Life, Simply Led

Tout Quarry Scuplture Park And A Rant About How We Treat Teenagers

Tucked away at the back of an industrial estate on the Isle of Portland, at the end of Chesil Beach in Dorset, is a wildlife haven and sculpture park with views to take your breath away – if you squint a bit you might spot our boat down there!

Chesil Beach

Tout Quarry is an abandoned Portland stone quarry which, in its working heyday, was the one of the sources of the stone which built many of London’s famous landmarks and was exported around the world. St Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace and the UN building in New York are all made from stone quarried in Portland.

Since 1983 the Quarry has operated as a sculpture park and nature reserve and it is a tremendous place to visit as a family. I decided we needed a break from our watery adventures so we took our wobbly sea legs off for a wander. I love the freedom sculpture trails give to children to explore art hands on and to really experience it. Tout Quarry is one of the best we’ve had the pleasure to visit.

We climbed up through stacks and sat upon them.

Tout Quarry Dorset

We scrambled, climbed and jumped. Some of it was a bit hairy and we did need to keep a close eye on Bonus Boy, who thinks he’s invincible, but it was very refreshing to be somewhere where health and safety weren’t breathing down our necks and we could make decisions about what was and was not a good idea for ourselves. I did overhear one elderly gentleman with a walking stick remark to his wife that ‘I wouldn’t jump down from there if I were you’ as Bonus Boy leapt from one rock to the ground. I bit my tongue but really wanted to say ‘Well of course you wouldn’t, you’re 70 and he’s 8! I bet you would’ve when you were a boy!’ – I’m so tired of the restrictions placed on young people today by the same people who would then tut and say ‘It was different in my day, we were always playing outside.’

Playing in Tout Quarry Sculpture Park

There were stone sculptures round every corner and hidden in nooks and crannies. While I was looking at the bear’s head carved into one side of this stone Bonus Boy was admiring the alligator on the other!

Alligator sculpture at Tout Quarry Sculpture Park

He found an owl to cuddle (he wanted to take this one home).

owl sculpture at Tout Quarry sculpture park

She reclined, Queen of the Quarry.

Tout Quarry Sculpture trail

We climbed inside and peeped out.

Tout Quarry Sculpture Park

We climbed up and walked along (I loved seeing the remains of the old workings and imagining the noise and busyness which must have once been a feature of this now quiet place).

Tout Quarry Sculpture Park

I hoped there might be yodeling across this gap but they let me down! Climbing up inside the stack on the left through a narrow chasm to stand upon the top had a little extra frisson with its proximity to a sheer drop to the sea on the other side.

Tout Quarry

We stopped and admired the views across Lyme Bay – that is usually us leaving a wake behind as we cross to Brixham, Torquay or Dartmouth on the other side!

Tout Quarry

We found surprises wherever we ventured.

tout quarry

This was my favourite – Crouching Figure by Reiko Nireki.

Crouching Figure by Reiko Nireki, Tout Quarry Sculpture Park

Closely followed by this one.

Tout Quarry

The quarry had its own micro climates and while it was wild and windy up on top of the rocks, once you were walking through the gullies it was eerily silent and very warm.

Tout Quarry

Bonus Boy made us all stop so this little fella could walk on by.

wildlife of Tout Quarry

I was keen to see Antony Gormley’s ‘Still Falling’ and foolishly promised an extra mini egg to the child who found it first. My daughter quickly located the carving but, in the meantime, Bonus Boy had wandered a long way off and we had to set up a quick search party to bring him back. My parenting skills were questioned by the 17-year-old and Bonus Boy was beside himself at the possibility of not having an extra egg and of not having found ‘ANYTHING MUM’. Not my finest moment but all was quickly calmed and sorted and we all went to admire Gormley’s work together.

Still Falling by Antony Gormley, Tout Quarry, Portland

Still Falling by Antony Gormley, Tout Quarry, Portland

We spent a long time exploring the quarry and enjoyed the scrambling about as much, if not more, than the sculptures themselves. There was lots we missed and, as the quarry is constantly changing as more sculptures are created, we will be visiting again soon. I will be wearing stouter footwear, canvas shoes were not the best plan for walking over worked stone, and we’ll take a picnic with us and work our way down to the deserted beach below!

Would you celebrate the freedom from guard rails and warning signs and allow your children to roam or would this give you the heebie jeebies?

Over on Netmums this week I noticed a discussion which had started as a result of a piece of news which came to light over the bank holiday weekend. A group of teenage girls who were building a den in the woods were reported by a dog walker to local police who then attended the scene and asked the girls to move on.

This case and others like it make me wonder how we are raising our children today as a society – it seems to me that we are confining children, discouraging them from socialising in groups, isolating them in ‘safe’, controlled environments and not allowing them to take risks and test themselves.

