Chesil Beach, Dorset
A long shingle ridge or bank on the West Dorset coast, extending to over 16 miles from Portland, past Abbotsbury and ending at West Bay's east pier. 'Chesil' is Old English for shingle. A theory of its formation is that over the centuries stormy seas and strong currents have swept the pebbles and shingle from the Dorset and Devon coasts and deposited them along this bank. A more recent theory is that melting glaziers from the last ice age caused sea levels to rise, the resultant currents pushing sea bed deposits onto the shore. However, this is still the subject of research among geographers. The bank consists of pebbles at its eastern end (Portland), progressively reducing to fine shingle or sand at its western end (West Bay). This natural sea wall also protects 'The Fleet', a calm lagoon of brackish water in West Dorset which runs parallel to the sea. Pebbles from here were used as ammunition by the Iron Age defenders of nearby Maiden Castle. More recently, The Fleet at Chesil Beach was the testing area for Sir Barnes Wallis's 'bouncing bombs', used in the famous World War II 'Dambusters' bombing raids of 1943. Chesil Beach is popular with beachcombers as the sea has cast up everything here from whales to Spanish Galleons.
Isaac Gulliver (1745-1822), the renowned 'gentle smuggler', claiming never to have killed during his smuggling 'career', bought North Eggardon Farm in 1776. Situated next to Eggardon Hill (the iron age fort), it supplied a high look out point to sea. He planted a circle of trees to act as a landmark for incoming ships carrying contraband. Gulliver's Lane still leads down from the hill towards Shipton Gorge.
Abbotsbury. A West Dorset village with many typical thatched cottages. One of the largest tithe barns in Britain exists there, over 270 feet long and over 30 feet high. The barn was built in the 15th Century by Benedictine monks. The now famous swannery was also established at the same time as a source of food. Fortunately Abbotsbury swannery is now a bird sanctuary. Abbotsbury also boasts sub-tropical gardens where exotic plants and trees flourish. To the north west of the village beyond White Hill is where the 14th Century Chapel of St Catherine stands, with superb views over Lyme Bay and the English Channel. Also, a narrow lane out of Abbotsbury leads over Black Down Hill to the Hardy Monument. This commemorates Admiral Hardy (Nelson's flag captain at the Battle of Trafalgar).
Burton Bradstock, Dorset
Burton Bradstock lies near to the western end of Chesil Beach in the River Bride Valley. A relatively unspoilt Dorset village with many 16th and 17th Century thatched cottages. At the heart of the village is a 15th Century church, St Mary the Virgin. The River Bride enters Lyme Bay just west of Burton Bradstock, near Freshwater.
The South West Coast Path
The South West Coast Path gives walkers a choice at West Bexington, Dorset. The westbound walk is over the cliffs towards West Bay. However, when walking eastbound, you can choose to continue along the Chesil Beach to Abbotsbury, then on beside The Fleet to Portland Isle and Weymouth. Alternatively you can go inland (a coastal path?), past Abbotsbury Castle then along Ridge Hill and past the Hardy Monument. You will ultimately meet up with the coast path at Osmington Mills, almost 5 miles east of Weymouth.
Good Beach Guide
Burton Bradstock (Hive Beach), Dorset...The sea water quality is rated as having passed the EC Mandatory Standard and receives a Recommendation (the highest award) from The Marine Conservation Society.