Locations Feature Page - Marine Facilities

Local facilities for marine vessels range from docks for large ships to quays, piers and jetties for smaller vessels, private boatyards, marinas, ferry terminals, and even sunken wrecks for divers.
Above: Weymouth harbourfront in Dunkirk [2017]. Some of the buildings in the background are clearly postwar, though this is not noticeable in the brief shot in the film.

Anchorages & Moorings

Local councils of waterfront towns make substantial income from charging sailing-boat owners annual mooring fees, so there are extensive sailing-boat mooring pitches from the Beaulieu River, Lymington [river and estuary] west to Christchurch [on the lower Avon], Poole Harbour, and Weymouth [the river Wey]. There, you can see clutches of power boats, sailing boats, and small yachts moored in mid-channel year-round. (You can actually hear the latter before you see them, their rigging plinking endlessly against their masts in the breeze.) These are mid-channel or side-channel mooring spots, as opposed to marinas [listed separately below], where full-service berths are provided alongside gangways with service points for electricity etc.

Above: Lyme Regis has a sheltered anchorage for small craft, created in mediaeval times by building a curved sea wall - the famous Cobb, as seen in The French Lieutenant's Woman and the various tv versions of Austen's Persuasion. Its first appearance on screen was probably in All Over The Town in 1948 [mouse over to see screenshot].

Above: Maps of Christchurch harbour and Poole's inner harbour area. Both harbours are very shallow, with narrow dredged navigation channels. Christchurch allows small craft to moor all around the harbour as even the main channel is too shallow for shipping. Poole harbour is a major shipping area; it allows mooring outside the navigation channels, but has purpose-built anchorages near the busy docks, like the 105-berth Dolphin Boat Haven along the town quay, visible centre right.


Above: Poole Harbour, outside the designated navigation channels, is shallow [mouse over image for low-tide photo] and in a sense one vast anchorage, where users pay fees to the Poole Harbour Commissioners to moor their vessels. (Failure to register makes the vessel liable to fines and seizure.)

Below: boat anchorages or 'havens' at Weymouth and [mouse over image] Poole Quay.

Below: anchorages at Lymington and [mouse over] Christchurch Harbour, by Mudeford Sandbank.


Deepwater anchorages for large ships are fewer - even the major waterways like the Solent and Poole Harbour depend on narrow dredged channels for larger ships. Many large vessels anchor instead off the south coast of Wight, as shown in this telephoto shot taken from Shanklin. (Note that lighthouses are listed on a different feature page, under Towers, rather than as marine facilities.)

Boat Yards


Above: the Sunseeker boatyard in Poole's inner harbour. Sunseeker motor cruisers have appeared in at least 4 James Bond films.
There are private boat-yards (where boats are built or maintained) along Southampton Water which were widely seen in location exteriors for the BBC 1980s soap Howard's Way, about a family boat-building business based in the River Hamble estuary. The area as a sailing venue was seen in True As A Turtle (US title Plain Sailing), a 1950s Rank Studios comedy about fixing up an old yacht, which filmed scenes in the Hamble estuary. (See also under Marinas, some of which [e.g. Hythe] have boatyard facilities such as boat hoists.)

Below Left: Howard's Way - a publicity still and [mouse over image] a screenshot from Episode 1.
Below right: A boat hoist in the inner reaches of Poole Harbour.

 

Dockyards
Industrial docks with cranes etc are found at Poole, and in the east, on Southampton Water off the Solent.

Above: Southampton Water, with the main docks upper right, and [mouse over] one of the 4 main passenger docks. Below: passengers gathered at dockside to watch the final departure of the QE2, visible in the distance.

The largest dockyards in the region used to be Portland Naval Dockyard, once home to the Grand Fleet; the naval base is now history, but some of the facilities remain for commercial use.


Above: Portland naval dockyard as seen in the WW2-set drama The Key [1958], looking N towards Weymouth, and [mouse over], E to the mouth of Portland Harbour


Above: Portland dockward in a rare Technicolor appearance - You Know What Sailors Are! (1954)
 
Below and right: Portland dockyards as seen in Rank’s Norman Wisdom comedy The Bulldog Breed [1960]


Left: Poole Quay in the Hitchcockian drama Woman Of Straw [1964]. Although the New Quay opposite is the more industrial one, note in the reverse-angle shot [mouse over image] the heavy crane behind Sean Connery. The same lifting cranes can be seen in other dramas, such as the 1998 BBC adaptation of the Minette Walters novel The Scold’s Bridle.

