Tag Archives: White Nothe

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 2

21 Mar


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)’.


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.

On a Clear, Cold, Crisp Winter Day!

30 Jan

It was one of those wonderful winter days – you know, the ones we don’t get often! After all the wet, grey days, this one dawned to bright sunshine and a hard frost – I even had to scrape the ice off the windscreen. Perfect for a walk along the Dorset coast!

I set off from the small but popular village of Lulworth and headed up the road for a time before turning off onto what I call the inland coast path. This path runs along the ridge of hills parallel to the coast path proper. That will be our way back later. When I reach the farm gate at the top of the rise, I cannot help but lean awhile and look back the way I had just come to the sound of far away dull thuds from the MOD firing range in the distance.

On the Inland Coast Path

The distant thud of guns

Much as I like to just drink in this view, there is a chill breeze and I need to move on so I reluctantly turn to continue along the ridge. Not that I need to be reluctant as there are views aplenty all along this ridge.

I pass the first almost immediately, the wonderful valley that goes by the dubious name of Scratchy Bottom! I love this valley with its curving sides layered with lines of thick grass. It is like a boomerang that leads out to the sea.

Its name actually has nothing to do with our proverbial posteriors, or anyone or anything else’s for that matter (it is usually inhabited by sheep or cows) – it just comes from the fact that the valley bottom was once covered in scrub. Its main claim to fame is that in 2012, it came second in a poll of Britain’s worst place names. Wouldn’t you believe it, the place that came first, Shitterton, is also in Dorset! Oh, and the valley is also ‘famous’ for having been used as a film location!

Scratchy Bottom

Scratchy Bottom

Aside from the fact that a walk along this ridge is ‘bracing’, it is also fantastically exposed, open and spacious with a carpet of lush and well drained grass under foot. These are chalk hills. In summer, this is one of my bare foot walks………but not today! Today, my feet will stay tucked up warmly inside sock and boot! I walk with a great sense of freedom, looking across to the distant Isle of Portland.

Wide Open Spaces

Wide open spaces and a ‘bare foot’ path

One of the interesting and unexpected features of this remote place is a series of three shell sculptures, each sheltering in its own stone cupboard. I say three because that’s how they started, but in fact one is now conspicuous by its absence. These were carved by Peter Randall in 1985 at the request of the Weld Estates as part of Common Ground’s New Milestones project. The intention was to encourage small scale art works that would celebrate history and the natural world.

But these are not the only unexpected things on this walk.


Sea Shells

Just a short distance further along and a few hundred yards inland stands an obelisk. Below me on the cliff top stands an identical obelisk. They are functional rather than decorative and for years these puzzled me every time I passed them – why were they there and what was their purpose? I could find nothing in books or on-line. One day, I was determined to find some answers so I sat with phone in hand and made some calls…..which gave me the answer I was searching for.

The answer, or at least part of it, was found in a rather tasty tome entitled ‘The Channel Pilot Part 1’ dating from 1908 which referred to ‘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)’. Prize Firing was an annual competition to test the skills of the various ships to see if they were ready to go to war so these two obelisks aided that competition.

Across Weymouth Bay in the picture below, you will see the Isle of Portland and just to the right of that stands Portland Harbour, said to be the second largest man made harbour in the world. This was a busy Royal Naval base until 1995 so in the early 1900’s battle ships would leave the harbour and steam up and down in a straight line whilst firing at targets moored out to sea. Clearly these two obelisks were used to enable the captain to steer his ship in a straight line across the water. Oh, and as you can see, the obelisks have long since lost their white coating.


The Obelisk

Moving on, I continued to follow the inland path, deeply rutted from farm machinery but still with some great distant views. After several more miles, my route took me along a track which curved round the head of the ridge, dropping down towards the coast path proper.


Rutted Paths

I passed through an unusual landscape, various hillside terraces, some old wooden shacks left to rot, and what appeared to be a derelict toilet block. Clearly, this was once a holiday park. It amazed me how nature so quickly reclaims its own!

Eventually I reached the coast and turned east to head back towards my starting point and after a short time, I stopped to look back towards Osmington Mills, a tiny coastal hamlet which once had a fishermen’s slipway until coastal erosion destroyed it. In 1927, the Minx, a coal barge, broke her moorings and was wrecked on Frenchman’s Ledge below. Parts are still visible today.

Osmington Mills

Looking Back Towards Osmington Mills

The Minx is not the only wreck here as along this part of the coast, there are many wartime relics. There is evidence of lookout posts, pillboxes, several bunkers, a communications centre and even the remains of wartime gun placements. At one time there was a massive radar station on the clifftop too. There is also a great deal of mud!

