Dancing Ledge

Recently I was on holiday in Dorset on day it poured with rain all day long. In the evening I wanted to do for a walk by myself. The rain still hadn’t let up, but at 8.50pm I set off from Tom’s Field anyway, and walked up the hill. I wanted to see the sea.

As I walked the rain and the wind got stronger and stronger and it was getting darker. I reached the top of the hill, but I still couldn’t see the sea, so I kept on walking. the rain was stringing my face so much I had to look down as I walked.

I ran for a bit, but the wind was so strong that I had to stop. My jeans and my boots were now soaked through from the rain so it didn’t matter as I splashed through the deep puddles.

An errant though entered my head – I could go swimming at Dancing Ledge. Conflicting thoughts clashed in my head. It would be pretty cool, but also pretty daft. Swimming in verthat juy bad weather, in the twilight, miles from any other soul. I had an internal battle common sense vs. something else…

I got to the brow of the hill where I could finally see the sea bellow. I still couldn’t see Dancing Ledge, but it was a steep climb of a few hundred feet or so down to the sea. My internal battles continued. I had said I was just nipping out for a quick walk when I left about 20 minutes earlier… so I was aware that time was getting on.

I told myself that I had to at least carry on to stand at the top of the cliff… I had to be as close to the sea as I could. I gingerly made my way down a very dark and very muddy track between Hawthorne hedges and led into a meadow that plunged steeply down to the cliff top.

Conscious of the time, but determined to go on, I started running again until I reached the bottom of the meadow and reached the cliff top – a semi circular ledge taken out of the hillside and floored with naked stone. A series of ledges dropping away to the sea, remnants of the quarrying that made this place.

The sea was roaring and I couldn’t even tell if the swimming hole was already under the tide. If the hole was already submerged there was no way I would be getting into the wild sea. I scrambled down the ledges to get as close to the sea as I could and saw the swimming hole below me on the bottom ledge at the edge of the sea.

I walked along the ledge looking for a way down to the pool, but there was no apparent way down. Eventually I found a kind of narrow crack that I was able to scramble down and then jump left last 3 or 4 feet to the ledge. The pool lay in front of me about 20 feet long a rough rectangle blasted out of the rocks a hundred years ago. A feet passed the pool the ledge ended and the sea began as waves rolled over the ledge and foamed across the surface.

I got undressed and slipped into the water a dart of pain flashed across my shoulders as if all the accumulated tiredness and tension of the year were flushed out of me. I swam a length of the pool and back in the black but surprising warm water. The tide was starting to come in over the ledge and I scrambled out quickly. By the time I got dressed the water was lapping around my boots. I pulled myself back off the ledge and began the long walk back.