Ferry Terminals

Above: [1] The Sandbanks ferry-dock slipway for the chain ferry to Studland. To the right is the Haven Hotel, the closest to an actual terminus building, and [2] [mouse over] Brownsea's ferry dock.

 

Left: [1] the current ferry [built 1994, soon to be replaced] docking at Studland slipway on the other side of Poole harbour-mouth. [2] The Sandbanks chain ferry and Studland slipway appeared [mouse over image] in the opening of BBC's 1976 cult black comedy Nuts In May.

There are half a dozen small and medium-sized ferries operating in the Solent-Southampton Water area, all of which have terminals of one kind or another, ranging from car-ferry slipways to wooden piers for the passenger-only routes - as at Hythe, whose ferry service dates back to the Middle Ages. Solent-Wight car ferries [see below] have in the past portrayed much larger vessels in budget-conscious BBC tv dramas, as in Howard’s Way and the 1993 Ken Russell Lady Chatterley, where (with careful selection of closeups) a Solent ferry played a transatlantic liner.

Below: Poole's Cherbourg ferry terminal is seen in The Time Of Their Lives, a 2017 drama of two women [played by Joan Collins and Pauline Collins] travelling to France for a funeral.
Below: Yarmouth car-ferry terminal behind Yarmouth pier [itself used to dock passenger-only vessels like the Waverley], and [mouse over] as seen in the German telefilm Flügel der Hoffnung [2007].
Below: Lymington Pier train station/Yarmouth ferry terminus. Weymouth quay and Poole's New Quay also have railway lines down them, though used for freight rather than foot passengers, and Ryde has one due to its length, as does Hythe (see under Piers).
Below: Brownsea Island ferry dock. Local ferryboats from Poole Quay take visitors back and forth from the island, which is a popular nature spot owned by the National Trust (who charge a landing fee). The converted Victorian castle building seen here is owned by the John Lewis Partnership, who use it as holiday accommodation for their staff. There is a cafe open to the public just beyond the dock.
Below: the Lymington and [mouse over image] Yarmouth ferry terminals.


Hovercraft, which are used for the cross-Solent ferry to Ryde, being amphibious do not require a dock but can pull up on any beach or shore. However at Ryde they use the concrete slipway next to the Pier so that passengers can embark from there. The hovercraft was developed in this area, with a factory at Hythe, and a Sanders-Roe prototype was used in the 1966 Matt Helm spy spoof Murderers' Row, as shown here in this pair of screenshots.

Harbours

Poole Harbour, looking SW. The inner harbour with the railway causeway across it is Holes Bay, connected to the main harbour by the Back Water Channel. The harbour entrance, where the Sandbanks-Studland chain-ferry crosses, is beyond in the distance. The largest vessels using it are cruise liners and [mouse over image] the cross-channel ferries to Brittany.


Above: Weymouth's inner harbour, looking inland and [mouse over image] downriver towards the seafront and outer harbour which is the commercial seaside-resort frontage of Weymouth Bay.The waterway leads upstream to Radipole Lake.

Below: HMS Turtle, not a vessel but an official RN designation of the Special Boat Service HQ at Hamworthy in Poole Harbour. The camouflaged WW2 landing craft sit in front of their boathouse. On the right is the new Moriconium Quay development, a gated private marina for residents of the luxury-flat complex.

Below: Portland Harbour from Portland Heights. The north end of the Breakwater enclosing the harbour is just visible on the right. The back or western side of the harbour is formed by a sandy isthmus connecting Portland peninsula to mainland Dorset. This stretch of sand and pebble beach becomes Chesil Bank enclosing the tidal Fleet Lagoon, where Barnes Wallis tested his bouncing-bomb prototype, as seen in The Dam Busters.

Portland Harbour adjacent to Weymouth's outer harbour is one of the largest man-made ie artificially enclosed harbours in the world, 2 miles across. It was enclosed via a long pair of breakwater walls 12'-high constructed with local stone quarried by Victorian convict labour to house Britain's Grand Fleet. The last development was the creation of a helipad base in 1959. The Navy abandoned it in the mid-90s as part of the post Cold War 'dividend' of cutbacks, and many facilities have been refurbished for commercial use. As it is also one of the deepest man-made harbours in the world (originally berthing battleships), at 12-20m (39-66ft), it can accommodate cruise liners. The refurbished facilities include a new 600-berth marina capable of handling superyachts and a national sailing academy, and these hosted sailing events for the 2012 Olympics. Portland Port currently claimes to be the second largest man-made harbour in the world. Portland Harbour and nearby Chesil Cove were also used for filming scenes for The Mercy, the 2017 Donald Crowhurst biopic.


