Archive for April 2007
West Bay harbour in Dorset was the place where nauseating Nick Berry TV drama ‘Harbour Lights’ was filmed. However it has put this atrocity behind it and has seen huge redevelopment in recent years, including a new harbour entrance and breakwater.
We paddled in a (very) leisurely style from West Bay to Lyme Regis, with long stops for Heather to hunt for fossils. We also took in Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast. The fact that it’s still April lulled us into a false sense of security and we’re burned to a crisp.
Tomorrow I take 49 school children to Belgium. Back Wednesday night.
Mary Anning (1799-1847) of Lyme Regis worked as a fossil finder, selling her discoveries to curious tourists. Her life and career saw fossil collecting develop from quirky pastime to scientific investigation. Anning earned an international reputation among the scientific community for the quality of her finds, which included the first plesiosaur. Anning’s finds played a role in the developing evolutionary and extinction theories.
Anning’s talent as a fossil finder was aided by the remarkable Blue Lias limestone in the cliffs around Lyme Regis. The rock originated 195 million years ago when the area was a warm shallow sea.
Pulpit Rock is found at the southern tip of the Isle of Portland, a stone’s throw from the lighthouse. East of Pulpit Rock, there is no more southerly spot in England. The rock used to be known as, the ‘White Arch’ before quarrying changed its form.
I fell over and got bloody soaked taking the second photo.
“That was the easiest paddling trip that I’ve ever done”.
Heather has just acquired a composite sea kayak, after years of paddling a plastic Capella. For the first time in memory, she was out front, rather than out back.
Today I finally completed the chapter on the Isle of Portland, that I seem to have been working on forever.
Yesterday we paddled around the Isle of Portland. As always, the highlight was rounding Dorset’s most southerly point, Portland Bill. The Portland Bill lighthouse is just a few metres above the water, tapers attractively and is brightly striped. This is what lighthouses look like in children’s books. This is what all lighthouses will look like, once I am Prime Minister.
‘Chesil Beach (sometimes called Chesil Bank) is an 18 mile (29km) long, 200 metre wide and 18 metre high shingle tombolo in Dorset, southern England. The beach is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. This tombolo connects the Isle of Portland, a limestone island in the English channel to Abbotsbury, though it continues westwards to West Bay near Bridport. It is the largest tombolo in the United Kingdom and it forms a large lagoon (the Fleet) on its shoreward side. The beach is steep, showing a clear storm beach. Pebbles on the beach are graded, with the coarser stones nearer to Portland. Fishermen familiar with the beach claim to be able to tell their location from pebble size alone.’ – Wikipedia.
As the facts and figures in the Wikipedia quote demonstrate, Chesil Beach is a truly amazing geographical feature. However, only close up does the size and scale of the thing sink in. Simply crossing up and over is exhausting and any attempt to walk along it will soon be curtailed due to the daunting shifting pebbles. Chesil Beach is both the largest and most unique single feature of the south west (if not the UK) coast. It is also incredibly boring to paddle along.
The beach is surprisingly steep and if there is any swell, launching will be a whole lot easier than landing. Heather and I have paddled the length of the beach just once, ten years ago. As if spending seven hours looking at identical pebbles wasn’t stultifyingly tedious enough, we did it in dense fog.
Today, we launched from the southern end of the beach, but paddled away from it. Despite my dedication to thoroughly research South West Sea Kayaking, I am determined at all costs to avoid paddling along Chesil Beach again. Sorry.
Amazing weather lately, winter seems a distant memory. Unfortunately, by heading off on holiday over Easter, I’ve managed to miss much of this precious settled period. Plus (and this really grates) I have to go to work Monday to Friday, when I’d much rather be paddling. I do hope that the sunshine lasts to the weekend, so that I can get back out on the water …
Metcheck…’What a remarkable first half to the month of April.
