Cliffs North-West of Southwell
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A small section of precipitous cliff is all that exists in this small slice of Portland.
Somewhere in the area is an extensive cave system called Windy Dig.
In the late 1980s I was taken by qualified cavers into these tunnels - my only serious excursion underground on Portland.
It was an unforgettable experience. I was taken through 'squeezes' which were so narrow that I had to detach the lamp battery from my belt and push it ahead of me. I slid head first down steep muddy slopes and climbed wire ladders left by previous explorers.
The worst part was getting out - I seemed to have put on several inches around my waist whilst underground and it took a great deal of pushing by several cavers backed up behind me to get me through the exit hole!
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In January 2015 I received the following fascinating story from a visitor to this website. He is unable to remember exactly where this cave existed but it sounds like it was in the vicinity of the area shown on the image at left.
“As boy I loved exploring and have visited many of the places that you describe. At the time I lived in Pound Piece and used to go fishing amongst the rocks beneath Blacknor Fort. Access could be achieved via the relatively recent quarry workings to the south of the fort.
One day a friend and I decided to explore the track from the quarry access towards the Bill. Some distance along the track - how far I can't remember - we saw a fissure and not too high.
We decided to have a go at climbing up but to get to the bottom of the fissure meant getting through a huge bush. This we did and on pushing into the fissure noticed that steps had been cut into each side. We climbed up and up until the fissure opened out into a small cave. Inside the cave we found the rusted remains of a flintlock pistol and several other artefacts.
From there it was only a short climb to the top of the cliff. We took the pistol to the Portland museum but the curator said that it was too badly damaged to be of interest and that was that! No interest was shown in the location of the find. Unfortunately I no longer have any of the artefacts one of which was a folding magnifying glass.”
A view from the safety of the cliff tops. Southwell Business Park/IPACA dominates the skyline.
The cliffs around here seem stable but, if a difficult and dangerous climb is made, we find places where huge lumps of stone have detached and slid away from the cliffs.
Although Portland appears eternal the huge mass of limestone lies on a bed of soft Kimmeridge Clay.
A geologist once explained to me that if Portland were given a strong enough push, it would slide sideways into the sea!
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Keywords Cliffs Westcliff Portland Dorset