How will we raise the thinkers, experimenters, explorers, creators and doers of the future if we consent to their confinement, if we insist on their silence, if we squash their exuberance? Teenagers are not another species, they are young people – lumping them together and making assumptions about their behaviour and intentions serves to impoverish our society and culture. Treating them as if they are other than us once they pass the age of thirteen, making them feel unwelcome and outside is hugely damaging and it saddens and angers me.

I am surrounded by teenagers, mother to three of my own all of whom have friends who are also teenagers, they are funny, thoughtful and full of life. They are brimming with possibilities and full of that invincible energy which, if encouraged, can create the most amazing things. As a society we need to stop squashing and controlling that energy, we need to stop being afraid of our children and allow them the freedom to blossom.


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  1. We used to live on Portland, it’s where I had both kids and got married (we had fish and chips on the shore of Chesil Beach along Ferrybridge in our wedding finery) and Tout Quarry was something we knew nothing about and happened into by accident on a walk one day soon after we moved to the island. I love it there, and loved being able to clamber on, sit on, touch the sculpture the way nowhere else lets you, and was glad my kids could do the same.
    Eliza_Do_Lots recently posted…Big man is FIVEMy Profile

    • Oh I’d love to see your wedding photos, how fab!

  2. What a fantastic place! The Dorset coast is somewhere I have always wanted to visit, to see all the geological features I learned at school as much as anything else. Tout Quarry is just my cup of tea. I think you’re quite right about teens. I wonder, with so many young children not getting as much outdoor exercise as other generations, when people do see teens out and about, they think they are up to no good. How sad.
    Trish recently posted…15 Glasgow: An address to rememberMy Profile

    • I love sailing along the coast because you can see all those features really clearly! If you get down there do give me a shout! I do wish the media and older folk wouldn’t come down so hard on teens as a whole group – it’s like saying ‘All old people like making jam and watching Coronation Street’ Teens are individuals not a homogenous group!

  3. I do think teenagers are much maligned, and I fear this comes from a few rather ill-judged actions of groups of kids who have offended adults on the odd occasion. I’m afraid large groups are intimidating to some individuals, possibly through experience, and annoyingly through media. But I have to say, most of the teenagers I see are simply decent kids who have a lot on their plates and live in a cloud of hormones, and I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt for that reason, knowing that they will for the most part grow into good adults.
    It’s a shame that there is so much judgement, but I do wonder if it’s possible to change it.
    Actually Mummy… recently posted…Wot so Funee? Our first wedding.My Profile

    • I think we need to stand up for them when we see an injustice being done or a sweeping assumption being made just as we would for any other group of people who are being labelled as ‘bad’. I agree that the media has a lot to answer for here and I do see that some people would be intimidated by large groups but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t allow or encourage teenagers to socialise and hang out – it seems to me that we are paying a very high price for a largely ungrounded fear.

  4. We’d be scrambling up those rocks and sculptures, me in a cold sweat, but with an encouraging tone.

    I believe in NOT helicopter parenting. My kids probably have a longer range than most their age (here in the UK). We need to let them roam, discover otherwise how will they learn? How else will they develop a love for the natural environment? And if they don’t have a love for the natural environment then why would they choose to look after it?
    Monika aka Mumonthebrink recently posted…Rock pooling with Jane #50thingsMy Profile

    • Exactly – couldn’t have put it better myself!

  5. What a brilliant post Chris!

    That place looks so wonderful, I’d love to visit – although does it have a quarry pit? OH would like to swim no doubt.

    I totally agree with you about the way we are treating our young people nowadays, and fear for the impact it’s having on them.
    Liz Burton recently posted…Food of Life – Birds EyeMy Profile

    • Thanks Liz! No quarry pit at this one I’m afraid – I haven’t checked out the neighbouring quarries yet though, I’ll keep you informed!
      I was thinking about you when I wrote this post because I know you were incensed by that news story too. x

  6. Chris, what a beautiful place and your photos are amazing. I probably hover around my children too much, letting go is so hard, but I’m working on it.

    I couldn’t believe the story on Netmums, you’d think people would be glad those girls were outdoors having harmless fun together. It’s a poor reflection on how teenagers are perceived these days. xx
    Emma recently posted…Living Arrows 16/52My Profile

    • You would, wouldn’t you – the same people complain about teenagers doing nothing but play on gadgets indoors!

      I’m glad you are working hard to stop hovering! :-)

  7. That looks such an amazing place to visit Chris and how lovely to see naturalsrt like this and YES to letting our teens bloom
    Becky recently posted…Virtually Yours: Shopping for Shoes OnlineMy Profile

    • You’d love it there Becky!

  8. Firstly – love the look of that park – I want to visit! We may have to come ad see you over the summer!
    Secondly – totally with you! My children grew up climbing trees and building dens and enjoying the world they lived in! And now my boy does it for a living – what would he have done if we had stopped him! And my daughters 18th – a hall full or teenagers – no drinking – all laughing, talking and dancing together and with my bonkers family – beautifully behaved and excellent company – yet people who saw them on the street, what judgement would they make of them?
    Mary Keynko recently posted…Sponsor a childMy Profile

    • Why do people pass judgement on them so easily? I do think the media has a lot to answer for here. Do give us a shout if you’re down our way!

