Church Ope Cove was formed during Britain’s second largest recorded historical landslide, the Great Southwell Landslip, which occurred in 1734 between Durdle Pier and Freshwater Bay, a distance of 1 ½ miles (2km).
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The Royal Manor of Portland, St Andrew's Church and Rufus Castle
A brief introduction to the Royal Manor of Portland, Portland's first Parish church of St. Andrews and Rufus Castle
Coastal Features: Portland’s Geology, The Great Southwell landslip
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
The Great Southwell landslip
The Great Southwell Landslip is Britain’s second largest recorded historical landslide. The event occurred in 1734, between Durdle Pier and Freshwater Bay, a distance of 1 1/2 miles (2 km). The cracks and gullies within the cliffs of Portland allow rain water to easily percolate down through the layers of Purbeck Beds, Portland Limestone and Portland Sand to the underlying impermeable Kimmeridge Clay below. Because the Isle tilts to the south and the east, caused by the uplifting process, the water collects at the lowest points.
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Portland Bill Visitor Centre
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in this Area: Butterflies and Moths, Bunnies
It is deemed unlucky to say “Rabbits” on Portland as they were often thought to be responsible for creating accidents by their digging undermining the stability of quarry workings. But despite being unpopular, their numbers thrive amongst the Great Southwell Landslip and the numerous disused quarries on the Isle.
Butterflies and Moths
Portland’s disused quarries, grassy wildflower meadows and landslips are a good place to see butterflies and moths. Of Britain’s 2,500 species of moth, over 800 have been recorded on Portland. In addition to moths, over half of Britain’s 57 different species of Butterfly have also been found here. While many live out their short lives on Portland, not all are permanent residents. Some are migrants, heading to our country from the continent to breed, while others are just incidental visitors, having been blown out into the English Channel until they reach the landfall of Portland - some have even been carried all the way from Africa!
Interest: The Portland Estate, The Portland Railway, St. Andrews, Rufus or Bow and Arrow Castle
The Portland Estate
Around 250 hectares of land on Portland are currently managed by the Crown Estate. This is part of the “Royal Manor of Portland” which has been in the of the Crown’s possession since Saxon times.
Around 160 hectares of the Estate is common land, which was traditionally used by the locals for the grazing of their animals and the removal of stone. The land is supervised by one of the last surviving Courts Leet in Britain, having been in operation since 800AD. Portland’s Court Leet meets on the third Friday of November every year, when matters involving income derived from fines and rents for the encroachment onto common land can be administered.
Rufus or Bow and Arrow Castle
The medieval remains of Rufus castle, locally known as “Bow and Arrow Castle” may have been built as early as the Reign of William 2nd, (1087-1100) whose nickname was King Rufus. This was reputedly captured by Robert, Earl of Gloucester in 1142 and was subsequently rebuilt by the Duke of York between 1432 and 1460 as defence against French raiders during the end of the Hundred Years War. The castle has been added to over the years but now lies in ruins.
Portland’s first parish church, St. Andrews, provided the medieval population’s main meeting place for over 500 years. There is evidence the church may have been in existence here since before the Norman Conquest in 1066. What is certain, however, is that the church underwent frequent building works to strengthen and modify it over the centuries, but in the end it fell ruin to the landslip upon which it was built.
The Portland Railway
The slopes of East Weare were the unlikely route for Portland’s public railway that transported passengers, goods and stone to the mainland.
The Easton and Church Ope railway was built on one of the most unstable parts of the Island, the Southwell Landslip, which overlies soft, Kimmeridge Clay.
The line was prone to rock falls and landslides and an elaborate early warning system would set the signals to red if a fall tripped the wire strung alongside the track.
The railway was closed on several occasions, most notably in 1907 when a whole section of track plunged down the hillside.
But with the advent of better road transportation the last train ran in 1965 and the track was finally removed in 1971.