Updated: Jul 25, 2020
Continuing my theme for the photography blog posts on Dorset's premier photography locations this week we will be looking at Kimmeridge Bay and it's surrounding areas.
Kimmeridge bay is a photographers dream and one that you should all visit at least once in your lifetime.
It has so many features to shoot and so many interesting little areas you could shoot there for years and still not cover it all, I should know I've been photographing it since 2010 and still find new areas of interest.
First of all a word of warning, Kimmeridge is a beautiful and interesting place but it is also a very dangerous area due to the high number of cliff falls.
There are warning signs up in the car park to this effect but people constantly ignore them and stand directly at the bottom of the cliffs.
The fossil rich cliffs are a magnet to people as new bits fall off and they rush to sift through them even with young children after watching tonnes of rock collapse in front of them.
PLEASE if you only take one thing in from this blog then make it to stay away from the base of the cliffs.
Rocks still fall and bounce out to the waters edge but you have a lot better chance of avoiding injury than if it fell on you.
Ok so the nasty stuff is over with, on to the fun stuff ! The photography !
To get to Kimmeridge bay you will drive through some beautiful areas of Dorset that are well worth shooting so take good notice of them for alternatives if the coast isn't playing ball.
Post code for the car park is BH20 5PF and your Sat Nav will take you right there.
To get to Kimmeridge Bay you need to go through an area owned by the Smedmore Estate which is actually a toll road. Charges to go down this small strip of land is £5 but that will also buy you parking for the full day so it's not too bad, However depending on what time you arrive you might well get away without paying the toll.
From experience if you arrive between 10 am and 4 pm you will be charged, outside of that it's free as is the parking.
Kimmeridge doesn't allow Drones or overnight parking/camping so please respect their rules and don't upset the people who actually live at the bay or fellow beach users.
The other rule to note is that it is actually next to a military firing range which has a tank training centre and they do live fire exercises quite often.
During these times there will be a red flag displayed on the West side cliff which means the range walks are closed and under no circumstances should you attempt to go past it.
Kimmeridge bay has cameras at Broad Bench on the range and if you are seen you will be removed by the army not to mention being potentially hit by a tank shell, so don't think "i'll risk it" cause its just not worth it.
The range walks are usually open every weekend and throughout school holidays but they have gates at either end which are locked so don't be tempted to over stay.
If you wish to check the range walks are open you can look at this website HERE
When you pull into Kimmeridge Bay the road splits to the right (after the toll house gate) which is the main car park or going straight ahead will lead you to the boat slipway car park on the East side, this is where we will start.
As you walk to the edge of Kimmeridge bay past the Purbeck Marine Centre (fairly small wooden huts) you will come to the first real feature of Kimmeridge called Clavell's Pier, This has been photographed extensively and even if you have never been here you will probably know it.
Clavell's Pier is little more than a water break made out if inter spliced rocks and was named after the Reverend John Richards Clavell who also gives his name to the famous tower that watches over Kimmeridge.
As with pretty much all spots in Kimmeridge this is best shot at low tide when a wealth of sea booty reveals itself but it can also look good at higher tides when the wind is pushing in hard and big waves make dreamy long exposure shots a joy to shoot here.
Worth noting the statue on top of Clavell's Pier in this picture is no longer there, It was installed as a coastal work of art made by renowned Sculptor/Artist, Antony Gormley.
The figure took quite a lot of battering from the elements and actually broke away from its mountings several times and was eventually removed for its own safety.
From this point if you were to head West along the coast at low tide you would discover a wealth of ledges and amazing rock formations underneath Hen Cliff, If however you go at high tide you will only be able to walk a short way down before the sea cuts you off at the base of the cliff, plus none of the ledges will be exposed so i really wouldn't venture down that way unless its low tide.
A word of warning here, Please be very careful of the tide on this stretch as it can easily cut you off should you venture past the point of the cliff top, sadly several people have found out the hard way and have either perished or needed to be rescued so please think twice. The stretch between kimmeridge and Chapmans pool is around 3 miles and its just cliffs behind you with no way up so don't chance a walk along here.
Low Tide Exposed Ledges
So back to Clavell's Pier, and walking back the way you came from the car park will see a wide variety or rocky shores with plenty of areas of interest to shoot including some great old structures that stick out of the water and make perfect seascape material.
Right behind these is a stairway leading up the hill to Clavell's Tower which has a whole lot of history about it.
