Portland and its harbour have been an important landing place and harbour for centuries. That’s probably why we have so many castles round here.
The most charismatic, I think is Rufus Castle, with parts of its foundations dating back as far as Norman times, I believe. It’s a dour sort of place, parked on a rock overlooking the lovely Church Ope Cove with its many-coloured beach huts, and still standing guard in the teeth of the eastern gales after all this time.
Some years ago, when I was still seeking my ‘writing voice’, I wrote a series of short pieces in which I gave a voice to inanimate objects, particularly buildings. There are many interesting buildings on Portland, and I gave ‘voices’ to quite a few of them during this little project, but Rufus Castle caught my special attention. Here the castle itself is speaking to a visitor:
“I was built on this rock. And made of it, too, your honour. Oh, these great many years past. My purpose? Why, to guard that little, small cove, the one they call the Church Ope in the new-fangled speaking. Guard it against the Northmen when they come i-viking. They don’t come these days. Not often. But see, your honour, they have left behind siege-engines, all colours, dotted round the beach. The people of this isle come and sit in them, and make a holiday. ’Tis a great wonder.
“Have a care, your honour, and do not approach me too close, for my walls do crumble. If a stone should fall and crush you I should be mortified. And so should you. I fear I grow frail, for a stronghold.”
And there we are. As soon as I had finished this, I knew I had found the writing voice and tone I had been looking for. The castle rapidly transformed into a character – Rufus the Hermit, all alone on his draughty clifftop – and that was where my Isle of Larus stories began.
The Jurassic Coast is a gift to the writer, and this wonderful place just keeps giving and giving. Characters walk out of the sea and fly down from the cliff tops. Ideas for stories float in with the tide. I love it, and I’m exceptionally lucky to have so much inspiration right here on my doorstep.
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