“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Oiling a Folly

The tower shown below is Clavell Tower which sits on the Dorset coastline just to the east of Kimmeridge Bay. Clavell Tower was built in 1830 by the Reverend John Richards Clavell, who apparently built the folly for use as an observatory. The tower sits 100 metres above the sea on the top of Hen Cliff and is itself 11 metres tall, so as an observatory it could provide far reaching views over both the sea and the nearby countryside. Given the tower’s location it is not surprising that it was also used by local Coastguards as a look out post until the 1930s, when the tower was sadly gutted by a fire.

In 2006 an 18 month project commenced to move the tower 25 metres inland to save it from falling victim to the crumbling cliff edge. The project saw the tower’s 16,272 stones numbered and photographed so that they could be moved and carefully reconstructed at the new location. During this relocation the interior of the tower, which comprises of 4 internal floors and a shallow basement, was refurbished and is today available as a unique holiday home.  

To date the tower has been the inspiration for at least two famous authors. The Dorset novelist, Thomas Hardy, is said to have frequently taken his lover to visit the tower, which is probably why he included a sketch of the tower in his Wessex Poems. It is also said that the fire gutted tower was the inspiration for a murder scene in P. D. James's 1975 novel The Black Tower.

Clavell Tower seen across Kimmeridge Bay.

The Tower and the foundations of its original location.
Clavell Tower is not the only place of interest in Kimmeridge, just to the west of Kimmeridge Bay there is a “nodding donkey” extracting oil from this part of the Jurassic Coast. The Dorset coast is not the sort of place that you would expect to find oil being extracted, however oil operations have been ongoing here since 1935. Small seepages of oil were found in numerous locations around the Dorset coast and these led to people searching for their source.  Between 1958 and 1980 six wells were drilled in Kimmeridge Bay, and only one of these wells (known as K1) exposed worthwhile reserves of oil and gas seeping from the rocks around 500 meters below the coast. Following this discovery oil extraction was soon set up and the “nodding donkey” at the Kimmeridge K1 well site has been pumping non-stop since 1961 and has the honour of being the oldest working oil pump in the UK. The K1 well currently draws oil from 350 metres below the coast, and at its peak it was producing 350 barrels of oil per day. These days the well produces around 80 to 65 barrels per day.

The Kimmeridge K1 well is now part of the larger Wytch Farm oil field and processing facility that extracts and processes oil from a number of locations in the Purbeck Region. The Wytch Farm oil field is the largest onshore oil field in Western Europe, and yet most people who live in Dorset would not even know that black gold is being extracted from beneath their feet!

The Kimmeridge Oil Well seen from across Kimmeridge Bay.

The Kimmeridge Nodding Donkey. 
Pictures: Dorset (May 2015).

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