The stretch of Dorset's coast from Abbotbury to the Isle of Portland offer stunning views of Chesil Beach. The beach is famous for its chert and flint pebbles that increase in size from west to east. Chesil Beach along with The Fleet are important wildlife sites. Linked to the western end of Chesil beach is Abbotsbury where there has been a swannery since Benedictine monks used to rear them for grand banquets.
Where Chesil beach ends lies the Isle of Portland famous for its quarries for Portland stone and its lighthouses at Portland Bill. Today Portland is a great location for walks and birdwatching. Portland Harbour, the deepest man-made harbour in the country is going to be the location for the 2012 Olympic Games Sailing Trials.
Between Portland near Weymouth and West Bay lies Chesil Beach. Chesil Beach is famous the world over as the shingle beach where the stones gradually decrease in size from Portland to West Bay. It is an eighteen mile stretch of pebble beach that extends from West Bay to Portland.
Its technical name is a tombolo that acts as a natural sea defence protecting the coast from the battering waves of the English Channel. Chesil Beach is formed from pebbles that vary in size from pea-sized pebbles at West Bay through to larger sized pebbles at Portland. They're mainly made up of chert and flint that wash up from Budleigh Salterton in Devon.
Both Chesil Beach and The Fleet are protected wildlife sites. Chesil Beach has long been used in the study of geomorphology where beach processes can easily be interpreted. Several plant species that are specialists of this kind of habitat occur here including sea kale, yellow-horned poppy, sea pea, shrubby sea blite, sea holly and Portland spurge. Large populations of little terns and ringed plovers also breed here.
The Fleet is the largest tidal lagoon in Britain stretching for 13 kilometres behind Chesil Beach. It is important for its geomorphology as well as plant life that attracts the mute swans at Abbotsbury and wigeon that overwinter on the lagoon. Several other waders can be seen over winter as they pass through on migration including dunlin and lapwing. The reedbed attracts sedge and reed warblers along with the rare Cetti's warbler.
The Fleet was the testing ground for the Barnes Wallis Bouncing Bomb that was used in the famous Dambusters Raid. However, birdwatching and fishing are more likely pastimes today with shore fishing being popular particularly in the Fleet lagoons.
If you want to find out more about Chesil Bank and The Fleet pay a visit to the Chesil Beach Visitor Centre at Ferrybridge between Weymouth and Portland. There are interpretive displays explaining more about the geology and wildlife of Chesil Beach and The Fleet Nature Reserve. Regular guided walks are also organised from the Centre. The Centre is open all year round between 10am-5pm and 1-am-4pm in winter.
Chesil Visitors Centre, Portland Beach Road, Portland, Dorset DT4 9XE. Tel: 01305 760579. Fax: 01305 759692. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Isle of Portland is south of Weymouth and is the most southerly point in Dorset. It's famous for its stone that has been quarried for centuries providing features for famous national monuments such as St Paul's Cathedral. Today the island is renowned more for its wildlife, peace, quiet and lighthouses.
Portland Bill, the most southerly tip of the "island" draws visitors from all over the world. Its distinctive red and white lighthouse still operates today and you can visit the Lighthouse Visitor Centre to find out more about the history of lighthouses on Portland and more generally.
Portland Harbour, the deepest man-made harbour in the UK is going to be the location for the 2012 Olympic Games sailing trials. In the meantime it's an ever popular venue for a range of watersports.
Abbosbury is an historic village in West Dorset between Bridport and Weymouth. It has several family friendly attractions as well as the world famous Swannery.
Abbotsbury is towards the western end of Chesil Beach and The Fleet Lagoon. As well as the swans that feed on the plant life within The Fleet these are important wildlife areas. There are several walks around Abbotsbury that take you down to Chesil beach as well as over the hills and some other historic sites nearby.