Dorset’s Smugglers’ Tunnel

Jeffers-TMDOMD In my research for THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF MR. DARCY, I have spent a great deal of time researching all those special “places” in Dorset, which would become part of the setting of this novel. Today, I would like to introduce you to Newton’s Cove.

Newton's_Cove,_Weymouth_-_geograph.org.uk_-_459320 Newton’s Cove is a small cove with sand, shingle and rock pools, just 0.3 miles south of Weymouth, Dorset, England, overlooking Portland Harbour and next to the Nothe Fort. The beach is mainly used by locals and by tourists who visit the Nothe Fort and its gardens. Locals tell tales of a smugglers’ tunnel built to transport goods from the cove inland. Several houses above the tunnel are also said to have access to the area, which leads the cellar of The Boot Inn in Rodwell. Some say it is not a tunnel but a cave under Nothe Fort, which served as the smugglers’ headquarters.

Before a recent concrete promenade walk was constructed, ghost-like figures were seen often on the beach. Those in West Plains, which is now called North Quay, speak of the tunnel as a certainty. Supposedly, the present-day Municipal Offices and the car park are built over the tunnel. Ironically, these offices were built on land once occupied by West Plains, an area known for its prostitutes, petty thieves, and cutthroats during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Modern events

Geograph-2523778-by-sue-hogben In 2009, a new bridge was constructed over either side of Newtons Road, after the original 73-year-old concrete bridge was demolished. The Dorset County Council had planned to put in ramps on the banks either side of the road, however a successful campaign by residents and community groups caused the council to find money in the budget to fund a new structure. The new bridge was designed by artist Chris Tipping, who collaborated with the council’s engineering and construction teams.

In 2011, Dorset Wildlife Trust organised an event based in the cove as part of their three-year investigation, which is termed the ‘Welly Zone’. Staff from Weymouth Sea Life Park and Dorset Wildlife Trust spent two-and-a-half hours logging plant and animal life they found in the inter-tidal area and rockpools on and around the beach in a bid to win protection for the fragile shoreline and shallow water habitats along the Dorset coastline. The results were indications of climate change as various shells were found seemingly expanding their region along the South West coast, whilst presence of Asia native wireweed was also discovered.
Newton’s Cove Coast Protection Scheme

In 2003 a £1.95 million scheme was devised to protect residential property in the area and at the same time safe-guarding and enhancing important local geological environment. Originally damaged from the tide, a new sea wall now provides accessible public right of way.
Landscape architect Enplan, who were inspired by the view across Weymouth Bay of Dorset coast’s chalk cliffs, had proposed features that mimic the outline of the facing cliffs of the Bay and the Isle of Portland. The cove’s main walls were shaped and curved in two planes and faced in local Portland stone. Afterwards, the area was further enhanced by using architectural lighting and landscape planting to strengthen a contemporary and continental feel for warm summer evening promenading. The judges of the scheme had stated “This scheme represents a vitally important contribution to the defence of the sea wall in Weymouth. But more than that, it is an excellent example of a contemporary promenade with a ‘corniche’ atmosphere.”

As a result of the scheme’s success, Newton’s Cove Coast Protection Scheme was the 2004 finalist in the Prime Minister’s better public buildings awards.

About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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