Dancing Ledge is part of the Jurassic Coast and is located near Langton Matravers on the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset. Dancing Ledge is an area of flat rock at the base of a small cliff, it can be a little difficult to access requiring a little scrambling up some rocks. It is signposted along the South West Coast Patt (a walking path) and is a few kilometres west of Swanage. It is called Dancing Ledge because, at certain stages of the tide, the waves wash over the horizontal surface which causes the water to jump about making the ledge appear to dance.
Dancing Ledge History
The area was originally used for quarrying Purbeck Stone, the ledge is a straight drop off into the sea and the water is deep enough for small boats and ships to come up to the ledge. Due to this depth, local quarrymen used it for the transportation of the stone away from the quarry. Some stone was removed from the quarry using the Dancing Ledge in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the past, this area was used for quarrying Purbeck Stone, which is a limestone that has been quarried since the Roman Times and is still being quarried to this day. The ledge is a straight drop off into the sea below and small ships can come right up to the ledge when the weather permits it. This area was used, and exploited, by quarrymen that transported the stone away from this area. Some of the material removed from the Dancing Ledge was transported by ship directly to Kent to construct the Ramsgate Harbour which was built in the 18th and 19th centuries.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, a swimming pool was carved out into the rock for preparatory schools. Debris and many boulders were removed to make swimming in the pool possible and safe. Unfortunately, swimming in the sea itself is not permitted as throughout the years, many swimmers have been pulled down by the strong currents generated due to the shape of the rocks, resulting in their tragic deaths.
Leisure at the Dancing Ledge
A swimming pool was cut into the rocks for the use of local schools such as Durnford School near the beginning of the 12th century. The pools became unusable due to debris, but in 2007 the debris was arranged to be removed and this has made swimming possible once again. The sea around the ledge is not suitable for swimming in as there is no shoreline, a number of people have been pulled under the rock shelf and died.
Although swimming is not permitted, the cliffs above the sea are a very popular location for climbing. The cliff just above the ledge is a popular rock-climbing location with a small 10-metre cliff close the sea and a larger 20-metre limestone cliff set back above the smaller one. Talking a walk from Durlston House to the Dancing ledge, following the coastal path is a great way to spend an afternoon. All along the cliff walls, you can find small pocket caves, filled with ancient fossils, that you can explore.