As we made our final approach to Portland Bill we left the rugged, almost Mediterranean, landscape behind and entered quarry territory. Massive piles of rocks lay heaped on the ground, as if giants had passed this way and made cairns the size of small houses.
Piles of rubble lay strewn around. In some places these rocks lay across the entrances to great sunken pits, cut into the ground. It seemed as if there may be a maze of caves inside, and that the rocks had been used to block up the entrances in order to stop anyone exploring.
At one point we came across a hoist which appeared to be used for moving rocks up from a platform cut into the cliffs below.
It didn’t look very “modern” and I was left wondering if it was a mock-up of a centuries-old crane. Bur maybe not; perhaps the old ways are the best.
And then we were out of the barren landscape and back to civilisation. Portland’s three lighthouses stretched in a line in front of us.
A few hundred years ago the Portland area was well known for shipwrecks, both off Portland itself and around Chesil Beach to the north. After a series of petitions to Trinity House, a decision was made in the eighteenth century to build two lighthouses here. These, known as the Old Higher Lighthouse and the Old Lower Lighthouse, were built at the same time. The Old Higher Lighthouse is situated, as its name suggests, slightly further inland on higher ground.
The Old Lower Lighthouse is lower down, closer to the coast.
Both lighthouses shone for the first time on 29 September 1716. They lasted for nearly 200 years, but were eventually replaced. The Old Higher Lighthouse is now privately owned accommodation and the Old Lower Lighthouse a bird observatory.
In the very early 1900’s Trinity House put forward plans to replace both existing lighthouses with a single, taller, lighthouse at Portland Bill Point. Work started in 1903, and the new lighthouse lit its first lamp on 11 January 1906. It stands at 135 feet and remains a functioning lighthouse; it is now fully automated.
Just in front of the lighthouse is an obelisk. Although it looks like a memorial (and seems to be used as such by some, as there were flowers and photos around its base when we visited) it is in fact a daymark. These are navigational aids to shipping which are used in the daytime, as opposed to lighthouses which are predominantly used at night or in poor weather.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth)
- Old Higher Lighthouse: N 50° 31.336 W 002° 27.380
- Old Lower Lighthouse: N 50° 31.178 W 002° 27.065
- Portland Bill Lighthouse: N 50° 30.845 W 002° 27.375
- Portland Bill Daymark: N 50° 30.800 W 002° 27.399
Walk #82 Statistics (of which this post forms the final part):
- Date of Walk: 10 June 2015
- Walk #82 total distance covered: 5.88 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 699.94 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!
That last lighthouse is really impressive, isn’t it. Loved Portland Bill. Are you writing up your walks retrospectively?
Perfect weather to be there, Nic. I knew the stunted obelisk is a shipping mark but not that the correct term is ‘daymark’. It’s a great place to go to watch storms (stand well back!). RH