The beautiful Isle of Portland
Portland is a tiny island just off the Dorset coast, 5 miles from the centre of Weymouth. Technically, it isn’t exactly an island rather it is ‘tied’ to Weymouth by an amazing bank of 180 billion pebbles that form the natural wonder that is Chesil Beach. A causeway road that runs next to the beach joins Portland to Weymouth. But we still call it an island none-the-less because apart from beach strip, we are surrounded by the sea.
Locally, Portland is affectionately known as The Rock, as it is famous for its Limestone. Christopher Wren (once an MP for Weymouth) chose Portland Stone to build St Paul’s Cathedral. Over 50 of London’s churches which were destroyed in the Great Fire are also built in ‘our’ rock. Whitehall’s Cenotaph, parts of the United Nations building in New York and many of the 2nd World War gravestones in Belgium and France are also made of Portland Stone.
The island is just over 4 miles long and slightly less than 2 miles wide. Many of the quarry’s have long given up all of their usable rock and now they have become places of interest in their own right. There is the Butterfly Quarry where more than half of the UK’s 57 species can be found. There’s is the slightly quirky Tout Quarry with it’s hidden sculptures and stone carvings and of course there is our famous lighthouse, Portland Bill. I don’t think pretty is the right word to describe Portland, apart perhaps from May when the island is covered with masses of wild flowers, but there is rugged, natural beauty and spiritual air that I find very appealing. The island is crisscrossed with paths many of which have amazing views of the land and the sea.
Portlanders are known to be independent. In centuries gone by, Thomas Hardy wrote about Portland in his book, The Isle of Slingers, so called because the unfriendly locals used to throw rocks at strangers! In the book he describes Fortuneswell
“Houses above houses, one man’s doorstep rising behind his neighbour’s chimney, the gardens hung up by one edge to the sky”
This apt description describes the location of The Jasmine House very well as the streets are both steep narrow. The stone houses of the village were built in a unique, quirky style and in a higgledy-piggledy manner which would leave today’s town-planners crying is despair. But I love that it is so unusual.
Today, Portlanders are very friendly and will welcome you warmly, especially if you have some time to chat! Life is slower down here than in the cities. It’s another reason why coming here is so healing.