Tag Archives: Portland

Sea Mist

3 Jun

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

One more shot in our theme for the week which is all about using blur and movement to improve shots or simply to give a different effect. For this one, we are going to one of my favourite places, the quirky and rugged Church Ope Cove, on the Isle of Portland.

Church Ope Cove

Sea Mist

Sea Mist

Church Ope Cove gets its name from the fact that above the beach, Portland’s first church was built. Combined with this is the fact that the beach sits below an opening in the cliffs, allowing access to the shore, hence the Ope part of the name. The beach is in reality sandy, but quarrying debris has covered the sand so that the cove is now rocky, those rocks being worn round by the action of the sea. It is an area with a mysterious feel to it and one where there is much to explore, so I always enjoy a visit here.

On this occasion, there was a lovely surf washing in and out over the rocks and I wanted to capture the effect of that by blurring the water so I used a long shutter speed, holding it open for 65 seconds. The result was this dreamy, misty feel, although of course, it is not mist at all, just blurred surf. I decided on a simple composition, focussing on the only two rocks that stood above the surf level, and just including a small part of the headland beyond.

To me, this sums up the shoreline here, rocks being constantly washed and smoothed by the ever active, never ceasing waves. They roll in like a perpetual motion machine, an amazing wonder of nature. I never tire of watching it.

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.

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Theme for the Week – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 5

22 Apr

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

Just one final ruined Dorset church for this week and this is one to which the term ‘ruined’ can very definitely be applied! It has had quite a past and there has been some determination shown by the community to keep it going but eventually the battle was lost. This is St Andrew’s Church on the Isle of Portland.

St Andrew’s Church, Portland

St Andrew's Church

The Ruins of St Andrew’s Church, Portland

St Andrew’s Church stands, or rather stood, on the headland above Church Ope Cove. It was built in 1100 by the Benedictine Monks of St Swithin of Winchester who had had the whole of Portland bestowed on them by Edward the Confessor, and it was built on what was believed to be the site of a rather grand Saxon church.

The first damage to the ‘new’ church occurred in the 13th century when a fire broke out. It was rebuilt. Then twice, in 1340 and 1404, French raiders tried to destroy the church by setting fire to it, and twice again it was rebuilt. This was only the start of its problems however!

The doorway to nowhere!

The Old Doorway

Over the years, a detached tower was added and after a landslip caused damage in the 17th century, efforts were made to shore up the hillside on which it was built. Forty years later, there was a further large landslip which caused yet more damage. This was like fighting a losing battle and after yet another landslip in 1735, known as the Great Southwell Landslip and the second largest in Britain, half the graveyard slid down the hillside.

Some 20 years later, the decision was finally taken to close the church and to build a new one in the centre of Portland, part of it being demolished to provide stone for houses. However, this still wasn’t the end for this church as yet more damage was caused by bombing during WW2.

The smuggler's grave

The ‘Pirate’ Graves

One of the interesting features that remain are the so called pirates graves. Popular belief has it that these are graves of pirates because they bear the skull and crossbones but this is in fact not necessarily the case since it was fairly common practice to carve these emblems simply as a sign of death.

That’s not to say that there was no involvement with bad things along this coast as undoubtedly smuggling was an activity that would have taken place here, and the church was always under threat from foreign pirates.

Light of the world

The Light of the World

St Andrew’s Church stood on a beautifully rugged part of the Dorset coast and did its best to withstand attacks from above and below but ultimately the fight against erosion was one it couldn’t win. It is interesting that Portland is comprised of some of the best limestone rock that features in many of the UK’s major structures such as The Cenotaph in London, St Paul’s Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace. In fact, Portland is synonymous with the quarrying of solid, good quality rock. So maybe this church was just built in the wrong place!

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.

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 2

21 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

So our theme for this week is ‘Quirky Dorset’ which is all about things that are perhaps a bit odd or puzzling. And this is something that puzzled me all my life until a year or two back when I set myself a task to get to the bottom of it!

 

The Obelisk

The Obelisk on the Clifftop

In fact there are two things that are quirky here really. As an aside, the first is the weather conditions which you see in the picture above. It is quite normal along this part of the coast to see a mist that pours down off the headlands and into the sea, almost like someone has a giant watering can and is pouring water over the land and watching it run off into the sea below. It is quite a spectacle.

