Diving off Dancing Ledge

GREY and roiling, the sea pours off Dancing Ledge, sucked down as another wash hurls over the top.

Geologists call this flat and black-cratered outcrop ‘prickle bed J‘ or ‘puffin ledge’. Locals call it Dancing Ledge, because tides swirling over giant ammonites make it look like the rock is dancing. (They also call it Hollywood).

On the lower ledge, a swimming pool’s been blasted out. In the last century, it was used by the pupils of Durnford Prep School, including Ian Fleming. Today, two chaps in wetsuits dive into the spume, over and over again.

Above is an old quarry, where Portland stone was hewn and hauled to Ramsgate, to build the harbour wall.

The boom and roar is ceaseless. Basking in sunshine, we picnic above Dancing Ledge and watch the rock climbers. A family barbecues sausages on a fallen piece of stone. Children scramble in the sunshine. A couples read novels on the clifftop, with a can of cider and a dog.

Above us towers Spy Hill, named for the excise officers who snooped on brandy smugglers in the 1800s. It’s said a man could see French ships from there. Well, it seems the French can see us – our mobiles bleep with greetings from Bouygues Telecom. We quickly switch off international data roaming, to avoid racking up huge phone bills. 

What a wonderful walk. We park at St George’s Church in Langton Matravers. Behind The Ship Inn, we follow a path across National Trust fields. A friendly horse nudges our backpacks in search of treats. There are bees, and butterflies. It could be summertime. The ground is cracked and baking. A skylark is singing its heart out. Through holes in the hedges topping dry stoned walls, we see the great sweep of Swanage cliffs.

In front of us, a mile away, lies the sea.

At first, it’s indistinguishable from the sky. Although hazy, the light sparkles on the water. I’ve heard that for artists, the Isle of Purbeck is the new St Ives.

On my belly, I inch towards the cliff edge to snatch a photo of what lies beneath. It’s spectacular.

Along the cliff, some climbers are all togged up and braver than me.

Our faces are pink from the sun. We stagger back up Spy Hill and stop in Dorset’s best pub garden – The Scott Arms at Kingston, overlooking Corfe Castle. They’ve run out of the local scrumpy – Joe’s Cider – so I try a bottle of Perronelle’s Blush – Suffolk cyder with a hint of blackberry liqueur. Ah, this is the life.


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