An Isle of Portland Canoe Club trip that I was committed to organising was scheduled for today. As it happened, unusually, the forecast was promising. The Met Office was giving a red line indicating strong winds for Selsey Bill to Lyme Regis but we decided that Force 5 -6 was probably hamming it up a bit and we were good to go.
9 paddlers met at Swanage ready to launch at 10:00 when we expected to have tidal assistance all the way to Kimmeridge. The sky was blue and the sun was shining making for a sparkly start to the journey. This is a committing trip with no opportunities to land until Chapmans Pool 12km away.
Peveril Ledges lead out to sea from the southern edge of Swanage Bay forming an overfall. Today there was only a small wave. Once round the corner and out of the shelter of the bay a very chilly wind had us reaching for hats and gloves. Across Durlston Bay is Durlston Head with its overhanging cliffs with a mock castle on top. There was a small tidal race at Durlston Head with a few waves and a strong back eddy which required Husband to put in a brace. The next landmark is Tilly Whim caves and then the lighthouse at Anvil Point, the view that opens up is of 50m cliffs stretching to St. Albans Head 7km away.
We paddled along slowly exploring the cliffs with many Guillemots and a few Razorbills. No Puffins today. There were plenty of climbers on the cliffs. The cliffs form strange ledges and whilst some of this is natural a lot is due to quarrying . There is a series of large caves which Jeff felt the need to explore. Three platforms have been hewn out by the quarrymen – the most famous being Dancing Ledge but also Seacombe and Whinspit. We weren’t tempted to land. Even in the small sea we encountered today it would have been very difficult. The weather had deteriorated and it was now cloudy with an increasing wind.
The Portland Coastguard helicopter appeared offshore and slowly descended and headed for the cliffs. We were wondering if there were some climbers in difficulty. The downdraft from the helicopter was definitely worth avoiding so we headed outside it and watched as a crewman was winched down and landed on a ledge. It became obvious that this was just an exercise and shortly the helicopter went back and picked the crewman up. They looked as if they were having fun.
St Albans Head has a tidal race which can be ferocious. Today it was surprisingly benign with small waves and hardly any acceleration of the tide. Once round the corner the wind dropped and we headed across to Chapman’s Pool. We met up with another group of paddlers who joined us on the beach at Chapman’s Pool for lunch.
During lunch the sun came out again and we left Chapman’s Pool in calmer conditions. The cliffs change in character to the greys and blacks of Kimmeridge shale. Kimmeridge ledges are shallow reefs which stretch out for a mile which kick up surf when there is some groundswell. Today there were just a few gentle waves which caused a few to get wet and one long bongo slide. Once past the Clavell Tower we were into the shelter of the bay and the easy landing on the slipway.