In the 1950s, when it was still a naval base, Portland Harbour was regularly seen in war dramas and service comedies, such as Morning Departure [showing the harbour vista], Gift Horse/Glory At Sea, The Cruel Sea [showing the harbour approach], Above Us The Waves [screenshots opposite], The Key [see screenshots], Further Up The Creek, Bobbikins [showing the helibase], The Bulldog Breed [see screenshots below], Petticoat Pirates [showing the WREN barracks etc] and You Know What Sailors Are! [showing the harbour approaches in the test-range firing sequence].

Left: a midget sub is fitted out at one of Portland's docks and then [mouse over] tested outside Portland breakwater, in Above Us The Waves, aka Operation Tirpitz (1955)

Below: Among smaller harbours, the best-known to appear onscreen is Lyme Regis, with its famous Cobb enclosing a small sandy harbour that largely dries out at low tide. (See also under Anchorages above). The harbour area is seen in All Over The Town [1948], all the tv versions of Austen's Persuasion [1969-], in The French Lieutenant's Woman [1981], and the 1972 Children's Film Foundation featurette Wreck Raisers.

 
Among smaller harbours, the most frequent to appear onscreen after Lyme Regis is West Bay, which is the harbour for the market town of Bridport in SW Dorset. Its harbour was developed by creating an entrance lined with wooden pilings inside a rock-groyne barrier. Below are screenshots showing how it appeared in The Navy Lark in 1959 [first 3 screenshots] and [mouse over] The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin in 1976. Below that are a pair of images showing how it appeared after the harbour sea-defences were improved, in the series Harbour Lights in 1997, and finally in Broadchurch in 2015.
Marinas
There are full-service marinas at Lymington, Christchurch, Poole, Portland, Hythe and Yarmouth which provide pontoon mooring berths and onsite facilities. Poole has the largest concentration - Poole Yacht Club, Port of Poole Marina, Sandbanks Yacht Company, Lake Yard Marina, Davis Boatyard Marina, Cobb's Quay Marina [in Holes Bay], and Parkstone Yacht Club and Marina. Hythe's, which bills itself as 'the first marina village to be built in the UK', lists itself as a Marina Village, being a luxury waterside housing development with a lock-gate boat enclosure next to the pier.


Above: Salterns Marina in Poole Harbour.


Above: Lymington Marina. Lymington has been a resort for the yachting set for decades. The Royal Lymington Yacht Club and the Lymington River were seen in the 1950s Rank Studios comedy True As A Turtle (US title Plain Sailing). The Lymington-Beaulieu River area was also used onscreen to stand in for the Miami yachting scene in the 2016 true-life crime drama The Infiltrator, starring Bryan Cranston as a US Customs official who went undercover in the 1990s to trap Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Piers & Jetties
Wooden structures built where the inshore depth is too shallow for visiting vessels have been a feature of seaside resort since the days of the early paddlewheelers. The first were built along the north shore of the Isle of Wight (Ryde's, built 1813, was a mile long), but soon no respectable seaside resort was without one, complete with amusement arcades, end-of-pier theatres etc. (There is a sequence in The Two Ronnies 1982 feature spinoff By The Sea showing the former Swanage Pier [since rebuilt] in its seaside-holidays heyday.) Jetties are the pier's more common smaller cousin, and are purely functional. Their use is subject to the state of the tides - there is a scene in the 1966 A Man For All Seasons where the king has to jump out of his royal barge into the mud of the Beaulieu River [portraying the Thames] because the tide is out. (Luckily the region has only a small tidal range due to the double-tide effect of two tides meeting.) Most of the small passenger ferries have private jetties as their terminus or landing dock, such as the Wick Ferry at Christchurch, and the Hurst-Keyhaven ferry. A few older piers are stone rather than wood. On Portland, Castletown's stone pier is currently being transformed into an attraction called 'Crabbers Wharf,' via a new superstructure complex.


Above: Swanage Pier, as it appeared in the BBC's 2017 adaptation of EM Forster's Howard's End. It also appeared in Victorian guise in the 1997 biopic Wilde.

Below: Swanage's restored Victorian Pier. It was also the berth for Hook's pirate ship in ITV’s 2016 reimagining of the Peter Pan story Peter & Wendy, with scenes shot aboard a replica of a c1700 Baltic sailing vessel without showing the pier itself.

