Stone Carving In Portland
The drive to the Isle of Portland in the art school mini bus took four hours. The "island" of Portland in Weymouth Bay is approached by a causeway.
The area looked similar to the West coast of Ireland - a rugged, lush green and hilly landscape which is to become a UK UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Caravan Park, which was to be our home for the following week, is situated on a spectacular clifftop with an impressive seascape view.
I was a bit worried as I have not even been camping and I was not sure that living in a caravan was my sort of thing .... Surprisingly the caravan was quite large and I grew very attached to it. Sharing a caravan with eight other girls was probably not the best beginning for a novice but there were no real arguments - even over the bathroom. In fact we adapted to the space limitations with remarkable ease, all becoming increasingly more polite and apologetic when moving around!
We explored our new surroundings, venturing into the hills; along the coastal paths and into Tout Quarry.
We were told that in Portland no one can say "rabbit" - even if they see one .... In Portland "rabbit" means bad luck as in the past, rabbit burrows caused landslides in the quarries killing quarrymen.
At the end of a long day we visited the local public house which was small and quite old - an unusual pub but fairly typical of Portland.
I woke early at seven o'clock - perhaps I had better make that unusually early - and joined the others to make the half hour walk to the quarry (this also allowed for stops at bakeries along the way).
We spent the morning finding a good piece of stone, securing our benches and beginning our tentative carvings.
At lunchtime we decided to find Chesil Beach which was a steep walk downhill. The large pebbles made walking difficult. On the beach we watched the sea and thought momentarily about paddling but the currents are very strong and there is a steep slope into the sea.
If we thought the walk down to the beach was taxing, it was nothing compared to the walk back to the Quarry ....
In the evening we made our way to the cove to collect drift-wood and light a bonfire waiting for darkness to come. When it came, darkness descended with a vengence and only then did we realise our mistake, no torch!! An interesting walk back holding on to the person in front promising to buy a torch the next day.
We started early again with a walk to the quarry which became part of our routine - including the stops at the bakery.
The quarry was a sun trap and after several hours carving we decided to explore some of the coastal paths ending up in our own cove. The wind was quite strong but we took a blanket to the beach and played cards stuggling against the wind.
Today we abandoned the stone-carving and walked to the Bill of Portland and the lighthouse - about a ten mile walk there and back.
The strong winds on the coastal paths ensured that it was a refreshing experience. The scenery was beautiful and we learnt that parts of Portland used to be well-known for smuggling.
In the evening a visit to the pub helped to revive us although we woke slightly later the following morning.
We spent our last full day stone carving. At lunch time we had a picnic in the quarry, surrounded by all the amazing carvings sculpted into the landscape. Famous artists such as Anthony Gormley had left their mark. After lunch we searched for ammonite sections which are readily available in fair sized pieces.
Before leaving the quarry we assessed the week's course and returned the borrowed tools. Our last evening was spent at the "local" (pub).
Early in the morning we set about packing and cleaning the caravan. We left Portland with a sound knowledge of its pubs; an appreciation of Portland's rugged beauty and a renewed admiration of stone-carving and masons. We travelled back to university via Stonehenge - one of the earliest and impressive structures in stone. (2001)