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The rocky outcrop of Portland shelters the waters of Weymouth Bay.
But holidaymakers who stray too far from this haven
I'm venturing beyond the bay to brave some of the most dangerous waters in Britain.
Headlands are wild places.
Both wind and sea whip around them.
Strong currents in the English Channel
accelerate as they skirt the headland at Portland Bill.
It creates a treacherous tidal surge known as the Portland Race.
Skipper Alan Smith is expert at running the race.
What is the water doing as it's coming down here towards the tip of Portland Bill?
Well, what's happening, the water from this big bay the other side
is going down the channel
and it's being pushed out by Portland and compressed,
and so it's accelerated due to the fact that the island's sticking out
and forcing all the water together.
How bad can it get, Alan?
It can get very, very dangerous. If it gets beyond rough
it can be quite life-threatening here.
'I may be in a powerful boat with an experienced skipper,
'but I hope my legs and my stomach are up to this.'
Alan's in the wheelhouse. He's about to cut the engine
and we're going to get sucked into the Portland Race.
My heart's in my mouth, I don't mind admitting it.
As we come round the headland, the tide starts to pull us in.
Here it comes.
The boat is going all over the place like a cork.
It's pretty scary. I've never seen anything like it in British waters.
We're now gripped by the tide race,
and are being propelled westwards, towards the Atlantic.
It's exhilarating but it's also a bit frightening.
'The tidal race is intensified by a submerged rock shelf
'sticking out for a mile beyond the headland.'
Here the depth suddenly decreases,
'and the waters racing around Portland
accelerate even more as the tide pushes over the shallow shelf.
Once over the obstruction, the Race hits slow-moving water,
a clash of currents that creates crunching waves.
Unfortunately, to get home, there's little choice -
a long detour or head straight back through the Portland Race.
It's like the Cresta Run of the English Channel.
The irresistible tidal forces of the Channel
chiselled this awe-inspiring 18-mile strip of shingle.
This is Chesil Beach, where you learn to cherish...
There's 180 billion of the blighters here, piled 45 feet high.
To tourists, it's a must-see.
To school kids, it's the answer to geography exam questions.
To me, these pebbles are stepping-stones to what lies beyond.
Most people come for the beach, but trapped behind the shingle bank
is a lagoon that looks more like an inland sea.
This glistening gem is The Fleet, a mixture of salt and fresh water
that makes a rare and rich environment.
Around the 11th century, a monastery on the edge of The Fleet
started farming the lake's wild birds.
Some thousand years later, and that swannery
is the oldest survivor of its kind anywhere in the world.
I'm meeting the latest in a very long line of swan herds.
How long have the swans been here?
Well, possibly for a few thousand years,
but the earliest written record we have at the moment
dates back to the mid 1300s.
And what is it about this landscape that attracted them in the first place?
The habitat is great - although the lagoon is almost eight miles long,
it's very shallow, so they have no difficulty reaching eel grass,
their natural plant food in the mid-Fleet,
and it can support an awful lot of swans.
The highest count in recent years is close to 1,400
and that's a winter...wintering herd.
We have quite a number of swans that will come from neighbouring counties,
particularly the Somerset Levels, and they come to use the food source here
when food becomes depleted on rivers.
I assume that people wanted swans because they could eat them.
We know that Benedictine monks were really farming swans,
they were used for food and it was an important thing, yes.
These days, you won't find swan on the menu.
They're protected, so it's illegal to kill them.
They're magnificent birds. I have to admire their loyalty.
The parents do the absolute best for their young -
they're beautiful, yes.
We don't eat them now, but we do feed them.
These days, the swans put on a spectacular show for the tourists.
This coast is a roller-coaster of ups and downs.
Vantage points rise up to bookend the beaches.
At over 600 feet,
Golden Cap is the highest sea cliff on England's southern shore.
The peak towers over the town of Lyme Regis,
giving great views over the harbour.
Miranda's down at sea level in Lyme Bay,
searching for visitors who prefer to peek up from the depths.
Our waters are the playground for a wonderful variety of wildlife,
most of which we rarely glimpse.
But occasionally, big marine mammals reveal themselves.
Bottlenose dolphins, porpoises and even minke whales
are regular visitors to the English Channel.
The one I've come to see, we know very little about.
In fact, many people have never even heard of it.
I'm here in search of the White-Beaked Dolphin.
These creatures are rarely seen off our shores -
they prefer the cold waters of the Northern Atlantic,
but excitingly, a family group's been spotted in Lyme Bay.
If there's the chance of a close encounter, I've got to try.
I'm with Marine Life, a group who monitor the local dolphin population,
including the white-beaks.
I'm hoping they're out there, somewhere.
So what are our chances of seeing them today, then?
Well, we've seen them on the last five trips,
so quite high in that respect, but on the other hand,
as you can see, there is a bit of a swell out here, there's white caps,
it's a bit choppy and that always makes it difficult to spot dolphins.
A lot of the dolphins that feed on shoals of fish have seabirds as well,
but when we see white-beaked, there's not really seabirds around.
We think that they feed towards the bottom of the seabed,
50 or 60 metres down.
We won't see them if they're feeding underwater,
and to make matters worse,
they're only here because of a patch of chilly water in Lyme Bay.
This makes finding white-beaks even harder because we've got to hit
the elusive cold spot, which itself moves with the seasons.
The white-beak dolphins follow cooler waters,
because that's where they find their favourite food.
Like us, they love white fish such as cod and whiting.
We've combed the bay over and over...
Wildlife can drive you wild.
The very few times we've been able to get out to sea this year,
we've seen them virtually every time.
It's such a shame we've not seen them today.
A bit disappointing but it's the way it goes, I guess.
We gave it our best shot and we didn't see them, unfortunately.
We always say no guarantees with these things.
The group were lucky enough
to get these great pictures early in the year.
Little is known about white-beaked dolphins,
but sightings suggest there's around 60 in Lyme Bay,
and it's encouraging that a young calf was spotted for the first time.
For me, these enchanting creatures have proved elusive,
but it's great to know they're out there.
Dolphins may like the chilly water, but some of us like it hot.
Tourists are drawn to Dorset's warm sands.
Others are attracted to the cliffs and the rocks that come out of them.
Adrian Gray finds the stones a solitary inspiration.
I know this beach really well.
Very isolated down here. You get very few people.
This whole area of coastline here is renowned for landslip,
so you have a constant supply of new rocks being washed out,
and then the wind and the rain and the ocean will wash them,
and, of course, they get shaped by the erosion as well.
My friends and I used to balance stones for fun on the beach,
and then about five years ago,
I decided that I was intrigued by that illusionary quality
of a stone balanced in a certain way,
and I realised I was on to something, you know, quite special.
I need to have a look at it.
It's the paradox between fragility and solidity which basically
is like you've got two very big, heavy stones,
and they're balanced in a very fragile way.
I focus in completely - you close out everything else because
you have to have a sort of stillness within you,
and you listen to the rocks, you listen with your hands,
and you move them very, very gently, and then when you get a feel for it,
you'll find a weightlessness.
'It's like scoring a goal or falling in love - that "yes!", you know.'
And you can move away from it and look at it and you're, like,
"How on earth is that staying there?"
I like to come down here. I like to work down here on the beach,
it's quiet, you can get into the zone, all my materials are around me.
This is where I like to do it, really.
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