Until July 2017, documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say! Meanwhile . . . I've now moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire. Click on the link below to collect the new URL. Don't forget to follow there!

Friday, 18 March 2011


There's a causeway running between Weymouth and the (almost) island of Portland on the south coast of England. It isn't a 'desert' in the technical sense of the word but it's not an easy place for plants.

Alongside it runs the back of Chesil Beach.

'Beach' is a confusing a word. Forget ice-cream and donkeys. Think a seventeen mile stretch of pebbles which starts from the west of here with little stones lying against the land. As the 'beach' runs east, the stones get bigger and little pools appear which gradually merge into a brackish lagoon defended from a raging sea by a massive rampart of smooth, flattish stones. At its eastern end, the water of the lagoon flows away, under a bridge, and the 'beach' swerves south to follow the causeway. Thousands and thousands of tonnes of pebbles  keep the sea from the road; from the flat, straight, grassy path of an old railway line and the calm of Portland Harbour.

'Harbour' is almost as misleading a word as 'beach'. This isn't a cosy place where fishing boats unload against a jetty or children drop crablines into the water - think 'sea' - with a wall crossing the horizon; it's a massive wall but it's so far away it looks small.

The stones along the
east side of the causeway
are interesting and irregular.
Imagine you are standing on a narrow stretch of land; two miles of stones and dryness and bitter winds and no houses. There are seabirds and windsurfers and a harsh white light and a road with no stopping places. It's hardly ever quiet.

When the wind isn't roaring, the cars and buses and lorries hum away irritatingly - unless one drops down over the edge of the bank to walk by the water - and there the noise drops.

I expect there is somewhere like it - but I have never been there!

At its start - an empty carpark sets the scene.

At its ending - a prison on a hill, an ex-naval base, a new marina, boat building factories and workshops and acres of land to keep boats out of the water, and a sailing academy which will be the base for the sailing events of the 2012 Olympics.

This is not going to be a tree post!

Plants, to survive here, need to be tough and low growing and their heads need flexible necks.

It's astonishing there are plants here at all. But there are - many of them specialists.

Soon, there will be flowers. Indeed, there are already some.

I'm not going to risk saying what these plants are just yet. (Well, there's a dandelion!) I'll add their names if and when I'm more certain.

Rather, I'm setting a scene so, when the spring gets further under way and the summer comes, if the wind doesn't shake everything about too much - you'll be able to appreciate what happens.

Hurray for Lichen!

P.S. One day, I'll post about Chesil Beach itself - but I'm waiting till the weather is warmer!


Balisha said...

I'll be back to see what happens. I felt that I was there with your wonderful description. Balisha

Barbee' said...

Bleak! So well named. I have never seen so many rocks! I had never seen even one place like this... until you showed me this one, and it's amazing. You know what it made me think of?... alpine areas where small plants latch on tenaciously and survive in spite of the harsh conditions that keep them small. Another thing: I visited in a home in Southampton. The flower border in their garden was all rocks like these. I thought she mulched with them, but now I wonder.

Elephant's Eye said...

See, that's why most of my six-pack of thrift is toasted. We want fresh sea breezes!

elizabethm said...

I love the fact that plants are so determined to grow.

Pat Tillett said...

Beautiful and crystal clear photos!
Wait a minute...I never think of donkeys when I think of the beach!
Must be a regional thing....LOL!

catmint said...

i like your bleak post, Lucy. It's wonderful to see nature's different forms and filling in spaces with plants like lichens. cheers, catmint

Mark Willis said...

You must have had a good dose of fresh air getting those photos!
Reminds me of childhood days out on the cliffs in Cornwall. I remember particularly Thrift, and Sea-Campion...

Nate said...

As bleak as this location seems to be, it's incredible that there are still plants willing to tough it out! I'll definitely be stopping back to see what becomes of this spot. Thanks for sharing this wonderfully vivid walk along the "beach!"

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

I'll look forward to your Chesil beach post, wonderful, eerie place. Portland Harbour always felt quite a scary place to sail in a small dinghy, so huge, not a "safe" harbour at all. Wonderful area though. I've always loved the variety in the landscape.

Marco said...

Wow, It's a wanderfull place..Greetings from Italy!