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Church Ope Cove

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Overview





Church Ope Cove is a small cove on the east side of the Isle of Portland. It permits a fair weather anchorage off a beautiful and historic shale beach.

This is an exposed anchorage that offers a measure of protection to the westerly or north-westerly winds behind its high cliffs. The cove offers straightforward daylight access, although there are no marks there are no outlying dangers.
Please note

Vessels approaching from the west must make navigational arrangements to avoid Portland Race.




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Keyfacts for Church Ope Cove
Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
2 stars: Exposed; unattended vessels should be watched from the shore and a comfortable overnight stay is unlikely.


Considerations
Note: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity
Facilities
Shore based toilet facilitiesMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the area

Last modified
June 29th 2017; suggest a correction?

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Now Force

Summary

An exposed location with straightforward access.

LWS draught

3 metres (9.84 feet).

Today's tide estimates

LW 00:50 (0m) HW 00:50 (0m)
LW 13:15 (0m) HW 13:15 (0m)
Now approaching Neaps

Swell today




Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
2 stars: Exposed; unattended vessels should be watched from the shore and a comfortable overnight stay is unlikely.


Considerations
Note: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity
Facilities
Shore based toilet facilitiesMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the area

Last modified
June 29th 2017; suggest a correction?

Position and approaches
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Haven position

50° 32.264' N, 002° 25.642' W

This is off the beach, in about 3 metres.

What is the initial fix?

The following Church Ope Cove will set up a final approach:
50° 32.232' N, 002° 25.626' W
This is on the 5-metre contour about 150 metres south-east of the beach.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in the westbound Route location or eastbound Route location sequenced 'Selsey Bill to Start Point' coastal description. Approaches to the area are provided in the Weymouth Harbour Click to view haven entry.

  • Sound in from the initial fix and anchor in sand off the beach.



Not what you need?
Try our Advanced Havens Search tool to find locations with the specific attributes you need, or click the 'Next', coastal clockwise, or 'Previous', coastal anti-clockwise, buttons to progress through neighbouring havens. Below are the ten nearest havens to Church Ope Cove for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. Portland Marina - 1.5 miles NNW
  2. Small Mouth - 1.9 miles NNW
  3. Weymouth Harbour - 2.7 miles NNW
  4. Weymouth Marina - 2.8 miles NNW
  5. Ringstead Bay - 4 miles NNE
  6. Durdle Door - 4.7 miles NE
  7. Lulworth Cove - 5.2 miles NE
  8. Worbarrow Bay - 5.7 miles ENE
  9. Chapman's Pool - 8.8 miles ENE
  10. Wareham - 9.3 miles NE
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. Portland Marina - 1.5 miles NNW
  2. Small Mouth - 1.9 miles NNW
  3. Weymouth Harbour - 2.7 miles NNW
  4. Weymouth Marina - 2.8 miles NNW
  5. Ringstead Bay - 4 miles NNE
  6. Durdle Door - 4.7 miles NE
  7. Lulworth Cove - 5.2 miles NE
  8. Worbarrow Bay - 5.7 miles ENE
  9. Chapman's Pool - 8.8 miles ENE
  10. Wareham - 9.3 miles NE
Alternatively the above can be ordered by compass direction or coastal sequence


How to get in?
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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Church Ope Cove is a small secluded cove on the sheltered eastern side of the Isle of Portland. The south-east facing cove is situated about midway between Portland Bill and Portland Harbour. The remains of Rufus Castle, also locally known as ‘Bow and Arrow Castle’, towers over the cove from its escarpment above and picturesque huts stand at the back of its shale beach.




Convergance Point Approaches to the area are provided in the Weymouth Harbour entry.




Initial fix location This is set on the 5 metre CD contour close south-west of the cove. The shore is steep-to here with the 5-metre contour being just over 100 metres from the shoreline. From here the beach huts lining the back of the beach and Rufus Castle towering above the cove will make it readily apparent.




Haven location Anchor in 3 metres off the beach in a sandy patch. Land by tender on the beach.


What's the story here?
Church Ope Cove derives its name from the conjunction of its historic church and the local word ’Ope’ a shortening for ‘opening’ that locals use to describe a gap in the cliffs that lead down to the water's edge.


The church referred to is that of St. Andrew's which was the first parish church the Saxons established on the Isle of Portland. However the meagre ruins of the church now seen teetering on the edge of the east cliff today, date back to the middle of the 12th century as the church has had a chequered history.


