Archive for August 2012
Lundy Island’s Old Light was built atop the island in 1819, but proved very ineffective as Lundy’s high summit plateau was regularly obscured by cloud and fog. In 1861, a fog signal battery was built halfway down the western cliffs; the idea was that cannons would be fired intermittently to warn shipping of Lundy’s proximity. Various methods of alterting shipping were trialled with varying success, including firing actual cannon balls (what could go wrong?), firing gun cotton, discharging explosives, ringing bells and blowing whistles. However, by the late nineteenth century it was agreed that new lighthouses were needed; these were built low down the cliffs at both the north and south end of Lundy.
Today, the site is well preserved; you can visit the remains which include the ammunition store (built with thick walls and thin roof, to release explosions upwards), the gun platform, and the houses of the keepers. With the Atlantic below and around, at the bottom of a very long steep set of steps, it’s quite a location.
A pod of about 15 bottlenose dolphins has been particularly active around the Purbeck area in the past year or two, for instance being spotted from Durlston Head every few days. I am now officially the last person in Dorset who has never seen them. My friend pictured here was sailing off Old Harry Rocks at the weekend when they surrounded the yacht and performed a few tricks for good measure.
We went out for a paddle to Old Harry a few days later, hoping to utilise her good luck and dolphin-attracting aura. They didn’t show up (they’d probably heard that I was coming), but it wasn’t an unpleasant trip…
…of Durdle Door. In the distance is the Isle of Portland.
Yesterday a few friends, my dad and I took part in the Dorset Doddle, a 32 mile walk along the Purbeck coast from Weymouth to Wareham. It was organised by the Long Distance Walker’s Association, which sounded to me like some harmless bunch of beardy ramblers. Thus, I was slightly horrified when we showed up at the start and turned out to be pretty much the only folk (out of 300) not wearing lycra. They all instantly rushed off and left us plodding along far in the rear…
Unfortunately it was the hottest day of the year, and we had about 5000 feet to ascend along the route. My dad isn’t unfit (some years back, he celebrated his 60th birthday by walking 60 miles) but halfway through this epic slog, he was finding the ridiculously steep uphill and downhill sections heavy going in the heat. We both fell far enough behind to be timed out (i.e. disqualified!) and dad decided to call it a day. I threw a few things out of my rucksack, drank a gallon of water and ran for the next 90 minutes until I caught up with my friends. We managed to finish inside the twelve hours allowed. But a small lifetime behind all the lycra-clad LDWA types…
This epic granite slab on the west coast of Lundy Island is known as The Devil’s Slide. Climbers get quite excited about this sort of thing. I myself get nauseous even just looking at it.
This evening, I reminded myself that surfing is a young man’s game, and not something that I exactly have a natural aptitude for. I nearly died from exhaustion just paddling out to the reef, I failed to do anything other than repeatedly fall off waves and faceplant spectacularly, and then I took about three times as long to paddle back to shore as it had taken me to get out there.
It was great.
Various residents of Skomer Island, and their homes.
Ever felt a burning desire to know what Anvil Point Lighthouse, Durlston Head, Durlston Castle, St Alban’s Head and the surrounding area look like from about half a mile offshore? Please allow me to fulfil that desire for you…
Had a wonderful paddle in the upper reaches of Poole Harbour last night; a few of us paddled from Wareham down the River Frome into the Harbour, and then up the River Piddle (no sniggering, please) back into Wareham. It was only a short walk back to the cars. I’ve never paddled this lovely little loop before, and now I’ve done it, I have no idea why I didn’t get around to it. En route we ran into one of (the only one of?) Poole Harbour’s small common seal population, as well as seeing several kingfishers.
I didn’t take the camera, so rather lamely, here are a picture of a common seal, and a picture of Poole Harbour, both from completely different occasions.
Lundy Island’s South Light overlooks the landing stage and a major tidal race known unimaginatively as ‘The Race’. Above, the restored castle stands guard over the southern approaches to the island.
Full size Lundy panorama here.
The 21 mile paddle to Lundy Island is not as bad as it sounds…strong tidal flows help you along your way. It certainly shouldn’t be underestimated however; there is an awful lot of empty open water around you if anything goes wrong, and there is also a credible chance of totally missing Lundy if you misjudge your ferry glide angle.
I was quite keen to try a crossing which would arrive by night, having done it in daylight many times. We kitted up and loaded up our boats on the shore at Lee Bay in North Devon…however, as high tide was reached just before sunset (our planned departure time) there was a slight problem; ocean swell was smacking into (and often reaching over) the sea wall we were supposed to be launching below. We made some abortive attempts to launch a kayak, but realised that the only practical option was to wait an hour or so for the tide to drop. Trouble is, that would mean darkness from the start of our paddle, removing any safe ‘early abort’ option. After discussion, we realised that it wasn’t going to happen. We lugged the boats back up the launch ramp and slept in our cars, launching early the next morning instead.
Despite no wind, the paddle across was rough enough in the first half to make all of us sick or nauseous at some point…but then it completely calmed, allowing us to relax and enjoy the Manx shearwaters endlessly circling us at water level.
When the time came for the paddle back, the weather wasn’t great at all. We achieved the crossing using Plan #B.
An evening pootle out of Kimmeridge Bay, this month. The conditions were not demanding.