The small cove offers a tolerable anchorage in winds from north and east. It is, however, subject to any swell from the south-east around to south-west to which it is entirely exposed. Daylight access is straightforward.
Keyfacts for Chapman's Pool
SummaryA tolerable location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position50° 35.526' N, 002° 3.891' W
This is in the centre of Chapman's Pool in about 2 metres.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
- Follow the shoreline from St. Alban’s Head in.
- Sound in north eastwardly towards the centre of the pool.
Not what you need?
- Swanage - 2.8 miles ENE
- Redclyffe Yacht Club - 3.4 miles NNW
- Ridge Wharf Yacht Centre - 3.5 miles N
- Wareham - 3.6 miles NNW
- Studland Bay - 3.7 miles ENE
- Goathorn Point - 3.8 miles NNE
- Worbarrow Bay - 3.8 miles WNW
- Shipstal Point - 3.9 miles NNE
- Brownsea Island - 4.2 miles NNE
- Lulworth Cove - 4.4 miles WNW
How to get in?
Chapman's Pool is located a mile north by north-west of Saint Alban’s Head and fifteen miles east of Weymouth. It is an isolated rough-cut cove within the magnificent dark cliffs that line the coast from Worbarrow Tout to Saint Alban’s Head. The small bay provides a fair weather anchorage to two or three vessels in depths of about 2 metres.
Saint Alban’s Head, makes an excellent seamark for Chapman's Pool. Also known as Saint Aldhelm’s Head, the bold 107 metres high headland has a coastguard station on its summit that maintains a light.
St. Alban’s Head Coastguard - Iso.R.2s (occas) position: 50°34.750’N, 002°03.403’W
Care should be taken in the vicinity of the St. Alban’s Head as Saint Alban’s Ledge, with depths of 8.5 to 16 metres, extends up to 2.5 miles south-west of the headland. The uneven ledge usually forms a race and particularly so in blustery weather.
Vessels approaching from the east should follow the western cliffs from St. Alban's Head to the initial fix set outside the bay about 300 metres out from the foot of Emmetts Hill. Deepwater will be found 200 metres out from the shoreline.
Vessels approaching from the west should be aware that a firing range exists between Saint Alban’s Head and Lulworth Cove that extends 12 miles to seaward. The range, as best seen on a chart, obstructs a western approach. Chapman’s Pool or its approaches along the cliffs of the headland are however not included in the range. Details regarding Lulworth Gunnery Range are covered in the Worbarrow Bay entry.
When it is permissible to cross the Lulworth Gunnery Range, and approach off the coast, vessels should stand well out to avoid the dangerous Kimmeridge Ledges that lie to the westward of Chapman’s Pool. These are long flat ledges that can extend up to a ½ mile offshore. Keeping Arish Mell Gap open west of the small conical hill of Worbarrow Tout, on 302° T, will see a vessel well clear of these dangers.
On final approaches keep to the 10-metre contour, or more, and look for a yellow mooring buoy maintained by the Lulworth range boat that will be seen outside of Chapman’s Pool. When east of a line of the buoy it is safe to cut in.
The initial fix is set outside the cove about ¼ of a mile south-west of the centre of the pool, 300 metres west from the foot of Emmetts Hill and 150 metres south-east of the position of the yellow mooring buoy.
Sound in northeastwardly towards the centre of the pool where depths of about 2 metres will be found. Depths closer in are difficult to predict due to falls that occur from the soft cliffs that surround the cove.
Anchor according to draft and conditions. The bay offers good holding in sand and mud. Rocky patches, extending from the west shore under the Houns-tout end of the cove, have been known to snag the occasional anchor.
Land by tender anywhere along the coves circling shale beach. It is also possible to land at the slip at the boathouse located on the south-east end of the cove.
In the unlikely event that no space can be found in the cove, it may be possible to anchor beneath Emmett's Hill if conditions lend themselves to it. Two scarcely used beaches will be found at the foot of the cliffs where it is possible to land. The northernmost of these beaches offers the best landing, albeit it by passing around the occasional boulder, or by continuing further into Chapman's Pool.
Why visit here?Chapman’s Pool is a hidden gem of the Jurassic Coastline stretching from Exmouth to Old Harry Rocks in Studland Bay.
The coastal exposures along this coastline provide a continuous sequence of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous rock formations that span approximately 185 million years of Earth’s history. The cove is formed from rocks of Kimmeridge clay and it remains to this day a work in progress for Mother Nature. For here, having broken through the harder outer layers of rock, the sea has started to erode its way into the broader valley as well as outwards to form the horseshoe-shaped indentation that the cove exhibits today.
The Kimmeridge Clay of Chapman’s Pool, along with Kimmeridge Bay and Freshwater Steps, is rich in fossils and are believed to have yielded more reptile remains than any other locations in the UK. This makes the bay a very good place to go fossil hunting. Crushed ammonites are abundant in the bay’s grey fossiliferous Kimmeridge shale and are readily found. Hammers, however, cannot be used as the site is an SSSI and forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast. In addition, the cliffs are extremely dangerous and subject to frequent falls, so collecting fossils directly from its cliffs is extremely inadvisable. However, hammers are not required as ammonites and bivalve fossils can be easily found washed up on the foreshore and in the rock falls at the foot of the cliffs.