But the main thing, and the subject of this blog post, is the obelisk. In fact there are two of them, both identical, one on the coast path itself and one a quarter of a mile or so inland. They are clearly functional rather than decorative so are not a memorial to anything, but their purpose puzzled me all my life as this is one of my regular walking routes. One day, I placed myself between the two and using my walking pole as an aid, I lined the two up and worked out that in order to see one exactly lined up behind the other, you would need to be over the water somewhere near Portland Harbour. Now this was once a major naval port so I guessed that the obelisks must have something to do with the Royal Navy.

The Obelisk

The Inland Obelisk

So my search started there and the next day, I sat at my desk and made numerous phone calls to people who I thought would be able to help and each one added a little bit of information and suggested someone else to contact. Gradually a picture emerged from the various people and it all came together when I made contact with the Hydrographic Office in Taunton.

The Hydrographic Office is the trading arm of the Ministry of Defence and they provide information and data to mariners and maritime organisations throughout the world, and they were most helpful and enlightening. They did some research for me and they found a reference to the obelisks in a publication entitled The Channel Pilot Part 1 (I believe it is a sort of seaman’s guide to the British coast).  This dates from 1908 and the reference actually says, ‘Two white beacons, 24 feet high for the use of His Majesty’s ships when prize firing, have been erected on high land east of White Nose (now known as White Nothe)’.

Obelisk

Portland and it’s Harbour Across the Water

So part of the puzzle had been solved, but what is or was ‘prize firing’?  Well it was the test of a ship’s proficiency for battle and on Admiralty orders this was to be carried out annually.  Basically it was a yearly competition to see if the naval gunners were any good – if they were then they went into battle and if they weren’t then it was back for more training. Interestingly, here is an extract from some 1902 minutes where Prize Firing was discussed:

‘I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that of the 127 ships that took part in the annual prize firing of 1901, while one ship made over 70 per cent, of hits and two ships made over 65 per cent, of hits, seventy-five ships missed the target eighty-five times out of every 100 rounds, and five ships never hit the target at all, and that one Admirals ship, the “Warspite,” was last of its squadron in heavy gun firing.’

Seems like more training might have been needed!

This doesn’t completely solve the riddle as I am still not sure exactly how the obelisks were used. I understand that with Prize Firing, the ship would be moving at 8 knots whilst firing at a stationary target about a mile away but how the obelisks helped that, I am not sure. Clearly, they had to be lined up when viewed from the ship, but that is about as near as I can get.

For my part, I am just happy that I have at least solved part of the conundrum 🙂 !

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
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.

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset

19 Mar

– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –

I thought we would start a new theme for the week today, so this week’s posts will all be about ‘Quirky Dorset’. These are all things that are a bit off the beaten track, and all a bit ‘off the wall’ too 🙂 ! They are all things that I have come across whilst ‘exploring the countryside and lanes of Dorset’, which is really what The Dorset Rambler is about.

So the first of these is……

John Penn’s Bath

John Penn's Bath

John Penn’s Bath

In the early 19th century, sea bathing was becoming very popular, and generally this meant taking a trip to the seaside. Fairly straightforward you might think, but one man decided that he didn’t want the hassle of having to travel to the shore, particularly as to get there from his home meant climbing several hundred feet down a steep hillside to reach his nearest beach.

This man was John Penn and he lived in a castle known as Pennsylvania Castle that stood on the clifftop above Church Ope Cove on the Isle of Portland. The name of his castle was no accident since it was his family that gave their name to the state of Pennsylvania when it was a colony.

John Penn came up with a somewhat quirky idea to enable him to bathe in sea water without the need to walk too far, and that was to build a private bath on the cliff top beside his castle. The idea was that his servants would do all the walking, carrying sea water up from the shoreline in buckets each time he fancied bathing – kind of bringing the beach to him rather than him going to the beach. He would then be able to sit and soak with minimal effort whilst gazing out to sea through his window……presumably while his servants crashed from the extreme effort of walking several hundred feet up and down the cliff carrying numerous heavy buckets of water!

John Penn's Bath

John Penn’s Bath

Unfortunately for John Penn however, it all went wrong because he made the mistake of building his bath outside his castle grounds on land he didn’t own and the local community insisted that he pay to use it. It is said that he was so outraged that he abandoned the idea and never got to use his bath.

