Anthony Cook and ‘support team’ escaped the hum of the South-East to the tranquillity of a deserted sea pool
I am a 65-year-old bloke and while death is not imminent, my age does remind me of my mortality so I have decided to swim regularly to keep healthy. After just over a year of regular pool swimming I am surprised at how much stronger I feel and how much my swimming has improved, so I began searching around for a wild and watery adventure. I consulted my support team (Rita), and we decided upon a trip to Dancing Ledge on the Dorset coast. Dancing Ledge pool is a small pool blasted out of one of the ledges left by the quarrying of Portland stone on the Dorset coast. It is not the easiest place to get to, especially the last 10 or 12 feet, which are just about vertical; however, it is well worth the effort.
The walk to the ledge is about a mile and a quarter and it is lovely. You head off towards the sea and pass through the mysteriously named Spyways Farm and continue down a long steep slope towards the South West coastal footpath. Ravens and jackdaws were in an almost cloudless sky and stonechats were calling from the scattered gorse bushes that peppered the route down to the sea. Living in the midst of the South-East hum, as I do, means that it is unusual to hear nothing but natural sounds, which made this quiet walk especially enjoyable.
We reached the remains of the quarry, which is open to the sea on one side, and looked down onto Dancing Ledge itself. The pool, not more than a large rock pool, gleamed in the afternoon sunlight. We watched occasional waves sweep across the ledge flooding the pool with sparkling seawater. I could barely contain my excitement.
Rita was a little less enthusiastic.
“There is no way down” she said. I searched along the edge of the quarry for the steps that I was certain must exist, but there were none to be found anywhere. There seemed to be no access to the ledge at all.
Rita decided she had had enough and wanted to go back to the hotel for tea. Desperation lead me to decide on what turned out to be the route most people use to get down those last few feet: sliding down the rocks on my bottom. Landing with a thump I looked up about 15 feet above my head and wondered if I was going to be able to climb back up.
Safe inside the pool
The ledge is peculiarly beautiful; it is covered in strange hollows. The seawater dances as it runs over each of these little hollows and that is what gives the ledge its name. I had the whole place completely to myself. The sparkling water reflected the sky, making everything shimmer; everything seemed so alive with dazzling light. I quickly undressed and slid into the pool. The rock held me safe inside the pool, and then the waves began to come, skating over the ledge and breaking gently into the pool, showering my back with seawater needles. Wave after wave fell into the pool and broke over my head and shoulders, and, with every deluge that fell on top of me I felt as if I was being blessed by the sea itself. This was what I had come here for and it really could not have been more perfect. Alone, in a rock pool, in the sunshine, surrounded by healing salt seawater and seaweed; it was truly a wonderful experience.