Tuesday, 17 October 2017


All the many, many times I've taken the path that leads to the ruins of St Andrew's Church at Church Ope Cove on the Isle of Portland, I have never noticed that at the far end of the structure is a Gothic archway. Everyone else on the face of the planet seems to have done. Wikipedia says it belonged to the detached bell tower of the church, but the Inventory of Historic Buildings in Dorset claims it's a 14th-century archway re-set into the old boundary wall. I'm not sure it's that old at all: it looks suspiciously neat and tidy. 

The archway leads to a path through the woods beyond, a steep-sided gully giving glimpses, above, of Pennsylvania Castle, a ludicrous Gothic mansion built in the very late 1700s. I think what we have here is a mini-Gothic Garden, the church ruins perched above the crashing sea becoming a sort of grandiose garden ornament in a Romantic assemblage that includes the castle and its ancillary buildings.

One of the current residents is keeping up the theme: I glimpsed this gentleman from the path leading back round the wall of the Castle compound, although I'm not sure exactly what he signifies.

The second stage of my break involved a trip to see my god-daughter's family in East Lothian and her mother took me for coffee at Cockenzie House in Port Seton. In the grounds is this little grotto, intended, as folly-doyens Headley & Meulenkamp explain, to conjure up images of volcanic convulsions: 'HECLA', it reads, the name of an Icelandic volcano (as well as the art gallery now based at Cockenzie). I have to say, bathos is the keynote here. One thinks less of the sublime grandeur of the forces of the earth, than of a place to put a lawnmower.

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