and knees and trail thy foot.’
(From Moonfleet by J Meade Falkner – as young John Trenchard and Elzevir Block flee from the Excise Men)
Actually, the path itself, whilst steep, is not that scary although when you reach the bottom there is a somewhat shaky and exposed ‘ladder’ that takes you the last 30 feet to the shore. This is a path I always enjoy walking, especially down……well its tough going up it !
One of the other quirky things is the ‘pill box’ which stands at the top of the zig zag. It was in fact a communication post during the war, and I once scrambled up to the top to take some pictures. These places always intrigue me because as I stand there, I find myself wondering about all the men that served there, and the legacy they left. What also amuses me is that as I stand beside this communication post, I have no signal on my mobile phone!!
The most intriguing thing about the headland is the row of cottages behind in the picture above. These puzzled me for years until I got talking to a very pleasant lady who lives in one of them and she told me all about them. This is another very quirky part of this wonderful county!
The cottages were built to house coastguards, with the nearest three story house being that of the captain and the other six cottages housing his men. At one time, with wives and children, there were 44 people living in this short row of cottages. They are well placed for the coastguards, simply because of the all round views.
These days, the cottages are in private ownership, although they are nonetheless quirky for that. These are the facts:
1. They have no road access. The only way to reach then is along a muddy farm track.
2. They have no mains electricity. Power comes from a number of sources, a) an LPG powered generator, b) a car battery charged by solar panels, or c) for lighting, gas mantles, oil lamps or candles.
3. They have no mains gas. Gas is by LPG bottle and since there are no deliveries, the residents have to go and collect them.
4. There is no running water. Water provision is simply rain water captured off the roofs and stored in underground tanks. This then needs to be pumped up to the header tank as needed.
5. Heating is by log burners which feed a small number of radiators.
6. There is no telephone or Internet.
7. There is no mains drainage, just a septic tank.
Quirky? I think so, but fantastic too, and I would love to live in one ! In the middle of nowhere, with those views and being able to walk straight out of you front door onto the coast path…..bliss!
Just down from the top of the headland stands another interesting feature of this amazing coast. It is a tiny hamlet of Holworth with its beautiful wooden chapel. I had thought that this was unused but in fact it has recently been extended. It stands in the perfect position right on the cliff edge.
I think it is fair to say that yet another quirky thing about this place is its weather! Often windy, as you would expect, it also has frequent mists which blow across the headland and role down to the sea like water pouring off a hillside. It is an awesome sight to stand and watch this phenomenon which frequently occurs when the lower coast is clear.
Ah yes, one more feature about White Nothe – it seems to have a lot of old, broken fence posts which I seem to photograph with monotonous regularity ! The picture below, I called ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let your hair down’ – I wonder if you can see why?
So that is White Nothe, with its amazing views and intrigue, a place I love. Oh yes, and the programme that sparked this blog? The cottages were featured on a property programme from which I discovered that three of them are on the market………now, where’s my cheque book?
Actually, according to the programme, the three story cottage is on at £575K. Ah well, I’ll just dream on!
Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler.
Until next time,
The Dorset Rambler.
If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.
All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.