Bournemouth's current pier is mainly postwar; with its amusement facilities on the main promenade deck, there are landing stages [lower sidedecks] for boats to embark passengers. The image below shows both the Bournemouth Belle cruise-boat and paddlewheeler SS Waverley docked alongside.

Bournemouth's 2nd, smaller pier, Boscombe Pier, has appeared on screen, here in the BBC sitcom Waiting For God [S5E6, 1994], and [mouse over image] the 1998 British indie romcom The Sea Change. It appeared more recently in The Time Of Their Lives (2017).

Below: Hythe Pier on the W side of Southampton Water. It has a purpose-built narrow-gauge tram or train (actually the world's oldest electric train/ pier train) to carry passengers out to the Blue Funnel ferry for Southampton's Town Quay.

Below: Weymouth Pier, long in need of a refurbishment.

Quays
Stone quays for ships to dock alongside loading and unloading areas are a feature of ports large and small.

Above: Poole Quay, sometimes named Dolphin Quay, dates back to the mediaeval era when the town expanded from a small fishing port to a centre of transatlantic trade with the British colony of Newfoundland, for which Poole was commercial capital. This is now mainly a tourist area, where tour boats dock and for freight handling the port has the more modern [1960s] New Quay across the channel, in Hamworthy, and a 3rd quay, South Quay, for large cruise ships, opened in 2018 next to the ferry terminal. The Backwater Channel links Holes Bay with Poole Harbour. Quayside facilities continue further up-channel beyond Poole Bridge, which is a lifting bridge [see below] to allow ships to pass through, as is the more modern [2012] Twin Sails Bridge upstream. Poole Quay and Poole Harbour first [?] appeared onscreen in The Ship That Died Of Shame (1955) and most substantially in BBC’s 10-part 1985 BBC Saturday-evening drama The Collectors.

Below: The Heroes Of Telemark [1965] used both Poole's New Quay and the older Town Quay opposite to represent, respectively, a Norwegian port and a British one [Aberdeen?], where the ferryboat, which the Norwegian Resistance hijacked to cross the North Sea, arrives with vital info about the Nazis' atomic-bomb project.

Wareham Quay
The Saxon market town of Wareham had its own quay and was a commercial port until the Wareham Channel down to the W end of Poole Harbour silted up. Tourist boats still take passengers from Poole Quay there through the Wareham Marshes, a 2-hour trip.

Weymouth Quay


Above: Weymouth has a busy tourist quay, with some additional quayside facilities [mouse over image] extending along the River Wey channel, as shown below.


Above: Weymouth Quay first [?] appeared onscreen in The Ship That Died Of Shame (1955).
 

Christchurch Quay
This is the award-winning Town Quay, situated on a public park with walks along the Lower Stour. There plenty of small craft on view, moored or passing by between here and Tuckton Bridge upstream [from where the 2nd shot was taken - mouse over], but the only vessels that dock at the quay are the local river ferries.

Left: Mudeford Quay, on the north side of the mouth of Christchurch Harbour, is a local tourist spot with a car park, pub and restaurant. It is used for crab fishing by local anglers, and is not much used by vessels apart from the Mudeford Ferry, which is the motorboat that takes pasengers back and forth from Mudeford Sandbank opposite.

In terms of being marine facilities, the 4 sea forts constructed in the late 19C on the sea bed at the shallow eastern entrance to the Solent could be classed here as quays, though their docking facilities are limited. Illustrated here is a boat docking at Spitbank Fort, now a luxury hotel.

Underwater Sites and Scenes
The coast here is said to be for divers the best wreck-hunting location in Britain - see map-board below. (The idea of recovering a sunken wreck, a la Raise The Titantic, was the premise of the 1972 Children's Film Foundation featurette Wreck Raisers, shot at Lyme Regis and Seaton Hole.) Underwater or in-the-water scenes have been shot at the Royal Marines sea-survival training tank in Hamworthy for films such as The Heroes Of Telemark. The RNLI's new HQ and training college on Poole Harbour's Back Water Channel also has an indoor seawater tank. Portland Harbour is also used for film scenes involving large-scale [50ft long etc] submarines, as in the dramas K-19: The Widowmaker [2002] and Below [2002]. The present-day framework scenes for the BBC’s 2013-15 fantasy series Atlantis were filmed aboard a diving support ship, SD Victoria, in and around Portland Harbour.

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