Skip to content

A few days by the seaside

Work has been even more manic than usual in the run-up to the end of the financial year. I had four weeks of equipment trials, on two separate projects, from mid-February up until Easter, by the end of which I was totally exhausted. So I decided that it would be a good idea to recharge my batteries with a mini-break by the seaside. I booked into a rather pleasant B&B on the sea-front at Weymouth for a couple of days in the middle of last week. Rather conveniently, the dates tied in nicely with my University friends, Tom and Katie, passing through Weymouth on their Easter break, so we arranged to meet up for dinner on Wednesday in a very pleasant little Italian restaurant on the Esplanade.

The beach at Seatown - lots of fossils in the cliffs

The beach at Seatown – lots of fossils in the cliffs

When on the Jurassic Coast, it’s almost obligatory to go fossil-hunting. I caught the Jurassic Coast Explorer bus to the picturesque Dorset village of Chideock, then walked down to the coast at the hamlet of Seatown, which is apparently one of the most likely spots to easily find fossils. I had fun looking, but didn’t come away with much – a few small ammonites and some belemnites. It was just after Storm Katie had passed through, and there had clearly been some fairly significant and recent rock-falls. On the one hand, that’s good for fossil-hunting, as new areas of the fossil beds are exposed. On the other hand though, the cliffs were clearly unstable and I really didn’t want to trigger a landslide!

Portland Castle

Portland Castle – a Tudor fortress with mid-Victorian living quarters tacked on the side.

I also caught a bus from Weymouth in the other direction towards Portland. I asked the bus driver to let me know which stop to get off at for Portland Castle, a fortress originally built by Henry VIII as part of a chain of defences along the south coast. Unfortunately the driver told me to get off at the wrong stop, and directed me towards Pennsylvania Castle, a privately-owned luxury hotel in the middle of Portland! He then realised his mistake, and drove after me, beeping frantically to attract my attention! He told me to get back on, and he’d take me to the correct castle on his way back to Weymouth. So I got a complete tour of the island of Portland into the bargain….. Fortunately, I wasn’t in a hurry, so the diversion wasn’t a problem.

The cannon emplacements at Portland Castle

The cannon emplacements at Portland Castle

Once I finally made it to the correct castle, it was well worth the effort in getting there. It’s now owned by English Heritage, who have done a pretty thorough job of removing all the Victorian trappings from when it was a private home, and the later evidence of it being used as Officers Quarters for the navy, and have taken it more or less right back to how it looked in Tudor times. It was a very interesting afternoon.