The edges of Dorset

The road narrows, grass grows down the middle and the edges begin to crumble. Potholed and patched, the tarmac gives way to loose rubble and turns into a dirt track. Gradually it spills out into a wide expanse, before fading away into scrub land. The scrub itself clings on until the cliff edge and there is nothing but the sky and sea beyond. Otherwise the track may dip and twist between woodland offering glimpses of the sea before tumbling onto a secluded beach and disappearing into the sand.

As a cyclist I have always been fascinated by roads; where they might take me and what could be at the end of them.

This series of photographs is an exploration of what is at the end of those roads.
The first part of the project was the Dorset coast. It’s an area I know well; it’s where I grew up. It runs for 88 miles from Poole Harbour in the east, through the Purbecks to Weymouth Bay and the punctuation mark that is Portland Bill. Chesil Beach sweeps off westward, capturing behind it the Fleet, until it reaches West Bay. Here the cliffs rise again to include the highest point along the south coast, Golden Cap. Finally, at Lyme Regis, Dorset ends.

Most of the main roads run along the coast although there are some that lead to seaside resorts such as Swanage or Weymouth. I was interested in the loose ends, the threads that unravelled from those roads and meandered to the more secluded parts of the coast.

I wanted to explore the roads, their changing state and their eventual disappearance.
I was keen to avoid where possible the more obvious ends such as Lulworth Cove or Portland Bill and wanted to seek out those roads that faded away, where the tarmac turned to a dirt track and eventually to open grassland or the sea itself. In each case I was using tracks that were, as far as I could establish, publicly accessible by bicycle such as bridleways or byways.

These photographs were taken in the summer of 2018 on a series of rides east and west from a base in Weymouth.

The places I found and recorded include a beach a short distance from a “Quiet Place” that looks like a scene from a book by Arthur Ransome; coastal views of Portland across Weymouth Bay from Ringstead: boats gently bobbing in the shelter of Chesil Bank; and found artwork beneath the terraced cliffs at Burton Bradstock.

Visit the Dorset coast gallery to view some of the photographs.

Published by Stephen Taylor

Freelance e-learning developer and instructional designer, photographer and cyclist

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