Clavell's Tower was built in roughly 1830 by the Reverend John Richards Clavell as an observatory. It stood on the top on Hen Cliff for many years till the cliff began to crumble away and was dangerously close to the tower.
The tower was moved 25 metres inland by the Landmark Trust in 2006 to stop it from falling into the sea and it was painstakingly done brick by brick (16,272 of them) at a cost of around £900,000 so it is well worth a visit to see what was involved, plus you can still see the old base of the tower but please respect the grounds the tower is within as it is now used as a hotel that two people can rent out at great expense so please respect their space.
There are some great views across Kimmeridge Bay from up here and the imposing stature of Gad Cliff can be viewed from this vantage point very well.
Coming back down the stairs will lead you to the first and second boat slipways which are not much to look at in high tide but in low tide you can walk right across the bay and there are features and ledges everywhere to shoot.
After prolonged periods of rain there is actually a waterfall at Kimmeridge and it's really rather nice but in order to access it, it has to be low tide, you can still see it at high tide but shooting it is only possible from directly to it side whereas low tide will allow you to walk all around it.
Moving further round the bay will depend on the tide here, at low tide you can just keep walking to the "other" ledge but if its high tide you will have to go back up to the car park and follow the cliff path all the way round to the main car park and down to the main footpath.
The "Other" ledge is photographed far less at Kimmeridge but for me it really is the better of the two as it has some lovely jagged edges that always reminded me of dinosaur teeth seeing as it's the Jurassic Coast.
The "Other" ledge can be accessed from the pathway at the main car park and walking down on most tides but to show it at its best you will need low tide.
The "Other" Ledge
From here walking back down to the "Main" Ledge which is almost directly at the end of the path way from the car park, It's worth noting that after prolonged rain there is a small outflow here which has a very tiny waterfall flowing but it can make for some interesting shots and as water cascades over rocks changing there colour from a slate grey to a deep black there are again a few chances for a different style shot.
There is also an old military pillbox here that has fallen down from its old vantage points on the cliff that can make for different shots one again.
Don't ignore the cliff above you though as some stunning wild flowers bloom here in spring and with Clavell's Tower on the horizon there is always good composition available even at high tide.
Car Park Cliff Top
So the "Main" ledge, well this has been shot to death but for good reason, it's stunning. At low tide it stretches out an incredible distance into the water as you will see from several of the shots below and this is ideally when you want to catch it but this whole stretch can be shot at high tide as there are plenty of rocks and flat boulders for the waves to crash over.
Medium tides offer good opportunity to get less of the outstretched ledge but with much better water movement over the top of it.
The first picture on this article was taken at a medium tide and gave me one of my most favourite images from Kimmeridge Bay.
There also happens to be a nice little rock pool at the head of the ledge which seems to collect stones and pebbles and the odd bit of seaweed and can make some lovely shots.
The Rock Pool
Low Tide Main Ledge
Higher Tide at the Main Ledge
Moving down the coast will see mainly rocky areas with good features to shoot all the way along but at low tide there are numerous other exposed ledges that are well worth shooting.
As you near the bend in the bay it becomes a lot flatter but can be very slippery when wet so extra care is needed.
At low tide this area opens up and reveals some huge rock pools which I sadly haven't really got any decent pictures of but it will leave somewhere for you to discover yourself.
Towards the end of this stretch you will encounter a red sign which tells you that you shouldn't go past that point when the red flag above is flying, Please make sure you adhere to this as its for your own safety as live fire exercises could well be underway.
There are some good areas around here with small runs of water that come in and out with the tide and make it possible to do some semi long exposures as the water runs over the smooth rocks, there are also several boulders that stick out of the water and make dreamy long exposures a must have shot.
This area does tens to have an awful lot of seaweed here which is quite smelly and unpleasant but worst of all is the dreaded red seaweed thats on the rocks which makes them like ice so avoid this at all costs.
Another thing to look out for is the stepping stone rocks that lead to Charnel Bay (I will cover here in the next blog) as some of them will move when you stand on them so take extra care and rather than carrying your camera in hand here make sure you put it in your bag or else you could risk damaging it as no matter how careful you are a fall is a regular occurrence here.
Semi Long Exposures
So thats Kimmeridge Bay, somewhere that you should have on your list of places to visit, you wont regret it.
I have been here god knows how many times but I can't stop or don't want to stop going back as it really is photographer heaven and a seascaper's paradise.
The next part of this series will see me cover Charnel, Broad Bench & Brandy bay which are all part of the same complex but for now, Happy Shooting.
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