Weymouth – Portland Walk – 14.10.2012

Steam trains rattling along this beautiful branch line with the Autumn leaves hanging overhead, busily dropping off and picking up its passengers on its usual day to day journey. Sadly, this line is now abandoned, shut down as part of Dr Beeching axe and there are only echoes of what the line might have once been. This line has now used a lovely walk, known as the “Rodwell Trail”.

The trail begins at “Westham Halt” in the middle of Weymouth. I always thought that a halt on a railway not to be very large, however, this platform was quite long. I imagine that this would have been full of passengers once all bustling trying to find there way on to the train. Instead of a busy platform in 2012, it is a busy path, in this section of the “Rodwell Trail”, it is very well used by cyclists and locals. This is probably because it is a great walk through Weymouth which avoids any roads šŸ™‚

As we proceeded onwards along the trail, it was not long before reached station “Rodwell”. Because of the dark shadows that the surrounding trees cast, this stop seemed to be very haunting. The platform edge in some areas seemed well preserved to me and it suddenly felt very eery to be walking along a rail line, albeit abandoned. We could even see a path that led to the platform from the residential area behind the station, even renewed perhaps this was the original entrance that led to the station all those years ago?

From 2012 – 14.10.2012 – Weymouth – Portland Walk

Whilst pondering these things, it seemed very quick for us to come across a tiny halt called “Sandsfoot Castle”. Not much of it is left, just a few wooden beams, I can’t even begin to see where any passengers may have waited for a train! Unlike the other stops, this halt was about to bring us away from the gloomy part of the trail and out into the bright sunshine. “Sandsfoot Castle” halt is so called, probably due to the fact it is near the actual castle which sits along the Weymouth Coastline.

Our walk was not to include this castle, so we were unable really appreciate it. However, as the walk continued, we could view right across Weymouth Bay and “Sandsfoot Castle” through the bushes šŸ™‚ . It was easy to see why King Henry VIII would have ordered a castle to be built here, so that it would provide a defence for the Harbour. The castle has a spectacular view and could have seen any enemy ships for miles.

As we turned our attentions away from the view, or what we could see of it, we found that we were approaching another halt. Although we did not come across the halt sign for a while, the concrete risers either side of the pavement, seemed to give some sort indication that a station or halt was around. Sure enough through the undergrowth we could still make out the original platform for “Wyke Regis” Halt.

From 2012 – 14.10.2012 – Weymouth – Portland Walk

We walked away from “Wyke Regis” Halt and found that this would be the last one on this part of the trail. The path brought us out into the open and it felt really nice to be no longer surrounded by trees and bushes so we could really enjoy the shoreline. We decided to take a look over the edge of the coast path and we noticed some odd rods/beams sticking up from the beach. We began to wonder if these strange looking metal and stone rods were part of some kind of pier structure that once stood along the shore at one time. In fact we were correct, these were some of the original supports of the “Torpedo test pier”.

The deathly underwater torpedo was invented by Robert Whitehead and it was here in 1891 the “Whitehead Torpedo Factory” was built. Torpedoes were used widely during the two world wars as part of an underwater defence. All that is left today of the factory is a commemorative stone and a few stones of the test pier. The final Torpedo which was built in the factory was in 1969 and the factory eventually closed in 1994, the factory was demolished in 1997 for the housing development which is now standing in its place. It is hard to believe that in such a quiet suburb that all this took place all those years ago and as the sun was shining over the sea it made it even more difficult to imagine that torpedoes used to once rip through the bay!

We walked away from the old factory site and towards the Isle of Portland. Clearly we were still walking old Rodwell Rail line, the width of the path was good indication. Unlike other paths we have encountered in the past, this path was even and wide, definitely enough to take a single track rail. Paths we normally follow are narrow, uneven and even unpredictable! On the opposite side to the trail, we could see Chesil beach rising high out of the Fleet lagoon. The route passes over the Ferrybridge, the only place where the lagoon meets the sea. I have previously encountered about a year ago, but had not seen lagoon that the beach had created.

