What is the connection between this ancient stone quarrying  item and the Olympics 2012 ?

This early victorian beam crane was used here on the “Isle” of Portland, Dorset, to lower , manually, huge blocks of white limestone onto barges to be transported around the British Isles and beyond. Portland stone had been quarried on Portland for generations and the stone has been used in the construction of many important buildings including St. Paul’s Cathederal , London. Portland in fact is not an Island, rather a huge limestone  outcrop separated from the mainland by a  causeway. That causeway is partly formed by an eighteeen kilometre long raised shingle beach known as Chesil Beach.

Chesil Beach, joins Portland to the mainland near the seaside town of Weymouth in Dorset.

 To understand the link between the London Olympics 2012 we need to have a wider angle view from this position, known locally as Portland Heights, with its fantastic panoramic views. The roadway you can see  top of the picture right snakes it way to Wyke Regis, my former home. The shingle beach stretches all the way to Abbotsbury.

The vast expanse of water , middle of the photograph, is one of the largest man-made harbours  in the world. Portland Harbour covers over two thousand acres of water. It is to be the venue for the Olympic sailing events in 2012.

Portland harbour is now a popular venue for all-year-round recreational kite surfing and wind surfing.

Looking eastward, from the road side on Chesil Beach, you can see , in the distance the structure used to create the harbour between the rolling hills and the water . Construction of the harbour was begun in 1841. Over six million tons of limestone blocks were used to enclosed the water with a chain of breakwaters at a cost back then of over a million pounds. Most of the hard manual work was  done using gangs of convict labour, inmates  from the prison on Portland and it took some twenty three years to complete. There is still a Category C prison on Portland, “The Verne” which was originally a heavily fortified  army citadel.  The harbour was home to the Royal Navy for many years, although these days , following rationalisation of the armed services, there is no longer a major naval base at Portland but it is still home to a Naval Helicopter Air Sea Rescue Base. 

Sailing as a competitive sport is a fairly recent development. I spent my formative years in Weymouth and was a regular visitor to the beaches on the North side of the harbour and at Chesil. The safe sandy beaches of the resort of Weymouth were used for interntional dingy racing. There was a vibrant sailing club based at Sandsfoot within Portland Harbour . I recall the harbour proved ideal for attempts to break speed records for various sailing craft and that helped fuel the use of the harbour for international competitive racing. The waters around Portand Bill, the southerly tip of the “isle” are in fact a notoriously dangerous and the area saw a number of shipwrecks in the distant past. Although the harbour is relatively sheltered from the rougher costal seas, most days, the vast harbour guarantees often very windy conditions. A new sailing academy was  developed in recent years on the southerly shore of the harbour, at the Portland end of the causeway and that will be the centre of sailing races during the 2012 Olympics.
*Rocky beach on Portland :One of a series of thematic images from my home decor portfolio .
Portland is part of the world famous, world heritage Jurassic Coast and is one of the many spectacular lanscapes in the county of dorset where I grew up. to this day, when I visit my former home, no stay is complete without a trip off to the tip of Portland, Portland Bill, especially when the weather is stormy and you can see the awsome raw beauty and power of spectacular waves whipped up by the strong south westerly winds coming in from the English Channel. Here is a local landmark at Portland Bill, known as Pulpit Rock. Can’t  believe I climbed up on top of it in my mid teens !
Pulpit Rock, Portland Bill, Dorset
Disclaimer Please note : This text and  images in this article remain my intellectual property and are copyright and thus cannot be used in any publication or media without  my written consent. I maintain a large archive of high quality digital images illustrating various aspects of coastal and rural life in Dorset for editorial use. Please  e mail me if your require my services or images for editorial use   johne.coxon (@)ntlworld.com 

* To view my home decor themed images please visit  SEASCAPES

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