Dorset Walk: Fortuneswell and Tar Rocks
PUBLISHED: 12:41 03 September 2014 | UPDATED: 12:41 03 September 2014
Edward Griffiths enjoys a spectacular coastal walk away from the summer holiday crowds and busy beaches
This is just like being on a summer holiday, but without the crowds. As soon as you leave the Portland Heights viewpoint, where everybody stops to take pictures of the world-famous view of Chesil Beach, everything becomes quieter. Fortuneswell, with its small shops and glimpses of the sea through alleys and side streets, isn’t unlike Cornwall. There’s a pleasant park with flower beds and a bowling green, and lovely views enticing you down to the beach. Once there, we’ll stroll along the promenade before following the footpath by the clear blue sea. Look out for the impressive land sculpture, created between 1983 and 1996 by John Maine RA, situated at the end of the promenade sea wall. Known as the ‘Chiswell Earthworks’, it has won numerous awards. After visiting the stony beach at Clay Ope and Tar Rocks, maybe trying our hand at stone balancing, we’ll climb the Coast Path above Chiswell to the cliff-top. Then we’ll wander through Tout Quarry where sculptors are leaving some of their massive works, including the odd dinosaur or two, for all to enjoy! This is a walk to enjoy slowly, maybe popping into a café or two, or having a pub lunch by the seaside. Whatever you do, take it slowly and really savour the day.
Distance: 4 miles (8.5 km)
Time: 3 1/2 hours
Exertion: Easy, but one steep ascent from beach to South West Coast Path
Start: New Ground parking area past Heights Hotel (Grid Ref: SY690731)
Map: OS Landranger Sheet 194
Public Transport: First Open Top 501 from Weymouth to Portland Bill
Dogs: On leads on roads and along the promenade
Refreshments: Jackson Café and Gallery in Fortuneswell, Quiddles Café by Chiswell Beach, as well as plenty of village inns including The Cove House Inn.
1 From New Ground, walk back towards the hotel but turn right down Old Hill, signed ‘Fortune’s Well Shops’. Past ‘The Old Rectory’, continue down to New Road. Walking down, cross Verne Hill Road with Verne Prison’s embankments up on your right and the stone Council Offices on the opposite corner. Pass right Underhill Church, left Britannia Inn and right Portland Arms. Ignore left High Street and continue down the main street. Pass Spring Gardens, Jackson Café and Gallery and the Co-Op. Pass Artists Row, King Street, St John’s Church and Mallams, all with sea views, then New Star Inn and Royal Manor Theatre.
2 Don’t fork left into Queen’s Road (Osborne Terrace), but continue for 100 yards along Castle Road to the ‘Chesil Cove’ path into Victoria Gardens. Walk down to the left gates before the Bowling Club. Through into Queen’s Road, walk down to Victoria Square. Turn left and left again at West Bay Terrace into Chiswell with The Little Ship opposite. In 100 yards, cross into Pebble Lane and bend left onto the unmade road between fish sheds and boat sheds. Arriving at The Cove House Inn, go up the ‘Coast Path’ steps and walk past the inn’s outside tables. Through the end flood-gate, walk along the sea-defence wall’s promenade, with lovely views along Portland’s west cliffs, to Quiddles Café.
3 Past John Maine’s Chiswell Earthworks sculpture, the promenade ends. Continue onto the tarmac footpath above the sea and rocks, passing left beach-huts. When the tarmac ends at a fork, take the higher left path. After the handrail, the path undulates before descending to a small inland ‘beach’ where you could try your hand at stone balancing, as have many people before you. Then, go up the stone-block steps and follow the path to Clay Ope beach with Tar Rocks in the sea. The footpath peters out here. Look around at the towering cliffs of limestone, with some huge sections breaking away below the Coast Path route. Now retrace your steps to Quiddles Café.
4 Past the café, go through the striped barrier and turn sharp right up the stepped tarmac ‘Coast Path’ and ‘Round the Island Path’. Continuing up the path, pass the end of Cove Road terrace, the school and Clovens Road. When the path deteriorates due to slippage, continue up by the garden walls, then open hillside, then stone steps to the Coast Path T-junction. Turn right for ‘Portland Bill’. Walk up the walled path. Before the stone-loading ‘whim’, go right onto the stone-marked ‘Coast Path Portland Bill 3¼’. Then, follow the horse-drawn railway track left into Tout Quarry. At the next fork, bear right and keep following the main track into the quarry. Pass a right bridge and fork and several lesser right and left turnings.
5 After rising around a right bend, the track bends left. Here, turn off right through the sculptured rocks, to a solitary standing stone. Fork right onto the path above the gulley to the rock bridge. Descend left back onto the Coast Path. Pass another rock bridge and, after ¼ mile of fabulous views, fork left at the Coast Path stone for ‘East Cliff’. Follow the meandering track through abandoned Bowers Quarry towards St George’s Church tower. Join the left Industrial Estate’s boundary fence and the quarry track to its end with the churchyard gates on the right. Turn left up Wide Street. Nearing Yeates Roundabout, cross to the right side and cross Priory Road. Turn left past Heights Hotel. Bend right into Yeates Road and continue back to New Ground where you started.