Walk - Legacy Trail 7 - Around Portland Quarries
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- Follow the Legacy Trail from New Ground Car Park into King Barrow Quarries, a Dorset Wildlife Trust Reserve, last quarried over 100 years ago.
Look out for clues of past quarrying. There are ‘beaches’ of quarry waste behind huge, dry stone walls stacked by quarrymen and old horse –drawn tramway routes used by wagons to transport stone.
In spring and summer, the quarries are ablaze with colour with wildflowers like pink wild thyme, pyramidal Orchids, yellow lady’s bedstraw and vetches and vipers bugloss with its vivid blue flower spikes.
As the path narrows, the Legacy Trail turns right to go through the quarrymen’s tunnel.
Take time to look straight ahead to the outcrop of unquarried rock. Take care there are steep drops. The top beds of Lower Purbeck (145 million years old) were formed in shallow, water lagoons surrounding low, forested islands; a thick layer of hard cap can be seen above a fossil soil. On the ledge is a fossil tree bole. Algae grew around the bases of trees, building up the doughnut shapes. Holes in rock around the quarry are not drill holes but cavities left by ancient tree branches. Dinosaurs roamed at this time too. We know because they have left their footprints on Portland!
Below, the Portland limestone (150 million years) was created in a shallow, tropical sea where giant ammonites swam. The top layer, ‘Roach Stone’, is full of fossils, moulds and casts of marine molluscs; bivalves known as ‘osses eads’, looking like horse heads, and turreted coiled snails called ‘Portland screws’. King Barrow has lots of them. Below, Base and Whit Beds, formed in deeper waters are the easily-cut and sculptured limestone, famous across the world and removed in large quantities from King Barrow Quarries.
Turn right to follow the Legacy Trail into ‘Jurassic Gully’ (left goes to the Verne Local Nature Reserve via an old horse drawn tramway route).
This is a quiet, sheltered gully with hart’s-tongue fern and the unusual ivy broomrape, a parasite of Ivy. Look out for a quarrymen’s shelter in the retaining wall. Leave the shade and come out onto shorter grassland with abundant wildflowers and a good butterfly spot. Look out for marbled white in longer grass and delicate blue butterflies on shorter turf and open rocky areas, including chalkhill, small and common blue and Portland’s special silver-studded blue. In late summer, the migrant clouded yellow butterfly may be seen.
Keep straight ahead until you see another footpath track coming in from the right. Turn right here leaving the Legacy Trail which goes to the left. Alternatively, you could go straight to see Admiralty, a modern quarry with a spectacular section through the rock strata, before returning to the route.
The non-native and highly invasive cotoneaster shrub is being removed. The ‘beaches’ are used by slow worms, common lizards and for nesting, by little owls.
- Follow the track straight on and out of the quarry, via a shady path to Easton Road. Turn right and then cross the road to follow the footpath sign into Inmosthay Quarry. This is an old horse drawn tramway route.
Enter Tout Quarry (leased by Dorset Wildlife Trust) through Lano’s 1850’s tunnel.
The path, a hot spot for chalkhill blue butterflies, passes another island of unquarried rock. The grayling butterfly may be seen sunning on bare ground, its wings closed for camouflage. In Tout
Quarry there are over 50 sculptures carved into the landscape to discover. There are interpretation panels with a map to help. Stop off at ‘Still Falling’, (Antony Gormley) -marked on the map. Take a short detour to see it.
- Follow the old railway line turning left into the quarry at the interpretation panels. Go past the sculpture workshop.
For more information about stone sculpture courses see www.learningstone.org.
Follow the track round. You can explore the quarry or continue up the main track to the open air workshop at the top with many sculptures and a panoramic view point. To continue on the circular walk turn right through Lanos Arch (1854), an impressive dry stone arch, out to the Coast Path.
This is one of several parallel, stone-walled gullies leading to the Coast Path and fabulous views.
These gullies allowed two-way traffic. Stone was carried along the cliff edge by a horse-drawn tramway to Priory corner. There it joined the Merchants’ railway down to Castletown. Waste stone and overburden was tipped over on to the weares. The remains of the tipping bridges can still be seen. Tout means ‘Lookout’. Take time to enjoy the fantastic views from here of Lyme Bay and Chesil.
- At the end of the gully turn right and follow the Coast Path to the sculpture and restored crane.
- Cross the road and turn left at the top. Continue along the road/footpath that crosses Old Hill through the Verne Local Nature Reserve, the route of the Merchant’s Railway line. At the road turn right, cross the Verne Yeates Incline bridge and rejoin the Legacy Trail, on the right, back up to New Ground.