Smuggler's Cave, Bacon Hole - Summer 2020
I contemplated giving an emotionally expressive documentation of this coffee explorer trip by method acting the role of a Dorset Smuggler. However, unsure of an 18th Century smuggler's attire and nervous of the potential tricky encounters on a weekend coastal walk, I decided against it.
Dorset's coastline provided a smuggler's haven. Many times growing up I would inadvertently stumble across old smuggler's routes used to bring contraband from the coast inland safely away from the coastguard. With an adventurous past this particular trip is to a hidden part of the Jurassic Coast - Smuggler's cave at Bacon hole, a tiny bay just west of Mupe Bay.
Bacon Hole shoreline
The cave is miles away from any road or village and only accessible by foot or from the water. I struck out walking from the closest town Lulworth towards the Fossil Forest following the cliffs east to take me overlooking Bacon Hole and the photogenic Mupe Rocks. At high tide the rocks looked to me like a very poorly, gigantic Stegosaurus top armoured plates protruding from the water. Admittedly, I might perceive that differently to the masses!
Laying somewhere beneath me under thousands of tonnes of rock, the cave was invisible from my clifftop vantage point. I now had to navigate my way down.
Views over Bacon Hole, Mupe Rocks and towards Worbarrow Tout
Thinking there was a path close to the clifftop I started to descend down what looked like an express route to the cave, only to be disappointed when the path ended still a good 30 metres above the beach. I turned around and started to climb up and could see on the main coast path some seasoned walkers sniggering at my decision making. Good job I wasn't method acting or they could have had a barrel of rum hurled in their direction! It probably wouldn't have hit them, but the intention would have been there. As I wasn't method acting, I rather cravenly mock joined in the chortling before waving my hands about which seemed to confuse us all. Back on the coast path, it was necessary to walk the longer way round to access the beach at Mupe Bay and continue following the shoreline. As I walked along the coast path I could see that I would soon get my first glimpse of my target destination.
First glimpse of the Smuggler's Cave on the far side of the small bay
Continuing along this route takes you to the path, then steps, that lead down to the pretty Mupe Bay; a smaller bay within the much larger Warbarrow Bay. There is also a pocket bay called Arish Mell but this is permanently closed off. Although very scenic, the chance of live ammunition detonating, coupled to it historically discharging effluent from the Winfrith Nuclear Power Station, I was not disappointed I couldn't take a dip there!
The coastline around Worbarrow Bay features some soaring chalk cliffs where the Flower's Barrow Hill Fort perches. Half of that has now collapsed into the sea and there is evidence of fresh landslides around the bay. Even on the secluded Mupe Bay it didn't stop a small group of people seeking even more remoteness by clambering over the top of the debris to a small stretch of beach. Not sure I could enjoy sunbathing surrounded by debris and a towering, failing chalk cliff just over my shoulder.
Beautiful Worbarrow Bay, with the towering, crumbling chalk cliffs on the left hand side before the small pocket bay of Arish Mell
At the base of the steps I started to head south past the headland near Mupe Ledges (an excellent spot for rockpooling at low tide) and back westwards to walk alongside Mupe Rocks. Passing a drying Cormoront showing off on top of its favourite rock I made my way to Bacon Hole and could see the Smuggler's cave on the other side. I could now appreciate how remote this location was and why it was used for smuggling. It would also have been a pretty scary location hauling goods under the inky blackness of a cloudy, starless night with your mind transforming shapes into the leering watch of the coastguard. I am pretty sure a few bats would like the cave too.
Before continuing my approach I climbed up the top of one of the largest Mupe rocks to enjoy great panoramic views. In addition it offered sightings of crystal clear water below, the perfect place for snorkeling.
Crystal clear waters at Bacon Hole
Approaching the cave I could see there is still the false back wall with the small square door for access that the Smuggler's would have used to store their contraband away from the elements. Now behind the fake wall only lies alot of rubbish that seems to have been washed in by the tide. I managed to take some back with me, but there is an awful lot here that has accumulated over the years. Somebody had also built their own small, fake wall within the cave to house their camping equipment. Maybe a 21st century smuggler.
Smuggler's Cave entrance with fake wall at the back
Looking behind the fake wall
Turning round and looking out the cave gives great views across the small bay. The hair on the back of my neck prickled as I thought of the many Smugglers in the past who had held the very same view. What the Smugglers wouldn't have been able to do was to brew up fresh coffee with a V60 coffee maker! I unloaded my bag and after heating the water and wetting the filter paper I was ready for business. For the coffee I used the following brew ratio:
- 15 g of Burning Cliff Seasonal Blend ground for filter
- 300 ml of water
I let it cool for a minute and then had a really peaceful, relaxing coffee looking out across the water. Although caffeinated, besides that, the drink and experience was restorative and it made me ponder the many stories this coastline must have.
Brew with a view
Every visit to around Worbarrow Bay should include a customary swim (or wallow) in the sea and I duly obliged!
Thanks for reading, Andy
Finishing off with a bracing wallow