I stopped to chat to a retired man who was taking a short holiday at Weymouth and who had come out to explore the coast path. He was walking in the opposite direction to me so had already walked the most severely steep parts – I still had those to come…….but he still had several miles of mud to walk through. We compared notes 🙂 !

Relic of War

Relics of War

Having slipped and slid for several miles – I was thankful for my walking pole! – I finally reached the beach at Ringstead Bay and stopped for a late lunch. This one time fishing village is a beautiful place to spend some time, especially on a gorgeously sunny day such as this and I sat and sketched whilst I ate, listening to the surf gently washing across the shingle – what a beautifully relaxing sound. The sea seemed almost determined to reach me, as if it wanted to shake my hand, but I outsmarted it – well I’m no Canute!

Ringstead Bay

Ringstead Bay

I was glad of my flask of hot drink as it soon became chilly sitting on a cold rock. To warm up, I wandered around with the camera looking for picture opportunities……like the one below 🙂 !

An Exercise in Colour

An Exercise in Colour – Ringstead Bay

All too soon I had to move on, which meant some steep climbs! The first of these was up to the top of the White Nothe headland. Part way up I stopped to look at a quaint little wooden church at another small hamlet, Holworth. This wooden chapel still has regular services despite its remote location and in fact it has recently been extended. It stands right on the cliff edge with amazing views across the water.

My walks are often like pilgrimages as I pass many churches and I like to stop and pray in each one. On this occasion, however, with boots thickly coated with mud, I just sat on the bench outside. Well, with that view, who wouldn’t!

The Fading Day

St Catherine’s Chapel View

St Catherine's, Holworth

St Catherine’s Chapel

Onwards and upwards I went, eventually reaching the top of the headland, a beautifully rugged and wild wilderness of a place. I so enjoy exploring this remote headland. It has a real air of mystery and intrigue about it.

On White Nothe

On White Nothe

One of its features is its row of old coastguard cottages. Remote and unserved by any roads, these cottages have no mains services – the residents collect rainwater, heat by log burner, light by gas lamp or LPG generator, and drain into cess pits. These seven terraced cottages are not for the faint hearted but the largest changed hands recently for some £470,000! Recently the captain’s house has been brought more into the 21st century by installing solar panels on the roof. I have a feeling that the owners may have bought the house next door as well…….so maybe there are now only six?

They are quiet cottages now, mainly used as holiday or second homes, but at one time they were home to seven families with a total of 44 people living in them. The captain of course lived in the largest, three story house, and his 6 men and their families lived in the others. Together they tried to keep our coast safe as there was a thriving smuggling trade all along this part of the coast. And you can really picture in your mind the events that took place here with its remoteness and its secret paths.

When the coastguards vacated the cottages, they passed into private ownership and one of the early residents was the author Llewelyn Powis. A memorial stands nearby.

On White Nothe

A Remote Place to Live

Despite their remoteness, in fact because of their remoteness, and their lack of modern ‘trappings’, this would be an amazing place to live. And who could possibly not delight in the view below back down to Ringstead Bay?

Ringstead Bay

The View over Ringstead Bay

And of course that’s not to mention the view out to sea!

The End is Near

Sea Views

The sun was getting low in the sky by now and there was a definite chill in the air. Fingers were being numbed by the cold so it was time to move swiftly on. I left the White Nothe and continued on my way. Ahead of me I could see the switch back of headlands that were to be my route from here and I knew that I would once again, as I had done many times before, be walking in the dark before I reached my finishing point! But hey, that is often the best time of the day.

Bat's Head and Beyond

The Switchback Home

By the time I dropped down to Durdle Door, the sun had gone and the light had a definite blue tinge to it – this is the photogenic blue hour. I have a thousand pictures of the view below but you just cannot help but take more each time you pass this way. This really is a magnificent coastline, as good as you will see anywhere in the world!

Durdle Door

Blue Hour at Durdle Door

When I reached the arch, projecting out of into the water like some huge and fearsome sea monster taking a drink, it was virtually dark. Everywhere was still and there was just a faint tinge of orange in the distant sky. The only sound was the washing of surf on shingle. The lights of Portland and Weymouth twinkled in the far away lands and had it been summer, I would have sat and drank in the awesome atmosphere. But tonight was now icy cold!

Durdle Door

Last Light of the Day

I left the coast and climbed up the last hill of the day and in complete darkness with just the stars and a faint moon for company, and the ever diminishing sound of the waves, lost in my own thoughts, I made my way home.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend 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.




On White Nothe (or is it Nose) again :)

6 Dec

I did say that it was a place that I love to walk…….well, I walked there again last week so I thought I would add a few more quirky and interesting facts about this remote and lovely place.