From 2012 – 14.10.2012 – Weymouth – Portland Walk

The rail trail was to bring us out onto Osprey Quay and out around the National Sailing Academy. The Academy is where some of our finest Olympic and Paralypmic Sailors have trained, we were so privileged to spot a Paralympian Sailing boat that was in dry dock, it could have belonged to the gold medalist Helena Lucas or even the Bronze Medalist team Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell! The route was a little tricky follow and the signs for the South West Coast path were a little hidden amongst in the car park.

Eventually we found our way and it led us out to “Portland Castle”. Unlike Sandsfoot Castle, Portland Castle looked very much intact. The castle is completely built from Portland stone and dates from 1540 and it even experienced some action with France and Spain, as well as the English Civil War, but from it the way it looks you I don’t think you can really see that (well from the outside anyway!)

The South West Coast Path, did a strange turn here, and was no longer a coast path and was to take us uphill. We were no longer on the Rodwell Rail Trail, but we were joining the “Merchants Railway”. Our walk was now to take us along this much older and abandoned rail line, along to the Portland Quarries. Unlike the walkers of today taking in the beautiful views, this rail line was for a more practical use, it was not a passenger line it was used for taking the Portland Stone from the Quarry to a Pier where it was to be shipped all over the country to be used for building. All along the path, we could see where the tracks may have once been.

From 2012 – 14.10.2012 – Weymouth – Portland Walk

This was obviously quite a network of lines once as we could see 3 stone bridges that were still intact but were only use to walkers these days and not steam engines. Just when I was beginning to feel that the path had brought us to a dead end, I discovered it had brought us to a large stone structure which was hidden beneath the ground. This was the “Verne” prison, a building which was originally in 1847 and over 2 years over 3 million bricks were laid by 180 prisoners to create their own jail cells! I don’t think prisoners today would be allowed to do that!

We caught up with the path once again which was take us past the famous Portland Stone Quarries. We knew we had truly reached the end of the line when we came across the old engine sheds on East Weares Cliff. There are some great plans for the sheds to be turned into an Educational Centre. The path continued took us past yet another prison, I don’t think it was the same one! when we reached a small path which took us down to the coast.

It was a truly dramatic part of the walk as we could see the stone cliffs towering above us. As we walked around, these cliffs are truly a challenge as we came across quite a number of climbers tackling them! It was hard to believe that once a railway cut through these rocks to bring tourists to Portland! We spotted the last remaining bridges that once spanned over the railway, you can see how the quarrying of Portland Stone has changed the landscape of Portland over the years

From 2012 – 14.10.2012 – Weymouth – Portland Walk

We reached a point in our walk where we needed to make a decision, to go on to Portland Bill or come off to walk into Portland. We felt that we were going to leave Portland Bill for another time. We decided to head inland, in doing so we passed by the Portland Museum, which was closed so we couldn’t visit it šŸ˜¦ . We carried on into the little village of Easton, where we finally sat and ate lunch in the late afternoon šŸ™‚ .

We begun our walk back towards Weymouth from Easton, but via the roads and not along the coast path. It was not really that bad as the roads were not too busy on that Sunday afternoon. As we approached a main roundabout, I was rather struck by seeing what look liked a stone castle that was built on it – anyone with any ideas what it is? From a height we were walking I did spot the Olympic rings that had been adorning Weymouth in the Summer, it was so nice to see that they were still around šŸ™‚ . Taking a shortcut from the path we walking we briefly rejoined the old railway network which once fed the quarry.

We were nearing the end of the walk, particularly as we could see the sun was setting as we were walking. The sunset was reflecting on fleet lagoon making it eerily quiet and dark by the time we had reached there. We knew it was time to finish our walk for the day.

For all of walks photos please click on the photo below –

2012 – 14.10.2012 – Weymouth – Portland Walk

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2 responses to “Weymouth – Portland Walk – 14.10.2012

  1. Pingback: Maidenhead ā€“ Windsor ā€“ 26.04.2013 « Karen's Sponsored Walks

  2. Pingback: Sudbury – Walthamstow Marshes – Via Capital Ring « Karen's Sponsored Walks

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