Some parts of the country, especially across England and Wales, are now approaching 3 weeks without any significant rainfall at all. The longevity of the dry weather and also the recent heat has been quite exceptional for the time of year.
It’s fantastic how the weather works. It was only a few months ago the UK was being lashed with gales and rain as part of a very wet and very mild winter. Three whole months were generally dominated by wet and windy conditions, then in the blink of an eye high pressure appears.’
This is the first photograph ever taken by a teenage Berber cowherd girl who lives along the banks of the Oum Rbia River in Morocco’s Middle Atlas Mountains. I don’t think she did too badly for a beginner. She’s the tallest girl in the photo below.
With my teaching job’s generous salary and holiday, I am lucky enough to organise and take part in at least two overseas whitewater kayaking expeditions each year. Last week’s trip to Morocco was a relatively mild example, with rivers that weren’t too difficult and where many paddlers had been before us. In the last two years I’ve gone further afield to places like Bolivia, India, Costa Rica, and Quebec, involving fairly hair-raising paddling now and then, and even some previously unpaddled rivers. I’ve spent so much time paddling overseas in the past decade that I’m part of the BCU Expeditions Committee.
Morocco was a short trip, and is my only overseas WW expedition for this year. I’ve turned down kind offers to join WW paddling friends on the rivers of British Columbia, California and New Zealand, among other places. My explanation when refusing is that I am going to spend the summer paddling the south west coast of England in my sea kayak. They think that I am completely mad. What they don’t perhaps realise is that multi-day sea kayaking on home waters can be – against all logic – every bit as committing, challenging and rewarding as taking on exotic whitewater rivers.
Earlier this week we passed Cowes on the Isle of Wight after sunset, and needed to find a camping spot pretty quickly. Luckily, we came across a long crumbling old sea wall, the top of which proved ideal for pitching the tents. This was a great location, enabling us to watch some truly massive container ships chug close past along the Solent at midnight high tide, right from our sleeping bags.
In the morning, we packed up, launched and headed off. Only then did we notice that we’d actually been camped in someone’s garden …
Tonight I fly to Morocco to carry out some vital research for the book, on the rivers of the Sahara Desert … so no blog updates for a week or so.
In the Hurst Narrows, the kilometre-wide gap between Hurst Spit and the Isle of Wight, the tide squeezes through at speeds of 5 knots and beyond. A number of tide races form, the race nearest to Hurst Spit being known as ‘The Trap’.
On the ebb flow, ‘The Trap’ can be an entertaining roller coaster propelling paddlers out towards the Needles Rocks. However, when the tide is ebbing outwards against the prevailing south westerly wind, the waves in the race surge and break. On these occasions ’The Trap’ isn’t always a fun place to be…
On a warm summer night last year, John Gilmour and I made the crossing of Bournemouth Bay from Swanage to the Needles Lighthouse on the Isle of Wight, about 18 miles. It was too dark to read our compasses (we only found this out after setting off, oops) but some guesstimated navigation saw us through the first half of the paddle until we could see the lighthouse. We were several miles from the nightclubs of Bournemouth but could have been mid-Atlantic, it was pretty lonely out there.
I hoped to repeat this (in reverse) this week, but it’s too windy for my taste. I cheated and came back from the Solent by car instead.
Through the wonder of modern technology (and the carelessness of whichever yachtie this unsecured wireless network belongs to) this blog post is brought to you live from Yarmouth Harbour on the Isle of Wight.
Andy Levick and I crossed to The Island from Keyhaven last night, which wasn’t very pleasant. Stiff winds pushed against the tides to make some fairly rough seas, it was a wet and wild ride! The winds today have continued to be much stronger than ideal, but we’re packing up shortly for an evening paddle east along the Solent coast.
This morning we did the touristy thing and took a stroll along the cliffs near the Needles. The crew of the search and rescue helicopter India Juliet were doing something frightening-looking, but the absence of lifeboats or other craft seemed to suggest that it was just a training flight.