I had been looking forward to Dancing Ledge for miles, and then all of a sudden it popped into view. There – in the foreground!
Dancing Ledge was the site of the largest cliff quarry in Dorset which did not have road access. It was last used for this purpose in the 1930’s. There were caves dotted around the base of the cliffs but I didn’t venture too far in. The rocks littering the ground looked as if they had fallen away from the cliff faces above and I did not want to get in their way.
Dancing Ledge is said to get its name from the way in which the sea moves over the stone shelf at certain points of the tide. The shallow undulations in the rock make the water bob around, giving the impression that the entire shelf is dancing.
I stood at the far end of the ledge and looked at the closest cave. Could I get into it? There seemed to be a small groove cut into the rock, just above the ledge itself, which might allow me to squeeze in. I approached it and pondered. Did it give me enough space to clamber in?
I certainly didn’t want to fall in – I didn’t have my wetsuit with me! In fact when the tide is right Dancing Ledge affords a great platform for leaping into the sea. It is a popular spot for coasteering. Many years ago a swimming pool was even quarried out of the lower ledge for the use of a local school! However, it is also one of those places along the coast which can be dangerous in the wrong conditions; people have died here. I crept forward cautiously, ensuring each handhold and foothold was secure before moving on.
The cave dwindled into nothing. So did my shelf.
Dancing Ledge is enjoyed by many people, but it seems to have been a particularly special place for the filmmaker Derek Jarman, whose house we had seen at Dungeness a couple of hundred miles back. His autobiography is called Dancing Ledge and scenes from one of his films, Jubilee, were shot here. At the end of that film, Elizabeth I and John Dee walk towards the ledge and Elizabeth says this:
“All my heart rejoiceth at the roar of the surf on the shingles, marvellous sweet music it is to my ears – what joy there is in the embrace of water and earth“
And that, I think, pretty much sums up why we are on this walk around the coast of Britain.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Dancing Ledge: N 50° 35.500 W 002° 00.270
Walk #77 Statistics (of which this post forms the fifth part):
- Date of Walk: 27 December 2014
- Walk #77 total distance covered: 9.55 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 651.00 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!