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Weymouth is a large town in Dorset, England, situated on a sheltered bay at the mouth of the River Wey on the English Channel coast. The town is 13 kilometres (8 mi) south of Dorchester and 8 kilometres (5 mi) north of the Isle of Portland.




Images of Weymouth The A354 road bridge connects Weymouth to Portland, which together form the borough of Weymouth and Portland. The history of the borough stretches back to the 12th century; including involvement in the spread of the Black Death, the settlement of the Americas, the development of Georgian architecture, and preparations for World War II.

Although fishing and trading employ fewer people in the area since their peak in earlier centuries, tourism has had a strong presence in the town since the 18th century. Weymouth is a tourist resort, and its economy depends on its harbour and visitor attractions; the town is a gateway situated half-way along the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site on the Dorset and east Devon coast, important for its geology and landforms.

Weymouth Harbour is home to cross-channel ferries, pleasure boats and private yachts, and nearby Portland Harbour is home to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, where the sailing events of the 2012 Olympic Games will be held.


GEOGRAPHY

Weymouth is situated on the western shore of Weymouth Bay on the south coast of England, 195 kilometres (120 mi) west-southwest of London. The town is built on weak sand and clay rock which in most places along the Dorset coast, except for narrow bands at Lulworth Cove, Swanage and Durdle Door, has been eroded and transported away. This weak rock has been protected at Weymouth by Chesil Beach and the strong limestone Isle of Portland that lies offshore, 3 kilometres (2 mi) south of Wyke Regis. The island affects the tides of the area, producing a double low tide in Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour. The maximum tidal range is small, less than 2 metres (7 ft).

There are two lakes in the borough, both RSPB Nature Reserves—Radipole Lake in the town centre, and Lodmoor between the town centre and Preston. Radipole Lake, the largest nature reserve, and mouth of the River Wey before it flows into Weymouth Harbour, is an important habitat for fish and migratory birds, and over 200 species of plants. Radipole is an important tourist attraction; it and Weymouth Beach are situated very close to the main town centre. There are 11 Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the borough, which cover an area of 800.87 hectares (1,979 acres), and there are 37 other Nature Conservation Designations.

Situated approximately half-way along the Jurassic Coast, Weymouth is a gateway town to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes 153 kilometres (95 mi) of the Dorset and east Devon coast that is important for its geology and landforms. The South West Coast Path has two routes around Weymouth and Portland—one around its coast, and one along the South Dorset Downs, which reduces the path's length by 31.0 kilometres (19.3 mi). The path is the United Kingdom's longest national trail, at 1,014 kilometres (630 mi).

Weymouth is the largest town in the area, larger than the county town of Dorchester, which lies just to the north, and hence is a centre of activity for the nearby population. A steep ridge of chalk called the South Dorset Downs separates Dorchester and Weymouth; they are less agricultural than the valleys in the centre and north of Dorset, but have dairy and arable farms. The nearest villages to Weymouth are part of the built-up area, including Wyke Regis, Chickerell and Preston.


SPORTS AND RECREATION

Weymouth's wide and shallow sandy beach is used for swimming and sunbathing during the tourist season, and for beach sport events throughout the year, including beach motocross, the International handball championships and the beach volleyball classic. The international kite festival, held in May each year on Weymouth Beach, attracts around 40,000 spectators to the esplanade from around the world.

The local football club, Weymouth F.C. or 'the Terras', are outside the Football League but, in common with other non-league clubs, they became professional in 2005. The team enjoyed erratic success at their level; twice playing in the third round of the FA Cup, the highest club competition level. At the end of the 2005–06 season the team became champions of the Conference South (the sixth level of English football) meaning that they compete in the Conference National (the fifth level) for the first time since 1989. The Terras' ground is the Wessex Stadium; its record attendance is 6,500 against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup 2005–2006 season.

