– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –
So we are looking at more ‘Quirky Dorset’ this week, things about Dorset that are a bit off the wall, unique, or just plain unusual. And today we are visiting a location on the Dorset coast and a rather unusual swimming pool!
The Dancing Ledge Swimming Pool
Dancing Ledge is a large, flat rock ledge that is all that remains of one of Dorset’s coastal quarries. There is some debate over where its name came from, some saying that it came from the way the waves seem to dance as they hit the rocks, and some saying that it was given that name because the ledge is roughly the same size as a ballroom dance floor. Either way, it is barren and beautiful.
Back in the late 19th century, children from the preparatory schools at Langton Matravers, notably Durnford School, would visit the ledge to swim. Durnford was a somewhat uncomfortable, spartan and severe school run by Thomas Pellatt and the daily ritual for the boys was ‘strip and swim’, and it literally was a complete strip, Pellatt himself being something of a naturist. There is no beach along that part of the coast, however, and the sea off the ledge was a dangerous place to swim because the waves could be large and the edge of the ledge was sheer, not to mention the very strong undertow. So much so that people have died being sucked under the ledge.
So Thomas Pellatt arranged for the quarrymen to blast out a ‘swimming pool’ near the edge of the rock so that the children could bathe more safely. Originally this pool had a grating over it which was locked when the children weren’t swimming, but this was quickly torn away by the stormy seas. This swimming pool was literally a giant, man made rock pool and of course it is still there today, the water being refreshed every time the tide comes in.
When the school closed at the time of the Second World War, regular use of the pool ceased. However, a few years ago it was cleared of debris and vegetation that had built up over the decades so that it could once more be used. In fact, I have swum there myself 🙂 !
Just as an aside, one of the most famous people to have attended the school and therefore swum in this pool was Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels.
Dancing Ledge is a lovely place but it is quite popular, especially at weekends. However, visit on a summers evening as the sun sets and it is a delightful place to just sit. And if it has been a hot day’s walking along the coast, there is no better way to cool off and refresh than to jump into this somewhat quirky ‘swimming pool’! Mind you, you will have to climb down to it from the upper ledge first!
Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler
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