Chapman's Pool, Egmont Point and Egmont Bight - June 2020
This series is devoted to exploring Dorset and enjoying great coffee among outstanding scenery. We will explore well known locations alongside some lesser known gems. A simple concept but one that we are super excited to be able to showcase our home county!
The first trip descends to a small horseshoe shaped bay called Chapman's Pool in Purbeck. From there we strike out west along the shoreline past the rocks of Egmont Point and to the secluded beach at Egmont Bight. On foot, the beach is only accessible at low-tide from Egmont Point so I had to make sure I planned the timing correctly.
Walking west from the picturesque village of Worth Matravers takes you past Weston Farm and onwards to West Hill which offers views over the brilliantly clear waters of Chapman's Pool and out over towards the Isle of Portland. Carrying enough coffee brewing gear to launch an assault on the World Barista Championship I was lulled into believing it was a light load as I bounded down the steps towards the bay. Fuelled by the warm June weather and the spectacular vistas that panned out in front, I felt positively athletic. This was not to last. In the distance, a number of boats jostled for position in Chapman's pool maintaining an elaborate form of social distancing (we are in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown).
The steps snaking down to the horseshoe shaped Chapman's Pool with the impressive Houns-Tout cliff towering over it.
The steps snaked their way down the hillside and came to a single path flanked by undergrowth on each side. An awkward but polite stand-off ensued with a group of hikers as both camps refused to go first. Eventually I buckled and broke into a light jog to make up for lost time which did actually spark a slight degree of panic to the startled hikers. The path opens up and flattens out and branches left or right. Left continues on for access to Chapman's Pool but I took a slight detour to visit an abandoned Old Coastguard Station nestled within the flowering plants.
Abandoned Old Coastguard Station
In Dorset, there are a number of abandoned settlements or ghost towns and Chapman's Pool hosts a number of abandoned buildings from the lifeboat station that existed between 1866 to 1880. Turning back on myself I followed the path down to the old lifeboat station boathouse and slip found in the southeast corner of the bay. The lifeboat station was built in response to many mariners coming into difficulty on the treacherous ledges found along this stretch of coast. It existed for only a few years as the remote location made supporting it tricky and expensive.
Path down to the Old Boathouse and Slipway
From the jetty, I wandered around Chapman's pool to start making my way to Egmont Point. Along here it is a great place to look for fossils and you can find some quite large ammonites if you are more patient than I was. Chapman's Pool is usually relatively quiet compared to more accessible Dorset beaches but there were a scattering of people around enjoying the sunshine. It took a surprising amount of time to traipse around the shingle slaloming round those who had pitched up on the beach. Taking a moment to look back towards the boathouse, I then started out for Egmont Point, a rocky promontory jutting out from the coastline.
Looking across Chapman's Pool to the old Boathouse
There are a couple of small pocket bays to navigate round to get to Egmont Point and both were laden with large rocks to hop across. It made quite a nice change to the laborious shingle. Looking out onto the horizon I could see a number of cruise ships. These behemoths of the sea have congregated in numbers at moorings along Weymouth and Ringstead Bay to take the strain off their normal berths at Southampton. With the current Covid situation there has never been a time where so many of their cruise ships have been berthed in home waters.
Egmont Point sits in the shadows of the imperious Houns-Tout Cliff which peaks at 140 m above sea level. Incredibly there used to be a private road that ran round the cliff face which Lord Eldon used to transit from Encombe House situated a mile inland to access Chapman's pool. The carriageway round the face of Houns-Tout has now been claimed by landslides and is no longer passable and with the past landslips clearly visible I didn't hang around too long.
Egmont Point with the base of Houns-Tout on the right.
At Egmont Point, I could now see where I hoped to enjoy my coffee across the other side of Egmond Bight. The whole of the bight was deserted except for a couple of cormorants drying their wings on some rocks. Both quickly realised looking at the state of me that I was absolutely no threat to them - the fight or flight mechanism quickly bypassed to apathy. Moving around the shoreline I soaked up the views across the water and out to Portland.
Looking across Egmont Bight to the secluded beach
Egmont Bight beach and the eastern side of Freshwater Steps creating a barrier at the end of the beach
It is about a kilometre walk Egmont Point to the far end of the beach which is blocked off by the eastern side of Freshwater Steps. On the other side of Freshwater Steps there is one of the few coastal waterfalls found along the south coast. That will be for another trip. I reached the far end of the beach and could now start relaxing (after hand grinding the coffee)!
I had only packed the strictly necessary survival items for the trip; fresh coffee beans, hand grinder, scales, decanter, mug, Clever Dripper brewer, camping stove, kettle and fresh water. The Clever Dripper brewer combines partly immersion and partly pour over methods. You first pour over the coffee sat in a filter paper but the brewer keeps the water in the brewing chamber so immerses the coffee in the water. The clever part is that only when you place the Clever Dripper onto a cup does it start to let the coffee drip through. It makes it alot tidier to clean up as well. My initial thoughts when I saw the name was that 'I bet your not that clever' but it has won me over and I do think the name is apt.
I started to heat the water and began to furiously grind the coffee beans to a medium grind size. After some furious grinding, beads of sweat started to form on my forehead in what was mean to be the relaxing part of the trip. I was glad the beach was empty for this spectacle. I had packed our La Higuera single origin Peruvian coffee which I had been enjoying with the Clever Dripper brewing at home. It really shines the vanilla and brown spice flavours. The brewing recipe and steps I followed are highlighted in the photos and captions below.
Step 1 - Grinding the coffee beans to a medium grind size
Step 2 - Placed a washed filter paper into the Clever Dripper and then added 16g of medium coarse grounds
Step 3 - Left the boiled kettle for a couple of minutes and then poured 300 ml onto the grounds. I put the lid on and let steep for 2 minutes.
After these steps the coffee had been brewed and was ready to enjoy. I placed the Clever Dripper on top of a decanter and after the coffee filtered through I poured myself a cup and sat back to relax. It truly was a memorable coffee with small waves gently lapping the shore and views stretching from St Aldhelm's Head in the east and to Portland Bill in the west. All washed down with a fantastic coffee. Beautiful!
Coffee filtering through with St Aldhelm's head in the background
Looking eastwards towards Freshwater Steps
A coffee and a refreshing paddle
After a refreshing paddle I packed my bag and made sure I hadn't unwittingly left any belongings or rubbish behind. The tide was coming in so I had to move quick to make sure I didn't get cut off at Egmont Point. My backpack felt heavier putting it back on and I set off following my footsteps in the sand. I rounded Egmont Point and lumbered across the rocks on the shores of the next two small pocket bays. Everything was more of an effort coming back and I was trying to blank out the hike up West Hill coming up! I got round to the western end of Chapman's pool and the tide had come in alot further meaning I had to carefully navigate walking on a clay nose that stuck into the pool. After that, I uneventfully transited round Chapman's pool but on the way back I did find an Ammonite - any excuse for a rest!
Navigating the route back
I made my way past the boathouse and set off purposefully up West Hill. It took me alot longer getting back up with the sun beating down on my back and I was shattered at the top. After getting in the recovery position for a few minutes I had a final look across the glorious coastline and made my way back to Langton Matravers. A great first trip and I thank you for reading about it!
A fisherman enjoying the afternoon sunshine