Freshwater Bay, Portland
Freshwater Bay is a bay, located on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England; part of the Jurassic Coast. It is found on the east side of Portland, further south from Church Ope Cove, between the villages of Wakeham and Southwell, and alongside the Southwell Road.
Freshwater Bay, locally called Neddyfield, owes its name to a freshwater spring which emerged at the bottom of the square vertical face in the cliff, called Red Door. The grass covered building on top, between Cheyne house and the cliff top, was the pumping station for supplying fresh water to Portland via an intermediate pumping station adjacent to Folly Pier in the East Weares area. South of Red Door, large quantities of rock have been pushed over the cliff where previously there was a sandy beach. The cliffs of the bay have been much quarried in past centuries to produce a broad terrace or ledge along the cliff. During the 20th century, the nearby Southwell village was a rural, farming village, whilst fishing boats would often be launched from the bay. The Great Southwell Landslip, Britain's second largest recorded historical landslide, occurred in 1734, between Durdle Pier and Freshwater Bay, at a distance of one and a half miles.
Freshwater Bay is reputed to be one of the best places on Portland to access the Portland Stone for fossil locating. Within the bay's area, mollusc's and ammonites can be found, although the latter is not common, along with trace fossils. These can be collected from the cliff-top quarry or from the foreshore. However, fossils other than ripple marks and bivalves at the bay are not common and those that can be found are poorly preserved. The majority of ammonites have been taken. At the top of the cliffs at Freshwater Bay are the Purbeck Beds, from the Lulworth Formation. Of particular interest is the 'Top Cap' Bed, which contains fossil algae and tree trunks. Below this are the southern Portland Beds, from the Jurassic Cherty Member, with massive oolitic Portland Freestone in the upper part. A full succession of this, including the Basal Shell Bed, is located 200 metres to the north-west.
In relation to fishing, the area of Cheyne, which stretches from Church Ope Cove to Sand Holes, including the bay, is number four on the British Conger Club list of Conger Eel hot spots in the UK. Additionally, the area is known to be popular when fishing for Wrasse, Conger, Corkwing Wrasse, Pollack and many mini-species by day. During night, heavyweight species appear and Conger eels to more than 40lb have been caught, along with big rockling, occasional bull huss and a few double-figure bass. The cliffs of the bay are also popular with rock climbers.
Above Freshwater Bay, Cheyne House and the Cheyne Weare (viewpoint) car park sits on top of the cliffs. The house was used along with other locations across Weymouth and Portland in the 1963 film The Damned, starring Oliver Reed and Shirley Anne Field. At the foot of the cliffs of the bay is the man-made Cheyne Tunnel and vertical shaft which was once an essential part of the Island's water supply. The tunnel was blocked by a rockfall in 2011. To the right of the house is an old pumping station which capped a shaft which was driven down to around sea-level in mid-Victorian times. From this shaft, a horizontal tunnel was created. Originally, the entrance to the tunnel was protected by a steel door set into a carved stone archway. The shaft was part of a system for pumping drinking water through a three mile long pipe to Fortuneswell and the HM Prison Portland, in The Grove village. Later it would supply the Portland naval base.
The tunnel is 150 feet long and large enough to walk through. The spring that supplied the drinking water still runs along the tunnel floor today in winter. Following the 150 feet into the tunnel, a Victorian brick archway remains in place, and the tunnel's vertical shaft lies just beyond. Evidence of explorers, as well as stout timbers and old tramway rails girders remain, which have collapsed from above. The wooden planks laid over the rails were taken from quarries, whilst only the base of the shaft is bricked, and the rest carved out of the limestone. A plaque on the wall is also located in the tunnel. Over the decades, boulders and other debris such as lobster pots have been thrown into the tunnel by storms.
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