Dutch sculptors in Tout’s Quarry, Portland….oh, and natures own creations, crumbling cliffs!

Turn down an unremarkable road past a row of industrial buildings and you come to one of my favourite places on Portland.

I love a visit to Tout’s Quarry, I think it just about personifies this island.

Portland is rugged, she is wild and windswept, thrusting out into the sea like a gesturing fist to the elements…and believe you me, the elements can certainly create havoc around her shores from time to time.

Portland is well know for one thing in particular, the brilliant white  stone which has been extracted for hundreds of years from the great slab that forms the land

The isle was formed from layers of sediment laid down millions of years ago, from a time when we basked in a warm Mediterranean climate and strange creatures roamed our shores and seas.

Over centuries quarries have dug deep into her heart and removed ton after ton of building blocks…much of which has been dispatched to the four corners of the world.


So fine is the quality of this stone that architects chose it to create great buildings and monuments, stone masons lovingly carve intricate details in it, sculptors choose to caress and create with it, and the wily Portland housewives of old even used the gleaming ‘Aish’ to whiten their steps.

Over time, many of those quarries became empty and disused, machinery left rotting, steam engines rusting, a veritable home to wild life and an adventure playground for marauding children.

Big plans were afoot for one of them though, Touts Quarry.

A project known as ‘The Circle of Stones’ was set up by a body of Dutch sculptors, Group 85, and what was once a deserted, disused, destitute piece of land became a veritable treasure trove, a place to explore and revel in.


A myriad of paths and walks lead you through the old deep gulleys and towering spoil heaps of the quarry…


…where wild flowers reclaim what ground it can get a foothold into and wild life find shelter in amongst.

In the midst of this union of man made brutality of ripped earth and rocks and softness of nature you find yourself suddenly coming across carvings that have been dotted through out the quarry.


From time to time the Dutch sculptors pack their bags and their tools and cross the Channel, they return to rework some of the original stone pieces, or create new ones.


Unlike their counterparts of old, technology follows in their wake, power tools and generators, sanders and grinders…


…the high powered rasp of steel on stone carries for some distance through the air and clouds of white dust drift with the breeze.

Though, of course, every so often,  they resort to the time honoured implements for the finer work…


But that’s not all Tout’s has to offer, she has a surprise waiting in the wings.

Travel a little further and you emerge out onto a well-trodden footpath that closely follows the contours of the steep cliffs, with one of the the most stunning views in the land, it’s one I never tire of.


Here, even Mother Nature creates her own crazy sculptures in stone…something which she has done so quite spectacularly in the past few days, when a large section of the footpath gave way, leaving jagged great scars ripped across the ground.


The once upright, solid supporting cliff now leaning forwards at a crazy angle, its smooth layers of limestone fractured into a thousand chunks…


…just waiting for that tipping point, ready to tumble tons of rock and rubble down the cliffs.


Despite the barriers and warning signs, there are those who I guess, feel they are invincible, and gingerly make their way across the gaping cracks and crevices to continue on their daily walks.

Eager photographers and the just plain inquisitive visit the newly gashed land, they stand and look on in awe..and watch with maybe a frisson of excitement, they wait a while longer and wonder, when will it go, will today be the day that Portland becomes just that little bit smaller?


But it’s time to leave this magical place with it’s scars in the land where strange  sculptures abound.


Even the workers have downed tools for a well deserved tea break, thirsty work this with the fine dust in the air and the glare from the surrounding stone.

Check out what the Victorian quarrymen got up to… https://susanhogben.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/1866-portland-quarry-men-and-boys/

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