The Isle of Portland is a limestone tied island, 6 kilometres (4 mi) long by 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi) wide, in the English Channel. Portland is 8 kilometres (5 mi) south of the resort of Weymouth, forming the southernmost point of the county of Dorset, England. A tombolo, over which runs the A354 Road, connects it to Chesil Island and the mainland.
Portland is a central part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site on the Dorset and east Devon coast, important for its geology and landforms. Portland stone, famous for its use in British and world architecture, including St Paul’s Cathedral and the United Nations Headquarters, continues to be quarried.
Portland Harbour, in the bay between Portland and Weymouth, is one of the largest man-made harbours in the world. Building of stone breakwaters between 1848 and 1905 formed the harbour. From its inception it was a Royal Navy base, and played prominent roles during the First and Second World Wars; ships of the Royal Navy and NATO countries exercised in its waters until 1995. The harbour is now a civilian port and popular recreation area, which will be used for the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Isle of Portland, Dorset, contains eight settlements, the largest being Fortuneswell in Underhill and Easton in Tophill. Castletown and Chiswell are the other villages in Underhill, and Weston, Southwell, Wakeham and the Grove occupy Tophill.
On the isle, near Southwell, fairies, known as “Nanny Diamonds” reportedly haunt the road. Likely, the name comes from “Nanoid,” meaning dwarf like and “Diana,” the Goddess of the Moon.
Dorset, itself, has numerous earthworks and barrows. It is believed that fairies inhabit these burial mounds. Six hillocks from the Bronze Age
The Dorset landscape would not be complete without is numerous ancient earthworks and barrows. In the past, these burial mounds were believed to be inhabited by fairies. Six hillocks, dating to the Bronze Age, can be seen from Bincombe Hill overlooking the port of Weymouth. These hills are known as the “Music Barrows.” Legend says that if one puts his ear to the top of one of the barrows at noon, he can hear the plaintive tones of fairy music.
The Isle of Portland was once a popular fairy haunt, but according to local legend; when the first church bell rang out over the island, all the fairies were seen fleeing in terror along the Chesil Beach and were said to have never returned. However, small fairies known as ‘Nanny Diamonds’ are still said to haunt Southwell, along the road that leads to Cheyne.
They wear short white dresses and white Phrygian hats and though they seem quite cute and friendly, they are not to be trusted, for they have the power to bring the ‘Evil Eye’ upon anyone who crosses them. They offer people forbidden fruits and promises of love and riches.
However, between noon and one of the afternoon, legends say that the Nanny Diamonds can be bribed into granting wishes. One must hide a silver coin among the nooks and crannies in the dry stone walls on either side of the road.