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A Jurassic Walk: Portland Central

PUBLISHED: 13:20 16 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:33 20 February 2013

A Jurassic Walk: Portland Central

A Jurassic Walk: Portland Central

Edward Griffiths visits the home of the most prized building stone in Britain and enjoys some spectacular views from the Jurassic Coast

A Jurassic Walk: Portland Central

Edward Griffiths visits the home of the most prized building stone in Britain and enjoys some spectacular views from the Jurassic Coast

Theres nothing quite like this walk anywhere else in Dorset. It takes you along tracks and paths overlooking several Portland quarries often following ancient stone-transporting routes. You will visit the towering Prison at Grove, wander through the elevated villages of Easton and Weston with their Portland-stone houses and walk the West Cliff route on old horse-drawn truck tracks, past more abandoned quarries and stone-tipping arches. All the time, you will be surrounded by Portland stone, from odd scattered blocks and the deep quarries to the worked stone in walls and high cliffs of Blacknor and West Weares.

1From Higher Ground, walk along the cliff-top path and road towards the Verne Prisons prominent grass banks. Cross the first bridge and, just before the second one, the Merchants Railway bridge, go down the right footpath-signed path into the gully. Note the railway tracks grooves in the bed-rock. Walk through the gully into an open area with converging paths. Keep straight on, with the right bank, treading on old sleeper-stones. In 50 yards, go through the right footpath-arrowed opening with the old prison chimneys beyond. Emerge onto a levelled trackway above a working quarry. Turn left. Follow
the track around the quarry.
2Go past a Coast Path post and other walking man signs, and continue between banks to a T-junction. Turn left, then instant right into the shady Coast Path, between two stone blocks. Along the walled path, you emerge opposite the magnificent Romanesque St Peters Church; turn right onto Incline Road, passing a right sentry box. Continue between high walls to Grove Road. Turn left. Pass right Augusta Road, left St Peters bright Portland-stone south walls, and several fine Portland-stone houses. Continue round past the Infant School, and the long row of Alma Terrace houses built about 1850 for prison officers, all from Portland stone.
3Cross Rufus Way and, after wandering down Grove Road to see the imposing prison and its ornate 1848 gateway entrance around the corner, come back and turn into Victoria Road. Not far before the end, turn left into the tarmac path between houses. Turn right at the paths junction. When the footpath-signed path bends next left, dont! Keep straight on into the path with a narrow raised pavement. Arriving in an open field, keep straight on, forking left off the main path onto the lesser path, with St Georges Church visible ahead. Keep straight on, fenced between paddocks and bending right above an old left quarry.
4Meeting a better path, turn left and continue to a footpath-arrowed barrier exit with a childrens play area opposite. Cross the road and turn right along the path to the end, with West Grove Terrace right. Turn left at the backward-facing footpath pointer, along Grove Road. Pass the left fire station. Meeting Easton Street, turn left down into Easton village, soon passing the Punch Bowl Inn and the carved Portland-stone porch of one of the best-preserved houses on the island, dated 1760 though its origins are probably earlier. A few yards further, turn right into Easton Square but be sure to visit Easton Park first to see the Portland-stone clock-tower dating from 1907.
5Continue into Reforne, crossing left Station Road and pass lots of Portland-stone houses. Pass tiny cottages built from massive blocks, the old school and, near the end, the Jacobean George Inn where Portlands Court Leet used to meet when it was called Clerks House. Reaching the road junction, cross over Weston Road and go through the porch into St Georges churchyard. Walk along the churchs south side and turn left to the south exit gateway barrier. Outside, walk down the wide-verged path of Weston Road alongside the cemetery.
6In mile, after rows of old stone cottages, the chip-shop and the Royal Exchange, look out for No 72, Tudor Cottage, probably the best surviving late-Tudor domestic building on the island. When the houses end, cross to the grassy area and keep straight on. With Weston Street left, take the right Barleycrates Lane and West Cliff stony path between fields. Reaching the T-junction, turn left down between fields, then bend right and continue to the cliff-edge Coast Path. Turn right, keeping the cliffs on your left for the next 1 miles and ignoring all right turns, whether paths or gaps into quarries. Just past the Weston turning stone, there are ripple marks of ancient sea or lake movements in the bed-rock a few feet down the cliff.
7Continue to Blacknor Fort on the Coast Path, negotiating the rocky path near the cliff edge down to remains of a Second World War gun-emplacement backed by old quarry workings, with Purbeck rubble beds on top of Roach. With Weymouth and Portland Harbour constantly ahead, keep following the Coast Path, over a wooden bridge overlooking steeply dipping beds of stone near the sea where they were left after rotational slumping dragged them down from the cliffs. Go through an arch of massive Portland-stone blocks, and walk up the bed-rock where grooves to guide stone-carts are cross-cut by channels carved to give the ponies a better grip.
8Continue through more fallen arches, eventually crossing a path from Tout Quarry and aiming for the old stone-loading whim or crane. Here, cross the road at the Coast Path post and, a few yards down the hill, take the handrailed footpath up the hillside with super views over Fortuneswell and Chiswell to Chesil Beach. At the top, turn right up the drive. Reaching Yeates Road, turn left. Pass the Cenotaph. The Heights Hotels boundary wall has fossil ammonites and the car park houses a fossilised tree-trunk. Continue along Yeates Road back to the car park.

Start: New Ground free car park in Yeates Road, overlooking Fortuneswell (grid ref SY691731)
Map: OS Landranger 194
Terrain: Mostly level paths above quarries and pavements through villages. 1 miles (2km) undulating stony cliff-top paths on return
Public transport: First 1 and 10, South West Coaches 205, 206, 210, 220
Dogs: Narrow cliff-top paths and roads will require dogs to be on leads
Refreshments: The walk passes The George Inn at Reforne (01305 820011), Punch Bowl Inn (01305 822308) and White Stones Caf (01305 860003), both in Easton Street, Sugar Loaf Tea Shop (01305 821997) in Easton Square and Rays Fish and Chips round the corner in Straits, Easton


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