It is however still there today if anyone fancies giving it a go 🙂 !!

Oh, but you won’t get the view because trees have grown up around it obscuring the view……unless you fancy it in midwinter when the trees are bare 😉 !

Oh, and you might need to clean it first 🙂 !

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
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.

 

Of an island that’s not an island, quarries and more quarries, and wind instruments with no wind!

12 Sep

I had a fabulous walk last week, a walk I have done many times but one which always provides something new and different each time.  It was a circumnavigation around an island, The Isle of Portland, which is in fact not an island at all because it is connected to the mainland by a causeway and beach.  Whether you would describe it as pretty or scenic depends on your point of view but I would describe it as rugged, probably some of the most rugged coast you will find.  It is also probably one of the windiest and wild usually except on this day when I wanted it to be – but more of that later!

There is for me an amazing variety of interesting things on this walk, and it started straight away as soon as I parked the car at the highest point on the ‘island’ with amazing views straight down the causeway back to the mainland.

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The view to the mainland

Having admired this spectacular view, I set off on my walk but within a mile I was ‘forced’ to detour off the track to take in the first of the interesting features of this rugged landscape, three of them in fact!  The first is the remains of the old quarrying industry in the form of two bridges spanning the incline that drops off the hill.  This is carved out of solid rock and as I stood looking down the rutway lines (grooves cut into the rock like railway lines), I could visualise the quarrymen working hard to get the heavy stone down to flatter ground – I wonder what modern health and safety consultants would have said about their practices!  There will be much more quarrying references throughout this post as it was a major industry here.

Continuing a short distance, I passed the old military barracks dating from the late 1800’s.  You can visit this, or at least the people who live there, but not as a tourist as it was converted to a prison in 1949!  Opposite this, and once part of it, is another military establishment built around the same time and which you can visit, and a fascinating place it is too.

This is High Angle Battery.  Built in a disused quarry in 1892, this fort once protected Portland Harbour far below, but was in the end only operational for 6 years.  Being below ground level, it gets its name from the fact that the shells were fired high into the air to drop onto the decks of any attacking ships.  I always enjoy exploring this fort with its gun posts and underground ammunition dumps and can imagine the busyness of the place when it was operational.

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Part of the High Angle Battery ammunition dump with rails still in place

Leaving the fort behind, I continued my walk along the cliff top on the east side of Portland, with views over the extensive old quarry workings that run all along the coast, passing the Young Offenders Institution on the way – this is a Dorset walk with a difference!  After a while, I dropped down into the quarry to continue my walk along a ledge part way down and that once formed the tramway for the quarry.

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Looking back along the tramway

This path eventually took me to one of my favourite places, Church Ope Cove, a place with a real air of mystery and so much of interest.  The first sight is of the old castle, one of three on Portland, known as Rufus Castle or Bow and Arrow Castle which stands proud on the cliff above the cove.  Built for William Rufus, hence its name, this is very much in ruins now.


Rufus Castle

Beyond the castle and part way down to the cove my route passed the remains of St Andrew’s Church, once the main place of worship for the islanders.  Destroyed by landslips and invasion by French pirates, the church is said to have smuggling connections and has some smugglers’ graves.

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Smugglers’ graves with the skull and crossbones

Passing through the old churchyard, I was again ‘forced’ to take a detour to look at some other remains!  Difficult to access because of erosion, this is the remains of John Penn’s Bath – a rather quirky Dorset curiosity!  John Penn, previously governor of the colonial Pennsylvania and part of the family after whom the state was named, owned Pennsylvania Castle which stands on the cliff top above the cove.  In the early 19th century, sea bathing was becoming very popular but John Penn didn’t fancy climbing all the way down to the cove so had a ‘bath’ cut out of the rock just below his castle.  The idea was that his servants would carry sea water up in buckets from the cove to fill the bath each time he felt like bathing and he would then sit and soak happily whilst looking out through the window onto the sea.  Unfortunately he made the mistake of building his bath on common land and was forced by the local community to pay to use it.  It is said that he was so outraged that he abandoned it!!