The first thing is that name and where it came from.  Well it comes from the shape and its resemblance to a facial appendage but I have not been able to establish whether it is the profile shape of the whole headland or, as one source suggests, just the rocky outcrop shown in the picture below.  Does it matter?  Well only to me as I’m inquisitive and like things to be settled!  Actually I think the whole headland looks like a nose – all it needs is a couple of caves for nostrils…..

Just as an aside, I wonder why the name changed from Nose to Nothe – do you think someone had a cold and couldn’t pronounce his S’s properly – I have this picture in mind of someone talking to a cartographer who was drawing up a map of the area and the mispronunciation stuck ;)!

White Nose

In fact, the outcrop in the picture is not the only one on this headland.  There is a far less well known and perhaps more impressive outcrop below.  It is a massive pillar of chalk known as The Fountain Rock and is seen by few people because it is somewhat off the beaten track, and the beach it stands on is inaccessible.  Which leads me to one of the things on my wish list – one day I want to stand on the shore at the foot of this rock :)!  Now I could get my kayak out again or I could walk the shoreline from Ringstead and take a chance on the tides :)!!  One day……

The Fountain Rock

Moving further along the headland in an easterly direction leads us to some more interesting features of this fantastic place.  The first is a series of three shell sculptures, each in its own cupboard – I say three but sadly there are now only two because one has been damaged.  These sculptures were carved by Peter Randall in 1985 at the request of the Weld Estates as part of Common Ground’s New Milestones project.  This aimed to stimulate small scale art works to express a sense of history and the natural world and they feature in a number of places across Dorset.  It seems incongruous somehow to come across these in the middle of nowhere but what a great idea, and a very pleasant, not to mention intriguing, surprise for anyone walking these parts for the first time.


The Wayside Carvings

Just a short distance away is something that puzzled me all my life until finally I managed to get to the bottom of what was a real conundrum.  There are two obelisks perhaps a quarter of a mile apart and nowhere was there any mention of their purpose or who erected them.  They are both identical and one is inland of the other – but why were they put there?  Clearly it wasn’t just a random thought someone had on a quiet day when they were bored, and they are far two functional in appearance to be any form of memorial, so what are they?  Answers on a postcard to…….

The inland obelisk

Actually as mentioned before, the riddle is solved – well at least in part!  After spending a day making numerous telephone calls to various ‘authorities’, each of whom suggested another, I reached the Hydrographic Office in Taunton and they found a reference to these 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)’.

So the next puzzle was, 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.  What I am not totally sure on is exactly how the obelisks were used apart from the fact that they obviously had to be lined up when viewed from the ship.  As the observant will have noticed, they are no longer painted white.

The coastal obelisk

There is one final point of interest at the top of the headland and that is a memorial to the author Llewelyn Powis.  He was one of a family of eleven, many of whom were writers, and for a number of years he lived in White Nothe Cottages that I showed in my last blog.  The cottages went through a bohemian period when many noted people, including Augustus John, visited.

In my last blog entry I mentioned the Smuggler’s Path and the fact that the last 30 feet or so down to the shore involved climbing down a rather rickety looking ladder – well I have now found my pictures of this contraption which I have climbed up and down many times!  I think this is pretty quirky so I thought I should post them :)!


The stairway to heaven – well White Nothe actually

The view from the top

Ringstead Bay through the ladder

Oh yes, and did I mention the old fence posts ;)!  I love them – they are almost as quirky as The Dorset Rambler!  Its amazing what you see when you walk with your eyes really open.

Another wonderful old fence post

One pleasure I did have on my last visit is that I again bumped into my friend Sally who lives in one of the cottages and we had a long and enjoyable chat.  She did correct one thing from my last post – she does have internet!  So just a tiny bit of the 21st century has finally come to these wonderful old cottages ;)!  Apart from that, the historic features and charm have been amazingly preserved – and long may it stay that way.

Well, for the time being at least, we must leave this delightful place with the strange name of White Nothe and move on to other areas – but more of that next time.  Before we go though, stand with me once more on the cliff top and look out to the setting sun across the mist that has settled on the sea.

Sunset over White Nothe

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

Until next time,
Your friend
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.

On White Nothe.

27 Nov

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 distinctive shape of White Nothe, AKA White Nose, at sunset

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.

The view to the east

To the west, the views spread out across the beautiful Ringstead Bay and through to Weymouth.

The Dorset Cost Path and the view to the west

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.

The view south to Portland

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)

The Smuggler’s Path

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 communication post

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!

White Nothe Cottages

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.

The coastguards’ view

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.


Holworth Church with its perfect view

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.

The mist covers White Nothe whilst Ringstead Bay stays clear


The mist roles across the headland

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?

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let your hair down

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!

The sun fades over White Nothe

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

Until next time,
Your friend
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.