The Bill of Portland derives its name from its resemblance to that of a bird’s bill. It may look treeless and barren, but there is much to see and enjoy in this important part of the Jurassic Coastline.
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Rough Seas and Blow Hole at Portland Bill
Winter sea swell at Portland Bill and its spectacular display
The exposed rock surface around the sea stack of Pulpit Rock is known as Snail Shore. It contains millions of snail, oyster and mollusc shells that was once a Jurassic seabed thriving with marine life around 150 million years ago.
Eastern Raise Beach Seashells
The eastern raised beach consists of coarse Portland and Purbeck Limestone blocks interspersed with sand and shell debris. These were deposited here on an ancient shoreline around 125,000 years ago when sea levels rose during an interglacial period.
Portland’s dramatic landscape is shaped by the stresses placed upon it by the Weymouth Anticline, a huge fold thrown up during the mountain building period that created the Alps when the continents of Africa and Europe collided around 30 million years ago. The uplifting process tilted the Isle and created cracks and gullies that shape the towering cliffs to the west and the boulder strewn landslides in the east.
The uplifting of Portland has tilted the Isle so the cliffs on the west side are higher than those on the east.
This means the western cliffs erode in a completely different way from those on the opposite side.
The cliffs of East Weare are subject to large sprawling landslides, such as the Great Southwell Landslip, where the cliffs have fallen “down dip”, while the cliffs on the western side of the Isle tend to topple into the sea where they have fallen “up dip”.
All the falls and slides on either side of the island are parallel, following the cracks and fissures created
Two raised beaches at Portland Bill represent the significant changes in sea level and climate change during the last Ice Age.
The powerful stormy seas that batter this stretch of the Jurassic Coastline during the winter have undercut the limestone cliffs forming a series of spectacular sea caves.
Portland Bill is the ideal place to come when the seas are rough. During a south westerly gale, the waves hit Portland Bill with full force from waves that have built up in the Atlantic. If you’re really lucky, and its high tide, you may even see some of the blow holes. These form where cracks and fissures within the rock funnel the water. Where there is an escape route, the pressure is released, often squirting a fountain of white water several meters into the air.
Coastal Visitor Centre
Portland Bill Visitor Centre
Town/Village or Area:
Tourist Info Centres
in this Area: Limestone Grassland, Quarry Wildlife, Butterflies and Moths, Birds
Interest: The Portland Estate, The Portland Bill Lighthouse, White Obelisk, Higher and Lower Lighthouses, Medieval Strip Field Systems