The only manmade addition to Chapman’s Pool is the modest fisherman’s shed and slip situated at its south-eastern end at the foot of Emmetts Hill. It began life as in 1867 as a Lifeboat Station. Up until the 20th Century, almost every Channel gale sank a vessel leading to the loss of life. On 11 July 1866, the French barque Georgiana was driven up into Chapman’s Pool where the boatshed was subsequently built the following year. On this occasion, the crew and passengers of the Georgiana were saved by a coastguard line fired to the ship. But this was not always the case, and certainly not during that bleak year.
The decision to place a lifeboat in Chapman’s Pool was rash, and the folly of the station was soon to be discovered when, in 1868, the schooner Liberty got into trouble off the western end of Kimmeridge Bay. Though the crew of the George Scott attempted, again and again, it proved impossible for the lifeboat to be launched into the seas off the bay. Meanwhile, the Liberty ran up on the Yellow Ledge close east of Kimmeridge Bay and a quarter of a mile from the shore. She broke up almost immediately leaving only her topmasts showing above the violent seaway.
The last of her crew then clung to the rigging beckoning for shore assistance. The coastguard vainly fired rockets but the distance was too great and all fell short. A coastguard galley was launched but the boat proved to be too small and the gale too furious for them to reach the wreck. Finally, after an agonising two hours of frantic activity, the last man clinging to the rigging of the Liberty dropped exhausted into the boiling surf.
The Lifeboat Institution response to the disaster was to deploy the Mary Heape to a station at Kimmeridge Bay. They located it behind the projecting Broad Bench Point where it could be launched and better placed to get to any wreck on the Kimmeridge Ledges. What finally put pay to the Chapman’s Pool station was not having a local village so that it suffered from not having enough local volunteers to serve the lifeboat. This and the landslides that constantly swept down upon the boathouse requiring expensive maintenance, all contributed to the station being closed in 1880. Although closed for nearly 150 years, the boathouse still serves today as a fishing hut.
Chapman's Pool itself is a wonderfully wild beach to enjoy a peaceful day but also has a magnificent section of the Purbeck coast immediately above. The landscape here is pretty, in a slightly bleak way, and largely characterised by arable farming on high flat land that drops away precipitously. This may be reached by following the path of the stream called ‘The Lake’, that empties into the bay, up onto the ‘Seven Wells Hollow’ above. The coastal walk passes between St. Alban's Head and Kimmeridge Bay across the dell about 200 metres back from the shore. It is a demanding assent from the cove with lots of further ascents and descents along the coastal path, but the effort that will be rewarded with some fine sights.
At the top of the hill, there are white coastguards' cottages that were built in 1834 to put an end to smuggling that was taking place in Chapman’s Bay. Close by is the tiny but atmospheric 12th century St. Aldhelm's Chapel. Further beyond and on the opposite face of the headland are the Winspit quarries, which yielded the famous Purbeck limestone. On the west side of the cove Houns-tout has a high exposed rocky summit and as its name suggests, the ‘look-out’ of ‘Hund’, which also offers more fine views. The little village of Worth Matravers is a 2½ km (1½ miles) hike up the mostly paved dell passing some very contented cows along the way.
Chapman’s Pool has been largely overlooked because of its bleak appearance, and for being less pretty and lacking the near-complete enclosure of its famous neighbour Lulworth Cove. This has left it without road access and kept it as one of the Isle of Purbeck’s secret gems. The fact that so few know about it, and those that do are dissuaded by the challenges of its demanding access, makes it the domain of hardy hikers or the coastal sailor passing in an auspicious weather window. This means it is never busy and always charms visitors with its blissful remote, raw and untouched qualities.
From a sailing perspective, Chapman’s Pool could never be classed as a great anchorage. But in good summer weather, this is a delightful bay to come into if only for a lunch stop. Its beach, enclosed in a steep-sided ravine, is a place to take some time out to simply marvel at nature’s raw beauty. A place to take it all in, to the chorus of a gentle swish of the sea on its pebbly beach and the occasional call of a skylark. For the more energetic there is ample to engage in its magnificent surrounding cliffs and their stunning views.
What facilities are available?There are no facilities at this remote and sequestered anchorage. The small village of Worth Matravers can be found after a 2½ km (1½ miles) hike up the dell above the bay. It has a village shop, the 'Square & Compass' +44 1929 439229, and a public house.
With thanks to:John Binder CMM Poole Quay Boat Haven & Port of Poole Marina manager. Photography with thanks to Diego Torres Hardo Müller, Jim Chapman and Michael Harpur.
Aerial views of Chapman's Pool
Chapman's Pool as seen from the anchoring area
Chapman's Pool in Jurassic World Heritage Coastline Dorset
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