Exploring Lulworth Cove...
The Jurassic Coast lies in the south-west of England in parts of Devon and Dorset, and includes 95 miles of the 600-mile-plus route of the South West Coast Path. As with so much of Britain’s coast, it alternates between cliffs and beaches, meaning walkers can get up high for the expansive views over the channel and the Atlantic Ocean, and also head down to dip their feet in the waves after a long day out.
The coast here is famous for its rock formations. It’s sedimentary layers are perfectly presented due to the erosive action of thousands of years of waves, which have also created stacks and headlands that are still being attacked by the relentless waters. This coast is subject to rapid erosion, and as such any visit is just a snapshot of the coast at that time. Come back again and it will have changed.
These landscape features are everywhere, but are best appreciated at Durdle Door, the natural rock arch that may be one of the most photographed coastal features in the country, and Lulworth Cove, with its near-circle lagoon and its rock folds on display for all to see. Further west lies the limestone island of Portland, a great day-long circular walk, and the nearby arrow-straight storm beach of Chesil Beach. Further still lie miles of cliffs, many adorned with woodland, that lead you into this ancient land.
Alongside the spectacular landscapes, the Jurassic Coast is famous for its fossils, hence the name. The sedimentary rock spans the eras of the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic, well known as the time of the dinosaurs, and you’ll still find plenty of fossils in the rocks of the cliff-sides, or scattered along the beaches where they’ve been eroded away. You’ll have the chance of seeing a wide range of ancient life, from fossil tree leaves to mammal teeth and ancient sea stars. At many points along the coast you can hunt for fossils and take them away, but make sure they’re lying loose on the beach and you don’t damage the site by hammering into cliffs, however tempting it is. The main beach recommended for public fossil hunting is Charmouth, and it’s extremely likely you’ll find something.
Access for walkers to the coastal areas is extremely good in the south-west because of the South West Coast path, which mostly runs along the cliffs but which also gives good access to the beaches. The low hills beyond the coast also have an extensive network of public rights of way, including parts of the recognised trails of The Monarch’s Way and the Liberty Trail. When walking along the coast, make sure you take the advice of any signs warning of imminent local cliff collapse and follow diversion signs.
The Jurassic Coast is a place best not walked at speed. You’ll have a far better day stopping to admire the rock formations and fossils rather than simply trying to see as much of the coastline as possible. It is a place admired on a grand scale but then only really fully appreciated when you look closely, and begin the understand the millions of years of Earth’s history you see before you, and hold in your hands.
Author: Alex Kendall
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