Tag Archives: dorset coast

Mind the Gap

8 Aug

– – – 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

Sunrise at Old Harry Rocks

Handfast Point and St Lucas’ Leap at Sunrise

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.

Old Harry - up close and personal!

No Man’s Land

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.

old Harry - up close and personal!

St Lucas’ Leap with No Man’s Land beyond

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.

A Sharper Knife

The Ridge Leading to St Lucas’ Leap

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.

Old Harry view

Looking Back from St Lucas’ Leap 

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 terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.


Winspit Waves

1 Jun

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

Continuing our theme of introducing blur and movement into photos to create a different effect, today we are visiting one of the coastal quarries that line the Dorset coast. This is the old, disused quarry of Winspit.


The Angry Sea

Winspit Waves

Winspit sits just to the east of St Aldhelm’s Head but is still not very well protected from the South Westerly winds. Often, these whip up some good sized waves that crash violently onto the rocky shoreline, throwing spray everywhere. This was just such a day and I really wanted to capture the movement of the waves as they drove in towards the impenetrable rocks. I wanted somehow to capture the sheer force and mood of the stormy sea, so I decided to introduce a bit of blur into the shot to bring out the multi-directional wave movement as it bounced backwards and sideways from the rocks, meeting incoming waves head on in the process.

When I stand on these rocky ledges in these sorts of conditions, I can’t help but think about the quarry workers who shifted massive blocks of stone using the simplest of equipment. Sledges would be used to bring the rocks to the edge of the ledge and then a simple wooden derrick would hoist those stones and lower them into waiting boats that would then transport them farther out to sea using oar power only, to transfer them into larger vessels that would carry the rock either to Swanage or overseas. I think the skill of the quarrymen, especially those in the boats, is legendary!

These coastal quarries are amazing places and I will perhaps use that as a theme in the future because they deserve more space than I have allowed here. For now though, stand on the ledge with me, feel the wind and the spray, smell the sea, and hear the noise of waves crashing on rock! This is what I have tried to capture – I hope I have succeeded!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Quirky Dorset – Part 12

9 May

– – – 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

Filling the Swimming Pool

Dancing Ledge Swimming Pool Being Filled by the Tide

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.

The swimming pool, Dancing Ledge

Reflections in the Dancing Ledge Pool

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 🙂 !

On Dancing Ledge

The Sea Dancing at Dancing Ledge

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

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.