In 1340, and again in 1404, French raiders landed in the cove and torched the little parish church. Each time it was rebuilt and extended reaching its seminal years in the 1500s. But destruction was to come again in 1625 in the form of a landslip that caused serious damage to its north end and caused half the cemetery to fall onto the beach. After this a wall was built to shore it up and St. Andrew's received extensive repairs. But its surrounding area had by this time become prone to landslips and in 1734/5 more graves fell to the beach below, including that of the twin daughters of King Ethelred, who had both died at birth in 990. After centuries of service, the church was finally deemed unsafe in 1756 and abandoned for the new parish church St George's.


Since then it has been in ruin on the upper part of a level site on the cliff, in the valley below the castle. The area on which it stands has been strengthened by the construction of a retaining wall. Subsequent archaeological excavations of the site have uncovered statues similar to Bronze Age ones found at Salisbury, and evidence that the site was occupied as early as the Iron Age. St. Andrews Church is a Grade II Listed Building and a Scheduled Monument.




Being the only easily accessible landing place on the Isle Of Portland, and one that is sheltered from the prevailing wind, the cove has always been prone to attack. The first recorded Viking raid within the British Isles, including Ireland, is believed to have occurred in Church Ope Cove in 787 AD. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle described three lost Viking ships coming up upon the cove. The king's reeve, accustomed to meeting Scandinavian merchants, tried to collect taxes from them and they killed him before sailing on. Three more Viking raids were to occur in the cove when the Danes carried off everything of value in the district that they could lay their hands on, including local women.




The Normans countered this exposure by building Rufus Castle on the cliff-top overlooking the beach. Also locally known as ‘Bow and Arrow Castle’ it was reportedly built for William II, although the structure remaining in ruins today is not of that date. The earlier castle was captured by Robert, Earl of Gloucester and illegitimate son of King Henry I of England, in 1142. Since then it has been extended several times with the largest part of what is seen today dating back to a rebuild by Richard, Duke of York between 1432 - 60. As it was built on the site of the earlier Norman building it is considered today as Portland's oldest castle. Much of the 15th Century castle has been lost over the centuries and only ‘The Keep’ survives in a ruinous state. Circa mid-2008, the castle was listed as being ruinous and in need of conservation repair and consolidation.


The Isle of Portland has had a large history of smuggling of which Chesil Beach and Church Ope Cove played leading roles. A late 17th-century Custom House correspondence noted that this was a good area for smugglers as they were not strongly opposed. The collector of customs at Weymouth, it noted, as having...'a debauched life and conversation, seldom sober, and hardly ever goes to bed till three or four a clock in the morning and many times not all night.' Likewise, Portland customs officers were of little help and one in particular 'never did any service, but rather the contrary' and another was described as being 'an old man...[who] cannot see anything at a distance'. Smuggling was rife in the cove up until the early 19th-century, by which time the Customs and Excise Officers were bringing it under control. A measure of how many were involved in it at that stage was the record of 150 Portland locals being imprisoned for the activity. From then on for the following centuries, only legitimate catches were landed by fishermen who launched their boats from the beach.




Today Portland’s Museum, founded in two early 17th century stone cottages immediately above the cove, tells the story of the island. The cove is now a favourite spot for beach hut owners looking to escape the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives. The beach used to be sandy, but unwanted quarry debris tipped over nearby cliffs has washed up in the cove to cover the sand, and over the years these been eroded into rounded pebbles and shingle. Being one of the few beaches on Portland, and having high protective cliffs on three sides that provide shelter from the prevailing wind, it is now a popular destination for bathers. It is also attractive to divers as it provides access to numerous wrecks in the surrounding waters.




From a sailing point of view this is an exposed location suitable for a lunch stop in settled conditions. It makes an ideal tide wait location for west going vessels waiting for the tide to turn in order to round the Bill of Portland, just a couple of miles southward. But it also offers a magnificent setting for a family day out until the sun descends behind its high cliffs in the late afternoon.


What facilities are available?
There are public toilets on the beach. For all other facilities use Portland Harbour or in Weymouth.


With thanks to:
Michael Harpur S/Y Whistler. Photography with thanks to Michael Harpur and Chris Downer.


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Please zoom out to see the 'initial fix' for this location.
The above plots are not precise and indicative only.

















Church Ope Cove, Portland. Rufus Castle, St Andrew's Church, Pennsylvania Castle



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