  9. I visited portland once with my husband but never took any photos. silly uh? your pictures look amazing!
    don’t know much about teenagers as mine are still way little but if mine will be like iused to be then GOD help me!
    otilia recently posted…Coconut oil – Uses and benefitsMy Profile

    • Yes, but you turned out ok didn’t you Otilia?!

  10. What an amazing place that looks, I can’t believe in all the ties I’ve been to Dorset (and lived there) that I’ve never heard of this.We are back in the summer and trip will definitely be on the cards.

    As for the den building, git is crazy, sounds to me like a fab fun and safe thing for them to do Mich x
    Michelle Twin Mum recently posted…I love my home #GreatBritishHomeMy Profile

    • It is amazing Mich, do let me know what you think if you visit :-)

  11. What???? They were asked to move on? I am in shock :-(

    • It’s so wrong isn’t it Maggy? Why was the dog walker more important than they were?

  12. Cracking post lovely lady,

    Teens should be free to explore without having to live under a cloud of what they may become…..

    • Thank you :-) Yes, they should. x

  13. What an amazing place, I really want to visit! Anthony Gormley is a favourite of mine, but it all looks amazing. I’m all for letting mine run wild and take risks, but constantly in fear of being criticised if it goes wrong, I avoid playgrounds as much as possible for that reason! It saddens me the way children and teenagers are treated, I was out bike riding with mine at the weekend – the number of other cyclists and joggers who cut them up because they couldn’t be bothered to wait for them made me angry. I can’t believe den building isn’t allowed.

    • I avoided playgrounds when mine were small too Penny, I couldn’t cope with people who hovered and who tutted if mine climbed up to the top of something they thought was too high! Number 2 walked at 5 months so he was climbing stuff very efficiently very early too – it freaked people out!

  14. this place looks absolutely amazing!
    for the moment the free roaming for rooster would scare me he is only 5, i’ll get back to you in 10 years!
    HPMcQ recently posted…365 22.04.14My Profile

    • Right ho – I’ll wait here for you shall I? ;-)

  15. What a stunning place! As for the teenagers question – I think teenagers get quite a rough deal in today’s society. Many people seem to have forgotten what it was actually like to be a teenager and they just assume that all teenagers are evil folk. Yet it couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, there are some “bad” ones out there, but then there are also some “bad” people in their 80s too. Age is just a number and all people should be treated with respect and as individuals rather than just given a label and an assumption associated with it.
    Penny Carr recently posted…Spring is sprung in the veg gardenMy Profile

    • You are absolutely right – that elderly gentleman in the quarry had clearly forgotten what it was like to be 8 and the dog walker in the woods had forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager and to have nowhere to go. Labelling teens as all ‘trouble’ is just wrong!

  16. Great blog. :)

    The Dad Network recently posted…Miriam Clegg : Men who look after children have more cojonesMy Profile

    • Thank you

  17. What an amazing place Chris, the photos are great as well, specially “Queen of the Quarry” :-) . I wonder if all the sculptures are in some arrangement or just scattered around.
    Andie recently posted…10 Healthiest Foods in The World You Probably Never ConsideredMy Profile

    • Thank you! Some of them are grouped together but most of them are just scattered all over the quarry, it’s fab :-)

  18. First off this place looks great, I can just imagine my little rock climber enjoying himself very much there.
    Secondly we all know that a group of teenagers means trouble, those girls are bound to have been building that den so they could take their drugs without getting wet ;)

    I know the adventures I had as a teenager, hopefully I’ll let mine do the same when they get to that age. Seems at the moment they either experience the case you mention or are stopped going altogether over safety concerns.
    Ben recently posted…Fool on the run – Tommy’sMy Profile

    • The girls had been to Asda on the way to buy crisps and pop. It’s the assumptions that are made about them which get my goat, the lumping together of an entire age group into one homogenous mass – why was that dog walker more important than they were? I had enormous freedom as a teenager and I want my lot and those around them to have the same – keeping them indoors, out of sight and out of mind will backfire, big time!

  19. The place looks stunning. Somewhere I’d love to visit. I love the stone sculptures. As for teenagers, they get such a raw deal, it’s like everything in life a few minorities destroy people’s faith. So unfair. They are our future. Treat them with the respect they deserve.
    Susan Mann recently posted…Review And Giveaway – PL-UG Ultimate Den Building KitMy Profile

    • Exactly Susan! It’s about respect and it works both ways.

  20. What a fantastic place to set your children free into such a creative natural space. I love this part of the country but have never been to this sculpture park so will have it on my list for the next visit. I agree that you have to let your children learn and allow them to take some risks or they will never be able to make informed choices when they are older.
    Kirsty recently posted…The Gruffalo ActivitiesMy Profile

    • It was such a find, one of those tucked away places which have such gems to share!


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