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John Penn’s Bath

A short distance away was another distraction from my walk, and one that was even more inaccessible!  This was an old underground reservoir.  It has been suggested that this might date from Roman times although this has not been proven.  It may well have served the old cafe that once existed on the beach in the early 20th century but this also is just speculation.  It is a fascinating, and dangerously fragile, place and one that is not easy to find if you did not know it was there.  I did venture through the narrow entrance into what was a pitch black and very muddy interior to grab one or two pictures using flash.

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The interior of the old underground reservoir

So, detours over, I continued to make my way down to the cove itself, and as I walked I thought about John Penn’s servants carrying hundreds of buckets of water up that path – I bet they were relieved when he abandoned the bath :)!  The cove itself is a wonderful place, and one I love to visit.  It was once a sandy beach but remains of the quarrying industry has turned the beach into a stony one.  There are remains of the fishing industry too in the form of an old winch, and some interesting old beach huts with their pebble wall surrounded ‘front gardens’.

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Church Ope Cove – the old winch and beach huts

I sat on the beach and ate my lunch listening to the gentle and relaxing sound of the surf washing over the rocks before I continued on my way, following the cliff top quarry path above the sea to eventually reach the southern most tip at Portland Bill.  Here too there are remains of quarrying with old derricks on the cliff top, once used to lower stone into the waiting barges below.

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An old cliff top derrick

And they are not all disused either – well, there is no other way to get the boats into the sea!

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A newer cliff top derrick

Strangely, despite the fact that it is almost impossible to reach the sea from this point without some serious climbing, there are still beach huts here and if you have around £20,000 in spare cash, you could buy one!  As you can see, it is basically a shed :)!

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Beach hut for sale!

Of course, Portland is not only famous for its stone but also for its lighthouse, and no walk around this area would be complete without a picture, or ten, of it :)!  I always think these old lighthouses are so attractive, this one particularly so with its red stripe.

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The Portland Bill lighthouse

It is also famous for its Pulpit Rock – named for obvious reasons.  It just begs to be climbed, and people regularly do, and in fact fish from the top too.  This is a long exposure shot, hence the blurred clouds and sea.

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Pulpit Rock, Portland

So, it was on with the return journey, this time along the west coast of the island as the cloud started to form, obscuring the sun but providing some delightful light for me to photograph.  The walk along this coast is mainly along old quarry ledges, nice and flat, and being west facing, normally watched over by the setting sun – although not on this day!  I walked along here with barely a whisper of breeze, accompanied by seagulls and butterflies, enjoying the stillness.

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Every cloud not only has a silver lining but produces interesting light too 🙂

Ah, but sadly that lack of wind was to spoil the next highlight of my walk.  This was a temporary art project called Inside Out Dorset with rather unusual events taking place throughout the county.  The event on Portland was an audio visual experience with many instruments, both wind and percussion, set out all around one of the old disused coastal quarries – except it relied on wind and there was little of that on this day.  There was though just enough to get a feel of what this project would be on a windier day and I think it would be amazing :)!

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Part of the Inside Out Dorset project 

I was nearing the end of my walk now but there was yet another interesting feature to take in, and it is such a great one – and yet another old quarry!  This was Tout Quarry which is now being put to very good use as a sculpture park with lots of different artists and even classes on sculpturing.  It is a place to take your time exploring as every corner you turn brings another surprise be it a face, a fireplace, a boat, an animal or whatever, all carved out of the solid rock.  The most famous is undoubtedly Still Falling by Anthony Gormley.

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Still Falling by Antony Gormley

Reluctantly, I had to leave the quarry as the light was fading and I completed my walk along the cliff edge accompanied by wheatear and the gentle sounds that drift across the still air.  And as I returned to my starting point, I once more stopped to take in the breathtaking view across the causeway with the famous Chesil Beach curving away to the west into the gathering evening mist.  What a delightful evening and finish to a great walk.

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The causeway and Chesil Beach from the northern edge of the Isle of Portland

Portland is beautiful in a rugged way and although it is 100% Dorset, it has impacted many places in the world through its quarrying industry – Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, the National Gallery in Dublin, Casino Kursaal in Belgium, and even the United Nations building in New York are some of the places to have benefited from its limestone.  There are parts of this corner of Dorset everywhere, but it is still my Dorset and I love it!

Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler.

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler.

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