81f – Weymouth to Portland

Portland.  There it was, a short walk away across the isthmus behind Chesil Beach and in front of its harbour defences which stretched across the water.

PortlandThe walk across to Portland from Weymouth is not the most interesting one we have ever undertaken.  It starts off along the Rodwell Trail which follows the line of an old railway track.

Rodwell TrailThis may not be the most interesting path to follow, but to me tracks like these can be a bit of a godsend.

In the past, when the kids were still with us, I would see a stretch like this and yell, “Route March!”  I would stride off and stare intently at my GPS to make sure we are doing at least 5 miles an hour, ignoring the shouts of dismay from the kids as they had to pick their paces up.  The quietude of the countryside would be shattered with complaints of a stitch within the first 100 yards, but soon the entire situation would turn into a walking race.  No running – that wasn’t allowed.  Our bulbous bodies would struggle to keep up with our little legs; our elbows would swing like pistons; our bums would wiggle unashamedly at other walkers as they dived for cover to avoid the unstoppable train of our barely-in-control group that steamed towards them.  Then, in a flagrant breach of the unwritten and unspoken rules, one of the kids would break into a run, leading the other to tear off after them.  We could cover miles in minutes like this, and when you’ve got 7,000 of them to cover that can sometimes be a good thing.

The kids weren’t with us today, but family tradition is family tradition, and so it was that in the blink of an eye, we arrived at Portland.

Welcome to PortlandCan you see that sand bank in the background?  That’s the world famous Chesil Beach.  More about that later, for there are much better views of it from the high land on Portland.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth)

  • Rodwell Trail:  N 50° 35.402 W 002° 28.060
  • Chesil Beach:  N 50° 35.402 W 002° 29.530

Walk #81 Statistics (of which this post forms the sixth part):

Map

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81e – Weymouth Part III

When we were in Weymouth’s harbour area we spotted something in the distance, way back east and north, where we had been the day before but further inland.  How had we missed this?

Osmington White HorseThe Osmington White Horse was carved into Osmington’s limestone hill in 1808, and shows King George III.  It boasts a regal splendour today, having been restored in 2012 for the Olympic Games when Weymouth and Portland hosted the sailing events.

Sat at the end of Weymouth’s Pleasure Pier is the Jurassic Skyline Tower.  It stands at 174 feet tall and on good days offers 16 mile views.  It has a glass gondolier, shaped like a donut, that slowly rotates as it rises and then descends.

Jurassic Skyline TowerI’m normally a sucker for towers, but this one was a slow-moving thing.  The gondolier was at the top and showed no sign of wanting to come down.  We on the other hand, were intending to get some mileage done today and were showing signs of wanting to move on, which is exactly what we did.  The rowing-boat ferry across the harbour was closed (a pity – I was looking forward to it), so we walked up to the Town Bridge.

Weymouth Town Bridge

Once on the south side of the harbour the South West Coast Path leads into Nothe Fort Gardens, providing some welcome relief from the urban landscape.  We were through Weymouth, and Portland beckoned.  I was looking forward to Portland but didn’t realise quite how much I was going to enjoy it.

Squirrel in Nothe Fort Gardens

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth)

  • Osmington White Horse: N 50° 39.470 W 002° 24.270
  • Jurassic Skyline Tower:  N 50° 36.610 W 002° 26.785
  • Weymouth Town Bridge:  N 50° 36.430 W 002° 27.330
  • Nothe Fort Gardens:  N 50° 36.430 W 002° 26.750

Walk #81 Statistics (of which this post forms the fifth part):

Map

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81d – Weymouth Part II

For my last post I started off by saying what I didn’t like about Weymouth.

So for this post let me say what I love about Weymouth.

Weymouth has a great harbourside area.  Lined with restaurants and pubs, what I like the most is the rowing boat ferries that take you from one side of the harbour to the other for a pound.

The kids weren’t with us on this walk, but here they are on the harbour ferry in 2011.  A man with an oar, costing a pound, to take you from one side of the harbour to the other.  It’s the simple things in life that count.

Happy memories!

Weymouth Ferry, 2011

I won’t spoil the mood by saying that when we got to the ferry point this time round we found it closed…

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth)

  • Weymouth Harbour:  N 50° 36.485 W 002° 26.910

Walk #81 Statistics (of which this post forms the fourth part):

Map

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81c – Weymouth Part I

I am sorry to start on a negative note, but there is one thing about Weymouth I just cannot get on with.  It has a statue that I really do not like.  Painted in vivid red, white, blue and gold, here it is in all its gaudy glory.

Weymouth George III StatueIt doesn’t look so bad in this picture, but up close and personal the bright colours seem to boast of an overly glossy exterior that doesn’t quite match the true character of the town.

