Freshwater Steps

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The waterfall at Freshwater Steps taken from the water
Photo copyright of Robin Knowles 2003  

This area is named after the fresh water stream that flows from the Encombe valley and the original steps, now long since gone, that once lead down to the beach.

O.S. Map showing location of Freshwater Steps

Bob Dorey (1892-1995) recounts:

I remember the steps, now gone, which led down to the beach there [at Freshwater]. An outer flight, twelve inch rise and twelve inch treads, two feet wide, and an inner flight with six inch rise by ten inch treads, two foot six inches wide … so the overall width was four feet six inches. A ramp of concrete from the stairway to the foot of the cliff on the other side of the waterfall helped to support the steps and provide a slipway to pull a boat up. This was built in the time of the Second Earl … 1840; the bottom step had “ELDON” chiselled into it. Alas, when the lower steps were displaced by heavy seas they were not repaired, and gradually all were lost to the sea. When I was a child, there was a thatched hut at the top of the steps where you could sit and look out to sea. There is a piece of three inch lead pipe remaining from a system which used to pump sea water up to the House to be used for Salt Water Baths.

‘There was once another flight of steps, by the mouth of the tunnel from which the fresh water stream emerges, which was for ladies to climb easily to a path leading to the Carriage road that ran from Encombe House to Pier Gates where the Half Cliff Drive ran right round to Chapman’s Pool and allowed carriages to go there and so on towards Hill Bottom, Renscombe and St. Aldhelm’s Head. As boys we used to walk round there on a summer Sunday afternoon, but from 1903 on the undercliff started to subside and the carriage road was gradually destroyed.’

Bob also recalls, when ‘talking of water at changes of the Moon’:

We used to go to Freshwater for “Low Water” at 3 p.m. From 2.30 till 3.30 we would get winkles from the crevices in the ledges under the seaweed. After we had carried them home and Mother had cooked them, we got busy with a pin and a twist of the wrist; soon we had a plateful, which, with a drop of vinegar, made a tasty supper!’

Page last updated: 29 January 2021


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