– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –
Towns have names, villages have names, headlands have names, hills have names, in fact most things have names……but how often is a gap given a name? It is just an empty space after all, so why would it need a name? But on the Dorset coast, there is a gap and it has a name. The gap I am referring to is the empty space between the mainland coast and the next bit of land which has become an island, and it has a somewhat unusual name too. This is St Lucas’ Leap.
St Lucas’ Leap
In fact there are numerous names surrounding this area. Overall it is known as The Foreland or Handfast Point but it is more commonly referred to as Old Harry Rocks. In fact, Old Harry refers to one particular rock, a stack that has separated from the mainland. It stands beside the remains of Old Harry’s Wife who crumbled decades ago. And they both stand seawards of a much larger ‘island’ of rock which has in fact split into two separate parts, which is known as No Man’s Land.
I think it is fairly clear where No Man’s Land got its name, but that is not the subject of this post. This blog post concerns the gap between it and the mainland because that gap has been given the name St Lucas’ Leap. So who was St Lucas? Well the first thought might be that he was some great saint who did wonderful things centuries ago, maybe set up a monastery in the area, Lucas being a form of Luke. But as far as we know that is not the case. St Lucas was in fact………a dog! Hmm, dogs seem to be a bit of a theme in my blog at the moment.
So why name a gap after a dog? Well it is a sad story but it seems that St Lucas was a pedigree greyhound and when he was being walked on the coast path, he took off after a rabbit and not being aware of the dangers of clifftops, he plunged off the end of Handfast Point and fell to his death on the rocks beneath. Since that day, the gap between the very tip of Handfast Point and that huge stack of rock known as No Man’s Land has been known as St Lucas’ Leap.
I’m not sure if the name was intended as some kind of tribute to a loyal friend or whether it was some kind of joke since it was hardly a leap, more a fall, and a sad one at that! Actually, thinking about it, who names these places anyway? Was this named by some civil dignitary who stood up in a council meeting and spouted, ‘I decree that hereafter and from hence forward, in recognition of fine service given during his life, this place shall be known as……’? Or was it some local joker who started it off one day and it just caught on 🙂 ? I’m guessing the latter and that it just became local custom.
Now one of the interesting things about St Lucas’ Leap, besides its name, is actually reaching it. If you time it right and know your tides well, you can reach it along the shoreline, but that is a post for another day. You can, or maybe that should be could, reach it from the clifftop but that required a serious head for heights as it meant walking a tightrope of a very narrow ridge of chalk with sheer drops on either side. Even when I walked it some years ago, you wouldn’t have attempted it on a windy day. Today, you would have to be very foolhardy to attempt this short walk at all as a cliff fall a year or two back has eroded the ‘path’ away almost completely.
You might say, ‘Why walk there at all as it doesn’t go anywhere’, but I guess my response would be, ‘Because it is there’, and also perhaps because not many people have been there. It is a kind of inviting path and you just get the feeling that you want to see what is down there. I still get that feeling even though I have already been there several times but age and wisdom prevents me from making that walk again. Besides which, there really isn’t much to see that can’t be seen from the main clifftop, apart perhaps from getting a different view of the coast as you climb back up that narrow, exposed path.
So, tribute to a dog, or sick joke? Who knows! I’m glad I’ve been there several times and captured these shots but if I feel the need to repeat the experience, I’ll buy a drone and have a virtual walk along the ridge! I think St Lucas can keep his leap for himself!
Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler
If you would like to contact me, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org – comments and feedback are always welcomed.