After about ten years of planning and hard work, July 21st will see the long-awaited re-opening of the refurbished and extended Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre. Having been completed just in time for the Olympics, the expanded centre will have a temporary exhibition over the summer months focusing on a marine theme. Dorset Wildlife Trust who will be running the centre, say
“This marine exhibition will run at the Centre during the Olympic and Paralympic games and will celebrate the diverse coastline and marine life in Dorset, whilst raising awareness of some of the issues that affect it. The exhibits will include marine-inspired work by local artists and school groups, local photography and conservation information.“
Although the building, landscaping and boardwalk will be completed in time for the end of the month, the project is not fully complete, so the 21st won’t be an official grand opening. However it will be an opportunity for a ‘soft launch’, so there will be family activities, outdoor food and entertainment by local choirs. Once both sets of games are over, Wildlife Trust Team and Partners will start work on the permanent display which will focusing on Chesil beach and the Fleet lagoon, and will be ready by spring 2013.
For those of you not familiar with it, the Chesil Beach visitor centre is just over the ferrybridge on Portland with the old facility having a small interpretation room, hatch café, public toilets and office for the Fleet Lagoon warden, Don Moxom. Just after the World Heritage Site inscription, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, the building owners and partners agreed that to recognise the Jurassic Coast designation, the centre should be expanded to have better interpretation space, an education room and better catering facilities. A wide range of partners have been working since then to bring this about, and it is fantastic to finally see it realised – the project has had so many setbacks that we thought it would never happen!
The refurbished and expanded centre includes an education room, information centre, shop and café run by Masterchef winner Mat Follas, as well as a brand new boardwalk across the Fleet lagoon, built by 26 Engineer Regiment. The Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre is run by Dorset Wildlife Trust on behalf of a partnership including Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, the Jurassic Coast Team, the Chesil Bank and the Fleet Nature Reserve, with the continued help of local volunteers. The building of the new centre and boardwalk was made possible by funding from a wide range of organisations, including the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Crown Estate and Court Leet of the Island and Royal Manor of Portland, the Fine Family Foundation, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, Dorset County Council, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Chalk and Cheese and the Jurassic Coast Trust.
The centre is always looking for more volunteers so if you are interested email the Centre Manager Emily Brown on ebrown@Dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk or 07824 438975
Sam Rose, Jurassic Coast Team Leader (with extracts from Dorset Wildlife Trust)