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Portland's Blowhole and Waterfall

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This rough coastal area includes a small quarry which beautifully illustrates the technique of 'backfilling' where the waste material is piled up behind the workers at the quarry face. This results in a trench advancing across the landscape.

Uniquely, there is a blowhole where it is possible to look down through an iron grill into a cave and see the waves surging far below.

As if these wonders are not enough, Portland's only waterfall - fed by Portland's only remaining free running stream - cascades over a high cliff.

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Portland's only surviving open stream rises at Culverwell. This is seen above in 1990 and below in 2007. This stream runs under the main road to Portland Bill, through a channel eroded into the limestone, under a footbridge and out over the cliff edge to form Portland's waterfall.








The stream runs in a gully to the eastern cliff edge. It usually only flows in the winter months - in summer the gully is frequently dry.


This waterfall marks the end of Portland's only surviving stream. Many others used to run free but are now culverted.


A mere trickle pictured in March 2017 showing how much the flow can vary.


Enjoying the summer sunshine close by the waterfall.




Around the waterfall are abandoned blocks of stone of unknown age. However it is many decades since this area was quarried.



Cave Hole is a huge cave with a blow hole at the top. The cave takes a battering. How many more waves like this will it take to undermine the cave roof to the point where it all comes crashing down?

An old wooden hand-driven crane is in the background.


There is an extensive article about ‘Cave Hole’ and its associated ‘Blow Hole’ which can be read here.


Copyright Richard Tate

Many thanks to Richard Tate for allowing me to reproducing his picture showing the inside of the cave with the shadows of the iron bars shining down. Great picture!


Copyright Richard Tate

Above we see the view from the sea of the cave and crane above it.


On 4th June 1949 the ‘Reliance’ ran aground in Cave Hole as seen above. A description of the events leading up to this wreck and the death of one of the two people on board can be read here.

A local  tale surrounds the cave that it is home to ‘Roy Dog’. This is a black dog, as high as man, with large fiery eyes; one green, one red. It is said that the creature emerges from the watery depths to seize any traveller passing by Cave Hole and drags them down into his dark watery domain.

This is similar to the description of another spectral black dog with large saucer shaped eyes, which prowls the island during the hours of darkness, called ‘The Row Dog’.

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One of Portland's most interesting natural features is the blowhole about one kilometre along the eastern coastline from The Bill. there is an article about this fascinating feature here.

The roof of a large cave has broken through to the surface and lies in a hollow. Visitors are protected by steel bars and it has been possible to stand on this rusting grating and watch the waves pounding into the cave far below.

Once, during a storm, I stood here when a huge wave pounded into the cave below and a jet of water came roaring out of the hole like a liquid volcano. I could see it coming up the vent. I turned and tried running out of the depressed crater.

To no avail.

A huge ‘volcano’ of frothing seawater shot high in the air and fell on top of me; drenching me and my son Dave who had ill advisedly gone into the crater with me after I has assured him it was perfectly safe. - drenching me to the skin.


Then, in the late 1980s, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, in its infinite wisdom, decided to block off the hole with heavy stone slabs as shown because it was feared that the blow hole was dangerous.

In fact, the huge weight of the slabs greatly increased the risk of the cave roof collapsing and people were more tempted to stand on the stones than they would have been to stand on the rusty iron grating!


A storm in January 1990 caused massive waves to roar into the cave and up the blowhole.

The waves lifted the slabs - each weighing about 2 tonnes - and dropped them, smashing them as shown; an awesome demonstration of the power of the sea.


The council workers put the smashed stones back together on the grill like pieces of a giant’s jigsaw puzzle. This again prevented the public from looking down into the cave.

In 2004 the broken slabs were yet again tossed into the air by giant waves roaring up in the cave and the above picture shows the result. Back where we started.


By 2007 the local Council then tired of rearranging the massive stone slabs on the steel grill. They built a new stronger grill and arranged the remnants of the old slabs around the edge.

This means that the stones are safe from further rearrangement by storm waves and visitors can stand on the edge of the hole and look down.

In the current climate of Health and Safety madness, I expect the hole to be concreted over, a two metre high steel fence to be erected and this all be topped with razor wire just in case anyone should become dizzy looking through the grating, fall and hit their head on the ground; thereby creating a huge compensation claim upon the local tax payers.

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A classic image of Portland represented by the old hand-driven wooden crane and the boats on the cliff-top. The above picture is from 1972 and the picture below is from 1990.









Book Cover

In 1972 I published a guide book for people who couldn't be bothered to walk more than one hundred yards from their car in and around South Dorset.

For the cover I drove my Morris 1300 precariously to the crane and took this picture for the book’s cover.

I sold 7,000 copies and made �38 profit - hardly a fortune even in 1972!

The cover price was 25 pence of which I got one penny whilst W H Smith got 10 pence on a 'sale or return' basis for displaying it and the publisher took all the rest.

I decided at that point that being a writer was a mug's game and that being a bookseller was the career to follow.

Instead -  I became a scientist...

In 2007 a copy of this guidebook was advertised for sale on a German rare books website for 140 Euros! I wished I had kept back a lot of copies.



This natural cave exists on this stretch of coastline close to the crane. It is not too difficult to reach with care  from a point near the sawmill remains. It goes about 10 metres (30 feet) back from the entrance.


The typical remains of a tramway track where trucks loaded with stone waste were hauled by horses or ancient steam locomotives to the cliff edge and then emptied to create the scree slopes that are so numerous around Portland's coastline. The remains of iron spikes exist in these stone sleepers showing how the rails were fixed.


A quarry created by the backfilling technique - as the quarry face on the left is removed the unwanted stone is piled up behind the workers.







There are many marker stones scattered around this area like these.



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Seven Cover Picture

At the age of 75 I started a new hobby - writing and publishing books. All of these are available as paperbacks from Amazon - please click here for details.



Keywords Cave Hole Crane Blow Hole Quarrying Portland Dorset