Perhaps, however, this is fitting.  For the statue is of “mad” King George III who also had a publicly presented exterior that was more glossy than his true self, at least for a brief time.  In 1788-9 the king’s mental health deteriorated.  This resulted in the Commons passing the Regency Bill of 1789, providing parliamentary controls in the event of a Regency (where the king’s son rules as Prince Regent).  The bill was ready to be sent up to the Lords, but never actually got there, as George had recovered by March 1789.

All the same, George III’s doctor recommended sea air, sea bathing, and even sea drinking as a cure for a wide variety of ailments.  Thus it was that the king and his family took their holidays in Weymouth during the 1790’s, popularising the town as Britain’s first seaside “resort”.  King George III’s private bathing machine is displayed just in front of his glossy statue.

George III Bathing MachineIf I were put in there and wheeled out to the sea I think I would go mad too.

King George and his family spent a total 14 summers here during the period 1789 to 1805.  On first seeing the town the king announced, “I never enjoyed a sight so pleasing”.  Possibly I would have thought the same when I first saw Weymouth, but then I saw that statue, and so that was that.

Weymouth is also famous for its sand sculptures, and there has always been something on display when we have visited.  This year (by which I mean 2015 – I am posting this a whole year late) it was the Last Supper with life-size figures.  The sculptures are absolutely amazing and well worth visiting.  They stand under a purpose-built canopy to protect them from the elements.  I have no idea how long they last, but the amount of work which must go into something so temporary is impressive indeed.

Weymouth Sand Sculpture

Weymouth also played in important part in World War II.  The major part of the American Assault Force launched from the Weymouth and Portland harbours on D-Day.  From 6 June 1944 to 7 May 1945 a total of 517,816 troops and 144,093 vehicles embarked from here.  The war memorial on the esplanade shows American Rangers marching along the same spot.  Three thousand of them would die that day.

Weymouth D-Day War Memorial Plaque photo

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth)

  • King George III’s Statue:  N 50° 36.709 W 002° 27.227
  • King George IIII’s Bathing Machine:   N 50° 36.726 W 002° 27.225
  • Sand Sculptures:  N 50° 36.541 W 002° 27.100
  • Weymouth War Memorial:  N 50° 36.814 W 002° 27.185

Walk #81 Statistics (of which this post forms the third part):

Map

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81b – Ringstead Bay to Weymouth

Having been lost in the loneliness above Ringstead Bay, it was with some relief that we found the coast again.  Desperately behind schedule, we marched off through Osmington Mills and on to Weymouth. At Osmington Mills we passed by the Smuggler’s Inn.

5 - Smugglers Inn, Osmington MillsEmmanuel Charles was the landlord of the inn in the 1840’s; he was also the ringleader of one of the most notorious local smuggling rings in the area.  HM Customs recorded that within his extended family there were at least 27 convicted smugglers.  Charles himself is said to have made a significant amount of money through his smuggling operations, although by 1851 he had lost it all and he died in poverty.

We strode on, eventually reaching Bowleaze Cove at the very far eastern point of Weymouth Bay.  The artist John Constable came here on his honeymoon in October 1816.  He the view from here and his picture now hangs in the National Gallery.

Fantasy Island Fun Park suggested that all sorts of thrills and fun could be found here.  The two solitary figures huddled underneath its walls with their ineffectual windbreak suggested otherwise!  Perhaps it was a bit early in the morning.

Bowleaze CoveWe were more interested in the small jetty and the views it offered towards Portland, which was our destination for today.

Jetty at Bowleaze CoveWe continued our walk into Weymouth, enjoying the sound of the waves lapping at the beach after so many miles of walking up and down cliffs.

Selfie at Bowleaze CoveWeymouth, of course, is still on the Jurassic Coast, and we were reminded of this by the many stone benches that lined the seafront which were as much fossil as they were stone.

Fossil Bench on the Promenade into Weymouth with insert close upAs we approached Weymouth we were able to see Nothe Fort.

Nothe FortWe had visited here in 2011, so would not be stopping again today.  Originally built in 1860-1872 to defend Portland Harbour, like so many forts it never actually saw any action.  It was abandoned in the 1950’s and is now a museum.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Smugglers Inn, Osmington Mills: N 50° 38.085 W 002° 22.506
  • Bowleaze Cove: N 50° 38.175 W 002° 25.280
  • Nothe Fort:  N 50° 36.450 W 002° 26.625

Walk #81 Statistics (of which this post forms the second part):

Map

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81a – Trying to get back to Ringstead Bay

Today was our big day.  We were down at the coast for three days, but our first and last days also included travel back to London.  As such, we could only walk for half of those days.  In this, our middle day, we wanted to put some miles in and get to Portland.

It didn’t quite go to plan at first.

