The Legend of Old Harry
We always knew our adventure stomping ground in Studland’s bay was something pretty special. I mean it marks the beginning of the Jurassic Coastline, a UNESCO World Heritage sight, for one.
But for two, our patch of Dorset wild also happens to be an iconic landmark that is filled to the brim in myth, magic and legend, with pirates and the Devil himself making their shady contribution to the history of our home.
It’s a funny thing that Old Harry Rocks, those familiar chalky stacks and stumps that mark the end of a popularly traversed cliff line, is spoken of lovingly by locals. Like an old friend is Old Harry to villagers and Dorset-goers, yet the tales that gave him his name are steeped in the less-lovely…
One legend claims that the stack of Old Harry is so named because the Devil, for whom Old Harry is an age-old nickname, had a sleep on the famed rocks. Echoing this devilish tone, there is an old saying that speaks of someone ‘playing Old Harry,’ which would rather brutally mean ‘to ruin or destroy.’ The rocks were supposedly named as they are to give warning to ships to keep their distance from the treacherous cliffs.
The other of the two tales is centered around one infamous individual. Harry Paye was a pirate who called the Poole area his home, making it a place of terror and trouble as he spent his days attacking the merchant ships that sailed in and out of Poole Harbour. It is said that the iconic stack and arches that provide us with adventures a-plenty were named after this very Harry as the caves became a hiding place for his loot.
Perhaps it is even possible that these two tales make a legend combined, with Harry Paye and his reckless and vigilante ways giving him the title of the devil, and the rocks being a place where he inevitably slept as he squirreled away his contraband.
Whatever side of legend you decide to let your imagination fall, we can be left certain that these rocks provide us with not only adventure tales of old but adventure tales of now. These caves that we explore, stacks we circle, and arches we pass through from the water’s surface make a sea playground like no other.
Adventuring in the footsteps of pirates and legend. That’s how Fore does it.