On the shores of Portland Harbour, 3 kilometres (2 mi) south of Wyke Regis, is Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, where the sailing events of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will take place. The main reason that the resort was chosen to be an Olympic venue was because the National Sailing Academy had only recently been built, so no venue would have to be built. However, as part of the South West of England Regional Development Agency's plans to redevelop Osprey Quay, in which the academy is built, a new 600-berth marina and an extension with more on-site facilities will be built.

The waters of Weymouth and Portland were credited by the Royal Yachting Association as the best in Northern Europe for sailing. Local, national and international sailing events are regularly held in the bay; these include the J/24 World Championships in 2005, trials for the 2004 Athens Olympics, the ISAF World Championship 2006, the BUCS Fleet Racing Championships, and the RYA Youth National Championships.

Weymouth Bay is a venue for other water-sports—the reliable wind is favourable for wind- and kite-surfing. The sheltered waters in Portland Harbour and near Weymouth are used for angling, diving to shipwrecks, snorkelling, canoeing, jet skiing, water skiing, and swimming. The town also has a successful cricket club, who are currently in the Premier Division of the Dorset Saturday League.


ECONOMY

Tourism has been the largest industry in Weymouth for decades, though the number of people employed in the sector has declined slightly since its peak in the late 1990s. Weymouth's coast and beaches, lakes, museums, aquarium, and two shopping centres are the main attractions for visitors. The visitor accommodation consists of hotels on the seafront, guest houses around the town centre, and caravan and camping sites just out of town, including three sites owned by Haven and British Holidays: Littlesea, Seaview and Weymouth Bay.

There are over two hundred events held throughout the year in the borough, including firework festivals, dragon boat racing, beach volleyball, handball and motocross, and the annual carnival in mid-August, which attracts around 70,000 people each year. Weymouth is the only port in the world to have hosted the start of The Tall Ships' Races three times —in 1983, 1987 and 1994; the 1994 race attracting 300,000 spectators.

The Pavilion Theatre was built in 1960 on a peninsula of reclaimed land between the harbour and the esplanade, after the Ritz Theatre was destroyed by fire in 1954. The Pavilion is owned and operated by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, providing a venue for local community groups and schools, and hosting seasonal "end of the pier" entertainment and year-round shows and events.

It was announced in 2006 that the Pavilion complex and 4 hectares (10 acres) of its surroundings will be entirely redeveloped from 2008 to 2011, in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The complex is planned to include a refurbished theatre, a World Heritage Site visitors' centre, a new ferry terminal, a 140 bed 4-star hotel, an underground car park, a shopping arcade, offices, around 340 luxury apartments, 110 affordable homes, public squares, promenades, and a 290-berth marina.

Weymouth Harbour is long and narrow, and formed the estuary of the River Wey until the building of a bridge to Westham, which separated the harbour's backwaters from Radipole Lake. For centuries the harbour was a passenger terminal and trade and cargo port: goods handled included wool and spices, and in the 20th century Weymouth was a bulk importer of fertiliser and cars. The old harbourside, on both sides of the seaward end of the harbour, still hosts a large fishing fleet, with docks, unloading areas, and a cross-channel ferry terminal.

Fishing and cargo trading employ fewer people in the area since their peak in earlier centuries, but local fishermen catch the largest mass of fish in England and the third largest in the United Kingdom. The inner harbour has been refurbished in two phases, in 1994–1996 and in 2002, to include a new marina with hundreds of berths for pleasure boats, cruisers and sailing boats. Local boats offer fishing and diving trips, pleasure cruises along the Jurassic Coast, and thrill-rides to the Isle of Portland.

The main shopping centre in the area is in Melcombe Regis, consisting of two pedestrianised streets (St. Thomas's and St. Mary's Street), shops along the esplanade, and a new precinct stretching from St. Thomas's Street to the harbourside, built in the 1990s. There are shops and restaurants in the pedestrianised Hope Square and Brewers Quay, which are linked to the town centre by town bridge and a small passenger ferry service across the harbour.


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