The day before we had finished at a car park with the intention of starting today’s walk from the same place.  When we got there, however, we realised we had to pay the parking charge at a small shop selling beach accoutrements and ice cream.  It was 7:00 am; the shop wasn’t open.  We had no choice but to drive about two-thirds of a mile inland and park at a larger, free, car park.

It was a beautiful day as we started our walk.  Chesil Beach sat stretched out in the distance with our prize sat at its far end.  We started out, striding purposefully towards our goal.

Looking from Ringstead to PortlandAlmost immediately we got lost.  Our map was clear, but the terrain didn’t seem to match it.  I checked our GPS.  It matched neither the terrain nor the map.  We hadn’t even started and were lost already!  Although we were headed west I saw a promising path leading back east, and both our map and GPS agreed that this led to a track which would take us straight to the coastline.  We followed this track off into a meadow.  There was knee-high grass all around us, but our track cut through this, almost as if a lawnmower had been through.

So far so good, but soon we were lost in a maze of criss-crossing lawnmower tracks, going off at any and all angles through the grass.  We tried to follow our map and GPS as best we could, but nothing tallied with the paths we met.  Eventually we gave up and turned due south, following our noses and hoping they would take us to the coast.  Every now and again we would take a track that led to a dead-end and would have to double back.  Soon we reached a better tended area – this must be the way!  We carried on, Deb exclaiming how beautiful it was.

Steps had been cut into the gentle grass banks, and we arrived at a peaceful glade which had been cut into a small meadow of wild grasses and flowers.  A bench sat here.  There was no view to the sea.  It was simply a lovely place to sit and reflect.

Private Garden at RingsteadIt was a good thing we had started out early today, for we had inadvertently wandered into someone’s back garden.  Just beyond the bench was an isolated house with a car in its driveway.  We hurried back, quickly retracing our steps and diverting ourselves around the house before we were discovered.  All of a sudden we hit a track which tallied with both our map and GPS – we were found again!

By the time we reached the coast we had already walked nearly two miles.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Closed Car Park: N 50° 37.970 W 002° 21.170
  • Inland Car Park: N 50° 38.473 W 002° 20.580N 50° 38.473 W 002° 20.580
  • Private House:  N 50° 38.240 W 002° 20.320

Walk #81 Statistics (of which this post forms the first part):

Map

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80e – Bat’s Head to Ringstead Bay

After the thronging tourist traps of Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, the path from Bat’s Head to Ringstead Bay is marvellously unpopulated.  Undulating and never boring, it was a relief to get away from the crowds and find a bit of solitude with nobody but the wind for company.

Looking back from White NotheLooking forward, we could at last get a good view towards the looming hulk of Portland, which we expected to reach after another day’s walk.

PortlandThe cliffs just before White Nothe looked a bit precarious, with one chalk buttress looking ready to peel away and join the rocks below.

Precarious looking Cliffs on the Approach to White NotheFurther on, we puzzled over this obelisk for quite a while:

Navigational Obelisk at West Bottom before White NotheIt had no dedication and no inscription, save for an abundance of scratched and chiseled graffiti.  It was marked on our map simply as a beacon, and so we had to give up and carry on.  The Power of Google later revealed that this was indeed a beacon – a navigational aid to shipping.

White Nothe itself is home to a small terrace of ex-coastguard cottages, sat at the top of cliffs and accessed via a dirt-track driveway over a mile long.  They are a long way from anything, except this structure which has now fallen into ruin.

White Nothe PillpostMost pillboxes tend to be of one type or another, but this one is unusual.  It is an original pillbox, but with a Royal Observer Corps Observation Post built on top.

We carried on down to Ringstead car park and our walk’s end, descending via Burning Cliff.  Burning Cliff got its name after a landslip in 1826 caused a spontaneous combustion as the oil shale in the ground caught fire and then smouldered for several years.

Burning Cliff

These natural events, such as those at Burning Cliff in 1826, are known as pyrolysis: the thermal decomposition of organic material at high temperatures and in the absence of oxygen.  This part of the coastline is made of Kimmeridge oil shale, which is 70% organic material and so which burns easily when it is fractured in landslips (this is effectively natural “fracking” – the release of organic material by the fracturing of the rock).  The post-landslip fires occur underground where there is no oxygen and temperatures can reach up to 500° Celcius.  The burn is a slow one, hence the reason Burning Cliff smouldered its oily, sulfurous fumes for several years.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Shipping Beacon: N 50° 37.649 W 002° 18.577
  • White Nothe Cliffs: N 50° 37.575 W 002° 19.150
  • White Nothe Cottages: N 50° 37.669 W 002° 19.385
  • Pillbox/Observation Post: N 50° 37.611 W 002° 19.393
  • Burning Cliff:  N 50° 37.999 W 002° 20.350

Walk #80 Statistics (of which this post forms the final part):

Map

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